Live United: Need face masks or coats? Distribution days approaching

Published 8:08 pm Friday, November 6, 2020

Live United by Erin Haag


First — an apology. A couple weeks ago, the answering machine went down. Somehow lines got crossed, and it was ringing back to our old office — complete with a voicemail message. I don’t understand that either, but that’s what the phone company told me. I thought it was really quiet for a few days — turns out there were mystery messages being left, that I wasn’t able to access. I’m all caught up on returning phone calls, so if you left me a message, and you haven’t heard back from me, yours might be one of those mysteries. Please call me back! 

Sometimes an opportunity comes along and you jump on it. I had one such opportunity a few weeks ago, and within 20 minutes of the notification, I had signed up to receive a second round of masks, just as I did earlier in the summer. The first round was 7,500 masks, and those went to our nonprofits. This time,  I consulted with Rich Hall and Sue Yost about how many to get, and then I added some more. We got them! 112,500 masks were delivered to the courthouse. I figured I’d get half of what I asked for. I was shocked when I got the phone call saying I had five pallets of masks waiting for me on the loading dock. I’m shocked and a little giddy. This is a big deal right now. Sure, we are past the initial scramble to find masks, but it’s still a big deal. Those reusable cloth ones eventually break down, the fibers getting weaker over time each time you wash them.

Erin Haag

Public Health and law enforcement officers have been working to distribute them. From churches looking to protect their congregation to people standing in the polling lines, to handing them out at food pantries, we’ve gotten creative with where to hand them out at. There’s more to do though, so  now here’s my second part. 

I had several dates lined up for the Winter Gear Distribution. Then, in one fell swoop, five of my volunteers who had signed up for those dates let me know they had been exposed to COVID and were being advised to quarantine. I’m so thankful they played it safe, and so thankful none of them were positive. The reality is, COVID-19 cases are increasing in our area, and we have to keep everyone safe. It’s not just about the volunteers, but about the people we’re serving — we must keep them safe as well. This group may not have health insurance. Or the ability to stay home from a job. We pulled back to reassess our plan. 

Now, we have been distributing coats. Community leaders, social workers and even teachers will give me a call and check on an item. On social media, I posted a specific need I wasn’t able to fill — size 10/12 boys and size 14/16 boys coats. It took a couple of days, but the need got filled. A volunteer hand delivered those coats to the school social worker. I do have a specific need request: looking for size 2T in a girl’s coat. This little one was born premature and struggles with health issues. To help fill that need, call our office at 507-373-8670 or the chamber at 507-373-3938.

We’re teaming up with Freeborn County Public Health to host a distribution day for masks and for coats on Nov. 10 and Nov. 24 from 3 to 6 p.m. We will be located at the office, 2610 Y.H. Hanson Ave. My sweet hubby built me some large A-Frames to have signs out on the lawn and in front of the office. Y.H. Hanson is the same road as Mrs. Gerry’s and Select Foods. Our driveway is right across the street from Lou-Rich. Masks come in a five-pack, and we’re asking you to help. Come and pick some up — share with a neighbor, a friend, anyone that could use them.

After the first two dates, we will reassess how it went and announce more dates, for both coats and masks. For those of you looking for drop boxes, they are at the following locations: Riverland, United Preschool, Bomgaars, Albert Lea Family Y, Mayo Clinic, Freborn County Historical Museum, Farmer’s Insurance-Dave Jensen Agency, Grandma’s Gourmet, Albert Lea Gymnastics Club, Shoe Sensation, Whimzy Toys, Chamber of Commerce, Plymouth Shoes, St. Theodore’s, Hollandale Christian School, Be Mobile and of course, our very own Albert Lea Tribune. Thank you to those who have called, volunteered, dropped off coats and dropped off contributions. Together, we’re making a difference.

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.