In times of crisis, there are people who often step up the plate to help. And during this coronavirus pandemic, Alexandria area residents have definitely stepped up.

A little over a week ago, Kelsi Timm of Alexandria learned about an effort in Texas that was started by family members of her boss to help those impacted by the virus.

That weekend, she was supposed to go on a girls’ trip with some friends. The trip was canceled. Timm spent time praying and said she heard the Lord say the words, “helping hands.”

It was from that she decided to start a Facebook group and call it Helping Hands of Alexandria. At first, it was going to be just for her friends. She contacted them and asked if they wanted to help.

Of course they did.

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Within 24 hours, the group included more than just her friends. By last Monday morning, there were 800 members in the group. As of Monday, March 23, the number had swelled to more than 2,100.

Timm said the group is a way for people – volunteers – to help those in need. And it is a way for people in the area to reach out and ask for help.

Thinking about her nephew who is battling cancer and her elderly grandparents, Timm wants them to stay protected. But she knows they have needs. And so do so many others who are in the high-risk categories who are quarantined at home.

Helping Hands of Alexandria allows people to help those in need.

“It’s been amazing to see the community come together,” said Timm. “I just wanted to help the community and the community has run with this idea. There’s no way I could do this alone. The power of the community is unbelievable. I had no idea it would become what it has.”

Timm said her friend, Nattiel Dammer, manager of Aldi’s grocery store, became her co-leader in the Helping Hands effort and has done so much to help – as have so many others who have stepped to help in any way they can.

“I wake up thinking who are we going to be able to bless today,” said Timm. “Life is about giving back. If someone is having a bad day, I hope we can help.”

Besides helping those in need, Timm said the group is about bringing joy and hope during these challenges times.

“God wants to use you right where you are,” said Timm, explaining that if people have a talent or skill, they can use those to help. For instance, a friend of hers designed the artwork to go with the logo, while another person designed the logo. Those are their talents and they used them to help.

Sewing for a cause

People with sewing skills have taken on a huge project – sewing masks for medical and emergency personnel.

A callout was made on the Helping Hands Facebook page for people to make the masks. Sewers of all ages got on board, including Brinkley Schmid of Garfield, who just turned 9 years old on Monday, March 23.

Schmid’s mom, Megan Burkhammer, said a friend reached out to ask if they heard about the project, since they are not on Facebook. The friend sent a photo from the Helping Hands page. Burkhammer shared it with her daughter, who recently developed a love of sewing. Schmid, a third-grader at Garfield Elementary School, received a sewing machine as a Christmas present last year.

Brinkley Schmid of Garfield made these masks for medical personnel. She even stitched her label on them. (Contributed)
Brinkley Schmid of Garfield made these masks for medical personnel. She even stitched her label on them. (Contributed)

The next morning after hearing about the project, the two set out to get supplies for Schmid to start sewing the masks. Some of the supplies, such as elastic, were picked up from friends because they had extra and there was a short supply at the store. Because of social distancing, the supplies were left in mailboxes and the mother-daughter duo drove around town to pick them up.

Schmid found her love of sewing after looking at her jacket and wondering how it was made. She decided right then and there she wanted to learn how to sew. After receiving her sewing machine, her grandma taught her to use it and helped her get started. Since then, Schmid has made flannel pajama pants for herself, friends and family. She has also sewed hair scrunchies, clothes, bags and other projects.

Right now, though, Schmid spends her time sewing the masks.

“I wanted to do something to help the world and I have fun sewing,” she said.

As of Monday, she’s already made nearly 30 masks. And they’ve gotten a lot easier to make the more she sews. As long as she has supplies, she will continue to make masks.

Reaching out

Timm said if others want to help, they should reach out. A website is currently being developed for the Helping Hands community and should be ready to go by Wednesday. It will be accessed at helpinghandsalex.com.

Although it was her idea initially, Timm said, “Helping Hands is such a community effort. Alexandria is the most generous community I have ever witnessed.”

Masks are being sewn by area residents, including these masks made by Sharein Berninghaus of Alexandria. (Contributed)
Masks are being sewn by area residents, including these masks made by Sharein Berninghaus of Alexandria. (Contributed)

Timm encourages those in need to reach out, as she does those who are willing to volunteer.

Reaching out for help is a humbling experience for many, she said. Timm has had times when she has had to ask for help, so she knows it can be hard and not fun. However, she stressed that this is only temporary and that people need help during this time of crisis.

“We want people’s immediate needs to be met,” she said. “We are taking it day-by-day. And although this was started for COVID-19, we may play a long-term role in the community.”

Ways to donate

A checking account has been set up for Helping Hands at Vantage Bank. A friend of Timm’s, Jenna Kryder, is keeping a record of all financial donations coming in and going out.

Donations can be sent through Venmo at Helping-Hands-6 or by contacting Kelsi Timm at 320-766-2036 or Nattiel Dammer at 320-808-3564. Helping Hands can also be reached by email at helpinghandsalexandria@gmail.com. For more information,visit the Facebook page or website.