The breathless words of Tennessee Williams’ Blanche Debois—“I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”—resonated on a much deeper and urgent level during the COVID-19 pandemic. Neighbors helping neighbors and strangers reaching out to strangers in the name of goodwill became the anthem of action for so many in this community.
I’m grateful that this issue affords me the opportunity to highlight some Editor’s Picks that honor the legacy and spirit of Maple Grove’s kindness—to friends and strangers alike!
We Love Maple Grove
All it takes is an idea. After a group of local pastors, who’d meet regularly, wondered what could be done to be an additional blessing to the community, a plan was set in motion.
Representation came from the Church of the Open Door, Northwood Church, Life Assembly, Maple Grove Covenant, The Grove Church, MapleRidge Church and Faithbrook Church (Dayton). It became apparent that the pandemic would limit the initiatives, and the group decided, as much as it wanted to help more communities, it had to focus on one—Maple Grove with the theme We Love Maple Grove.
The committee settled on three acts of kindness. To start, in October 2020, every elementary classroom teacher in Maple Grove (275 in all) received an appreciation gift bag with a handwritten note and treats (mints, Post-it notes, hand sanitizer, tote bag and chocolates from the Painted Turtle in Osseo).
Next, to assist with food shortages, each church planned to host a Fill the Van food drive to support the CROSS Food Shelf.
Lastly, the group reached out to the Tree House Agency in Minneapolis, which aids struggling teenagers, and it lead the webinar, Parenting a Teenager in a Global Pandemic, to assist parents during this unprecedented time. We Love Maple Grove @welovemaplegrove
Age Friendly Maple Grove
One of the marks of a great community is its concern for all its residents. Age-Friendly Maple Grove (AFMG) officially launched in 2016, when the city joined the World Health Organization/AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. A team of 15–20 community volunteers and cross-sector professionals work with the initiative to ensure that Maple Grove is a great place to grow older.
Short- and long-term issues are addressed. “One important thing we’ve done is launch a website with extensive local and area resources related to aging—on housing, community services, transportation, volunteering, health and wellness, and other topics. We are also working with the City of Maple Grove to make aging something that is more routinely considered in city planning and decision making,” says Lydia Morken, AFMG consultant.
“Age-friendly work is a new way of thinking about aging. It’s a common tendency to want to put all things ‘senior’ in a bucket—senior services, senior housing, etc. Those things are incredibly important, but modern aging and true inclusivity require us to expand that thinking. [AFMG] is raising the profile of aging and trying to dispel a lot of the negative stereotypes about what it means to get older,” Morken says.
While COVID-19 scuttled some initiatives, the program pivoted by launching a series of Zoom interviews to address mindfulness during the pandemic, homecare services, scams that target older people, caregiver support groups and other topics, as well as continuing its T-Mobile tablet program, allowing seniors to borrow a tablet with unlimited data for only $20/month. “This program has been vital in keeping seniors connected and has helped fight isolation and loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Liz Faust, AFMG cochairman. agefriendlymaplegrove.org
MN Mask Initiative Group
Danica Reitzner might be better known as the owner of Loon and Beau, an online Maple Grove-based pet accessories business, which specializes in bespoke bow ties, bandanas and more, but she turned her talents and business drive into an altruistic venture during the recent pandemic.
After reading social media posts from area people about the need for masks or the desire to make and donate them, Reitzner was inspired in spring 2020 to create the MN Mask Initiative Group in an effort to streamline donations and organize volunteers.
Reitzner began sewing with the group but pivoted to organize sewers, fabric cutters, drivers and delivery volunteers. “A wide arrange of people were part of the group,” she says. Reitzner says she sewed about 1,200 masks and conservatively estimates that the group made between 7,000–8,000 masks, which were distributed locally to senior living communities and hospitals and clinics for patients and visitors. The group also teamed up with the City of Maple Grove to sort masks that were collected and delivered to one of the city’s fire stations. After the initiative slowed once national mass production ramped up, some volunteers continue to donate handmade masks.
Reitzner reflects about the experience. “For me, it was something that I held onto in the uncertainty of everything else,” she says. “It was a way for me to stay [balanced] and help in small ways.”
The group had its fair share of retirees and people out of work volunteering along with other community members. Reitzner talks of one volunteer, a former seamstress, who would drop off 200 masks every few days, and of a Hanover homeschool teacher and cross country coach, who encouraged her young athletes to sew masks, too. “It was kids learning to be a part of their community,” she says. [email protected]
With the help of its customers, Daily Dose found more than 1,000 ways to support local healthcare workers during the initial weeks of the pandemic and again this fall by providing food and beverages to staff at Maple Grove Hospital and North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale.
When the program began, co-owner Ben Havn wasn’t sure how successful it would be. Due to the generosity of customers, who donated funds to support the program, and Daily Dose, between 50–100 sandwiches were delivered to the sites a few times a week during the effort, according to Havn. “The hospital has been a huge supporter of Daily Dose,” Havn says. “It was great to be able to return the favor.”
Healthcare workers were able to visit Daily Dose to order a meal, or there were times when a department head would call the restaurant and ask for a delivery for the team. Either way, the orders were filled with a healthy side of gratitude.
After the program wound down, remaining funds were transferred onto gift cards and sent to staff at the Intensive Care Unit at North Memorial and Maple Grove Hospital. Daily Dose Maple Grove, 15517 Grove Circle N.; 763.657.0919; Daily Dose Brooklyn Park, 9578 Noble Parkway, Brooklyn Park; 763.762.8104; dailydosemn.com
Your neighbor is going to Costco tomorrow morning—need anything? A few neighbors in your area are ordering takeout from Pizza Karma this evening—craving something? Resident Bharat Pulgam and his fellow developers, Josh Chang of Plymouth and Sam Lerdahl of North Oaks, can help you get what you need thanks to Pikup, an app that connects users with friends and neighbors, who shop at the same local stores.
While freshmen at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management in 2018, the group targeted the app to college students. Target Corp. caught wind of it and was so intrigued that it accepted the concept into its retail accelerator program. One caveat: The team had to drop out of school and focus full-time on the app. Then—COVID happened. “We pivoted,” Pulgam says. “Since April of this year, we are focused on neighborhoods in the Twin Cities.”
After downloading Pikup, users can make a shared list with their neighbors. People who go to the store can check this list and grab items that a nearby neighbor may need. If enough people join the list, Pikup automatically organizes a drop-off, and everyone on the list gets their items delivered as a group with no delivery fee. All reimbursement and payment is handled in the app.
Some stores are offering Pikup members perks. Kowalski’s Markets, for example, gives a 10 percent discount to anyone who adds or grabs from the Kowalski’s list. Target offers a $5 gift card, and Caribou Coffee provides a free upsize on a beverage. Pulgam, a Wayzata High School graduate, says other collaborations are in the works.
The app also connects local restaurants with neighborhoods. “We are realizing that people don’t want to go out as much, and delivery services are charging restaurants [a large percentage of order cost],” Pulgam says. Like the grocery or store function, neighbors can order from a restaurant together, and the restaurant delivers orders to the entire community at once. Pizza Karma in Maple Grove, The Block in St. Louis Park and The Parlour Bar in Minneapolis are already on board. trypikup.com