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From Wyoming News Exchange Newspapers 

Light shows, parades and meals - good news during the pandemic


April 16, 2020

Light shows in support of seniors, unusual Easter egg hunts, parades for those who can’t get out and programs to feed the warriors at the front lines of the coronavirus battle were all in the news in the past week as Wyoming residents continued to extend a helping hand to their neighbors.

Here are a few examples:

Schools light up scoreboards for seniors

CASPER — First came the howls, cries into the moonless sky made in solidarity across Casper’s twilight. On Friday night there were also fireworks — a progression of unconventional behavior in the face of unconventional circumstances. 

A pandemic with a death toll of over 20,000 in the U.S. spread to Wyoming only a month ago and has since brought the intertwined communities to their knees. At last, Wyoming fought back this week. First with the howling at the moon at 8 p.m. sharp and then with the installment of the “Be The Light” campaign. 

High schools across Wyoming — from Pine Bluffs to Big Horn, Lingle to Farson, Wright to Mountain View — illuminated their football fields or scoreboards for 20 minutes starting at 8:20 p.m. (20:20 military time) on Friday to honor the Class of 2020 and Wyoming’s first responders. 

They’ve all been forced into sacrifice for the sake of battling the reach of the coronavirus. This latest event was a small gesture to rally a community that’s determined to see this pandemic through. 

“I stepped outside with my daughter and couldn’t believe how many howls we actually heard tonight,” Natrona County activities director Bryan Honken said, Cheney Alumni Field still beaming with light behind him. “I take a lot of pride in being able to be at a school that can give back to the community in something as simple as this.” 

The scoreboard ritual started in Texas with Dumas High School turning on its stadium lights once an hour in a show of solidarity with medical professionals. That gave way to a modest “#BeTheLight” movement across the country. — Casper Star-Tribune

Seamstresses create more than 1500 masks for hospital

DOUGLAS — They sewed. And sewed. And sewed. Starting early in the morning and ending sometimes after the sun set. Day after day. By the weekend, they had made far more than 1500 handmade cloth medical masks, sewn one-by-one, stitch-by-stitch. 

And they are still sewing. 

Fifteen hundred – that’s the number of masks donated to Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas in just ten days from a group of efficient, dedicated and hardworking volunteers – and it shows how a community is coming together in a positive way right in the middle of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, that number doesn’t count the hundreds of masks made for friends and family, or given to strangers in need. 

MHCC and medical personnel nationwide have indicated how short they are on PPE supplies – medical masks, hospital gowns, shoe covers and more – all basic necessities for essential personnel to do their jobs safely. 

“This just shows what a small town like Douglas can do,” Mary Falkenburg said. 

Falkenburg and Maggie Esselman are the women behind the mask movement, but they have absolutely no wish to take credit for the endeavor. 

“There are so many people involved I’ve lost count of all of the volunteers! It’s about this community. So many people are cutting, putting together mask-making kits, sewing, bringing them back for pickup, helping to deliver them where they’re needed. It’s amazing! We needed something and God provided,” Falkenburg said. 

One such industrious volunteer, Janet Caster, is donating her time making masks for staff in MHCC’s radiology department. 

“I’m retired, I’m home. I love to sew. They offered to pay me, but I gave it back. This is my contribution to the cause,” Caster said. — Douglas Budget

Parade held for quarantined nursing home residents

GILLETTE — For awhile April 8, there was a party on Eighth Street. It contrasted the near ghost town atmosphere many Gillette neighborhoods have adopted while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At 1 and 3 p.m., dozens of motorists drove down the street, turned onto Veterans Drive then honked their horns or revved their engines as they approached the Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center.

About half the residents at the facility were allowed to attend each parade to limit the number of people gathered to watch. Some held signs saying “Thank you,” and others in wheelchairs waved and smiled as they got some much needed social interaction with their friends, neighbors and loved ones.

Now weeks into a coronavirus lockdown and moratorium on any visitors, residents at the Legacy and their families have made significant sacrifices as they continue to try their best to handle their new circumstances.

Even from a distance, just seeing people and their signs and messages of hope were uplifting, Legacy residents said.

“This is great,” said Yvonne Buckey as the parade of cars slowly drove by on a sunny afternoon.

Her sister drove by in a pickup and waived an American flag to Buckey, who said her sister “stuck to her promise.”

With much of Gillette and the nation shut down or restricted, simple things Legacy residents had looked forward to haven’t been able to happen. That includes seeing visitors and having lunches or outings with friends or family.

“It’s been a strain,” Buckey said. “I used to see my sister almost every day. It’s been tough on all of us, but we’ll get by. We’ll get through this.” — Gillette News Record

Bank hands out restaurant gift certificates

THERMOPOLIS — Pinnacle Bank is randomly handing out 30 gift certificates at their drive-thru, in hopes of positively impacting both local restaurants and community members. The Thermopolis branch began distributing them on April Fools, and it is no joke.

“We know families and local businesses have been impacted. This is one way we can help our neighbors and local restaurants,” said Minnie Miller, Market President. 

The branch compiled a list of all restaurants currently offering curbside pick-up and developed a gift certificate, valued up to $10.50, to be used at any one of these establishments. The certificates are valid through April 30, 2020. One important item to note is if a recipient chooses an entrée with a value less than $10.50, they will not receive change; however, Pinnacle Bank will reimburse the business the full $10.50 for each certificate redeemed, regardless of the actual cost of the entrée. 

“So many of us miss dining out at our favorite restaurants. While we all comply with social distancing requirements, we hope this allows people to enjoy their favorite eats and support businesses that have helped support our community throughout the past,” said Miller. — Thermopolis Independent Record

Buffalo women sew masks for Texas health care workers

BUFFALO — Necessity is the mother of invention, but it can also be the foundation for a lifelong passion.

Sewing has been a way of life for Nelda Hays for decades now, and it all started years ago as a way to meet her children’s clothing needs.

Now, a new need has arrived, and Hays is once again rising to the challenge with a sewing needle in hand.

“They took a little getting used to,” Hays said of the masks she has been sewing for medical staff in San Antonio. “There is a lot of sewing on these little things. But I can complete each one in 30 minutes now if I set my mind to it.”

Hays recently completed 14 masks for doctors and nurses in San Antonio, including her granddaughter Leah who works there as an ICU nurse. San Antonio, like many large cities, has been a hotbed of COVID-19 activity lately with 456 cases confirmed as of April 6. The city had twice as many cases as the entire state of Wyoming as of April 6, and medical supplies are dwindling. That’s why Hays and other local women are jumping in to help.

The project was organized by Hays’ daughter Ronda, who, upon learning that Leah and her colleagues were low on face masks, bought fabric, found a pattern and enlisted local seamstresses to meet the need.

In addition to Hays, that team includes Elizabeth Downare and her daughters Cassie and Sydney. Like Hays, Elizabeth has a lifetime love for sewing and was happy to jump in when the call came from Ronda. To date, the Downares have completed nearly 60 masks, Elizabeth said. — Buffalo Bulletin

Businesses team to feed front-line workers

CASPER — A team of local businesses have begun to provide delivered meals to crews of health care workers, grocery stores, first responders and others as part of an effort called “Feed The Front Line. Casper.” 

Coldwell Banker The Legacy Group, Occasions by Cory and The Cottage Cafe launched Feed The Front Line. Casper to “provide meals for our healthcare professionals, first responders and other frontline heroes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” while supporting local restaurants and businesses, according to an announcement from the group. 

The businesses combined individual efforts that each of the three had recently begun into Feed The Front Line. Casper. By the end of April 12, the project will have delivered 650 meals and even 100 cookies, said Kate Kalinowski with Coldwell Banker The Legacy Group. 

Community donations support the meals from The Cottage Café, Occasions by Cory and other several other local food and beverage establishments. 

“So we just saw that strength in numbers,” Kalinowski said. “And I think it was just a leap of faith for all of us, not knowing what it was going to look like or where the money was going to come from. But it was just an awesome opportunity to see the generous hearts of the people of Casper and how Casper really does come together.” 

Kalinowski coordinates the schedules and other logistics, although the project is a group effort. Her husband and co-owner of their business reached out to a radiologist friend at Wyoming Medical Center with his idea to show health workers appreciation and help local businesses. Kalinowski took the helm of the project and began collecting donations and calling restaurants to deliver the meals. — Casper Star-Tribune

Neighborhood residents surprise neighbor with birthday posters

CHEYENNE – Melissa Swalla wanted to do something special for her husband Dustin’s birthday Wednesday, but with social distancing due to coronavirus, she knew they wouldn’t be able to have a normal celebration with family and friends.

So instead, she turned to her neighbors, who came out in a big way to help make the day special. As the pair went on their afternoon walk, Dustin was surprised with about 40 handmade signs and posters wishing him a happy birthday.

“It just brought tears to my eyes as I was walking around the neighborhood, just to see people that don’t even know us do something like this to brighten his day,” Melissa said.

She said Dustin’s ideal birthday would be watching basketball, surrounded by family and friends. But knowing that wasn’t an option, Melissa passed out letters to neighbors Sunday with the request that they hang up birthday posters in their windows for his birthday on Wednesday.

Melissa said she was assuming neighbors would simply hang little notes on computer paper in their windows, but “they really ran with it,” she said.

Neighbors took time to wrap up cardboard with wrapping paper, hang up birthday banners and balloons, and write out messages with chalk on the sidewalks. Some even left treats for Dustin and their kids.

“I think he was just blown away, too, and couldn’t believe how many people did it,” Melissa said. — Wyoming Tribune Eagle


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