As the novel coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the world spreading COVID-19 to thousands, camaraderie and togetherness are spreading throughout communities, too.

Many want to know how they can help those in need, especially health care facilities.

Though she can’t volunteer in person at Essentia Health right now, Baxter resident Kathy Brastrup decided she could help by making masks, 35 of which she dropped off at the hospital Thursday, March 26.

Brastrup said she was inspired after seeing others on the news making homemade masks.

“I thought, ‘I can sew,’ so I went on YouTube and found this pattern,” she said Thursday from her car, as she pulled up to the hospital to hand the masks off to Volunteer Supervisor Deb Anderson.

Each mask takes her about 20-30 minutes, and those she dropped off feature patriotic red, white and blue patterns. Anderson just hopes hospital staff won’t be using them under these circumstances when the Fourth of July comes around.

Though Essentia Health officials said they’re doing well on supplies of personal protective equipment right now, Marketing Manager Kathy Sell said she has received an outpouring of requests from community members through social media, asking how they can help.

“They’re all rallying together, and that’s great,” Sell said during a phone interview Thursday. “So we’ve created a format that they can provide that.”

In a news release sent Thursday, Sell said those who want to help Essentia can do so by donating the following items:

  • New medical-grade masks, gowns, eye protection and gloves;

  • Face shields; and

  • Homemade masks.

While Essentia is well-stocked on these items now, Anderson said the future is uncertain, so it’s always good to have extra supplies on hand in case the situation worsens.

Essentia will also accept monetary donations, as Sell said many people have asked if they can donate financially. A fund has been established through St. Joseph’s Foundation at Funds will go toward needs related to COVID-19, including supporting patients and families with compassionate care funds, boosting health care staff’s morale and well-being, and responding quickly to needs for any emergency preparedness efforts. Sell said she isn’t sure what that support might look like yet.

Sell also encouraged those interested in helping out to donate to other community organizations, like Bridges of Hope.

Those interested in donating supplies can contact Anderson at 218-828-7610.

Blood drives

Essentia officials are encouraging those who can to help out by donating blood to the American Red Cross.

Essentia Health will host a drive 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 1, at the Essentia Health Sports Center. Call Anderson at 218-828-7610 to schedule a time slot.

The following is a list of other local American Red Cross blood drives:

  • March 30, Ironton American Legion, noon to 6 p.m.

  • April 2-3, Brainerd VFW, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • April 2, Arrowwood Lodge at Brainerd Lakes in Baxter, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • April 3, St. Mathias Catholic Church in St. Mathias Township, noon to 6 p.m.

  • April 10, Shoe Sensation in Baxter, noon to 6 p.m.

  • April 24, First Lutheran Church in Brainerd, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Appointments can be made at

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THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at