By Kathryn LeBrasseur, Alexandria, MN

I am in that Pollyanna mood again about the wonderful area of the world I am privileged to live in. I am talking about Alexandria and Douglas County and adjoining areas. The pandemic rulings have given me the time to be an OBSERVER of all the creative and wonderful things going on and to utilize technology to be a PARTICIPANT in planning and carrying on the functions of boards and committees!

Technology has greatly simplified participation in events and boards by the use of Zoom and YouTube. Seems easier than getting moving early in the morning and running all day from one meeting to another. Less time spent traveling. Meetings seem better organized and business handled more efficiently. True concern, however, is for the persons not “online” or computer literate. They are not aware of services and help available. They are often our citizens in need.

Great efforts are being made on their behalf to maintain our community status of Age Friendly. Local organizations have continued to work in developing and maintaining that status ever since. Now the governor has created a new council to emphasize the value of these components. Representing the rural area and the elderly on that council is Dian Lopez of Alexandria. She heads a workforce of professionals from the county, city, Region IV, local services, and nonprofits. All working together to address the three current areas of need identified for our area: transportation, community health and in-home services. Note the “working together.” Our schools and churches are all working together to find how to best serve us! Our community college offers an opportunity to continue your education while remaining sheltered at home. Lots of individual programming but with the shared goals to make life better for us.

I am aware that many are facing hardships and fears. The fears are not only of the coronavirus but of job loss and personal security. But I can’t help observe with awe all the creativity involved in coping with the situation and to help each other. It goes from the teachers making videos to stay in contact with preschoolers to virtual graduations of many varieties. It is unbelievable how creative fundraising has become! Who dreams up these fun and new ideas?

Organizations from clubs to churches have established calling committees to stay in contact with others. Non-profits have united under the United Way to keep each other informed of how to help. Love Inc. puts out a monthly newsletter to provide everyone with the “how to” contact each service. Persons interested in volunteering have united into a group geared to the needs of the times called Helping Hands. They do everything from making masks to delivering the mail to your door to feeding your dog. Recipes for old time cooking are being reprinted to make that simple. Turn to YouTube to find how to do it! You can even learn how to clean a fish or cut up your meat and potatoes prior to cooking.

Neighborhoods are being re-established and acquainted. This brings about awareness of neighbors in need. Drive-in theatres are being created for movies, church services, music/local theatre productions. Organizations are utilizing the internet to stay in contact with members on future plans and just to say hello. Restaurants have become “drive by” curb service places of business. Even grocery stores offer that. The Echo Press and KXRA have gone online to keep us up on the news locally and nationally. How do I contact these groups to volunteer or receive service? Call Love Inc. at 320-759-3022. They have updated info on both.

Regrettably, the scammers also have spare time and are being truly creative. Being at home and almost afraid to answer the phone is new. Emails are another favorite spot of theirs. Again, we are fortunate. We have great law enforcement personnel. Let them know if you feel you have been set up for a scam.

Take care! Stay sheltered!

Kathryn LeBrasseur is a former executive director of the Alexandria Senior Center and has been involved in a variety of community organizations, many focusing on senior issues. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.