by Dennis Dalman
It all started last October with a big batch of homemade chicken noodle soup.
Since then, positive vibes among many local people are blooming; friendships – often between total strangers – flourish.
Carolyn Bertsch, who made this pot of soup, is the owner, along with her husband, Matt, of Four Seasons Window, Carpet and Air Duct Cleaning. She is also an award-winning editor, proofreader and photographer for the Newsleader newspapers of Sartell-St. Stephen and St. Joseph.
The Positive Vibes program started with an act of kindness. Denise Gagner, former owner of Portraits by Studio D in St. Cloud, asked a friend (Bertsch) if she would be willing to make a kettle of chicken noodle soup for a Sartell family. Both parents of three very young children had been infected with the Covid virus. The soup, Bertsch agreed, would be a good deed of support for this worried family.
Bertsch prepared and delivered the soup. They were so happy to receive such a thoughtful “gift” out of the blue, so to speak.
Then Bertsch went further. Why not, she wonders, start a “meal train” for this same family? She contacted friends. They warmly accepted and signed the effort. Over the next two weeks, people brought dinners for the family and snacks for the kids, along with coloring books and art supplies. Other people donated money and $200 was given to the family.
“Everyone was so happy to be a part of it,” Bertsch said.
(Both of these parents are now doing well, having survived the Covid infection.)
Bertsch decided to expand acts of kindness, reaching more and more people through two Facebook sites she started – Positive Vibes Sartell and Positive Vibes Sauk Rapids. More meal trains were launched and other unique and extraordinary acts of kindness and events continued to spring up here, there and everywhere.
On April 9, an Easter egg hunt was held at Watab Park for 25 children who live in the Sartell mobile home park opposite the post office. Positive Vibes member Emily Wood created a large, colorful and whimsical backdrop in front of which a chunky Easter Bunny jumped (member Shane Dixon in a fluffy costume with big ears). Positive Vibes members Jenn Hengel, I-Jung Lee, Mady Bertsch and Carolyn Bertsch worked with Connie Dixon, Sartell’s mobile home park manager, to plan the details of the event. Vibes volunteers hid 600 plastic eggs in the park, with treats inside. The children rushed happily to find them. The Bertsche’s daughter, Mady, painted the children’s faces.
“It was such a fun event and there were so many smiles,” Carolyn said.
Just before Halloween, Bertsch learned that a 10-year-old girl had been diagnosed with diabetes. Positive Vibe members gathered to buy toys and gifts. The items were placed in a large Halloween basket and given to the girl on Halloween night. Other baskets were made and delivered to children who were in isolation due to Covid.
Another fall evening, Bertsch received a phone call from a member of Positive Vibes who was worried about a widow who had lost her husband and was feeling isolated and alone. The “Vibes” helpers ensured that the woman received many cards and messages of friendship and encouragement.
In March, Bertsch’s husband, Matt, offered $50 off duct cleaning to Four Seasons guests in exchange for donating 10 or more items off the shelves. Over 100 pounds of food were then donated to the Celebration Lutheran Church Free Community Food Shelf.
Last October, Matt hosted a Woodland Cleanup by Sartell Middle School and Riverview Intermediate. Volunteers were treated to cookies and refreshments. The event, which was scheduled to take place again over Earth Day weekend, has been postponed due to inclement weather and will take place again at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 1.
On Sunday, May 15, from 2-4 p.m., Positive Vibes participants plan to rock paint at Sartell’s Northside Park, with people bringing rocks and Bertsch providing paint, markers and brushes. The rocks will be painted with an inspirational message and placed in Sartell for people to find surprising and colorful daytime illuminators.
Positivity has great power, and it’s contagious in the best possible way, Bertsch said.
“People can inspire others. We all matter and we can all make a difference. she says. “And when children do these activities with adults, they learn that they too can make a difference.”
And such good vibes, she said, are a way to connect different races, cultures and backgrounds. Recently, she took a friend out for coffee. The friend, an American citizen from another country, shared an experience of “real ugliness” she had endured just because of her skin color.
“I cried many times about this specific incident that happened here,” Bertsch said. “I wish I was there to defend her.”
This woman, the target of ugliness, told Bertsch that Positive Vibes actions are welcome and an opportunity for people to connect in order to work towards a common goal.
“Every connection we make in life has an influence,” Bertsch said.
The Bertsches have three children: Alex, Mady and Adam.
“I like to tell my kids that you never know where you’re going to meet your next best friend,” Carolyn said, referring to the surprising open connections made possible by the Positive Vibes program.
The other day, someone posted on the Positive Vibes Facebook site: “I love this online community. I feel good to be part of it, even if I don’t get involved in all the efforts. This is really what COMMUNITY is. I am inspired by kindness.
Bertsch and other Positive Vibes activists are determined to continue building the right vibes to create a nurturing web of caring and kindness across the region — and beyond. To get involved or start a Positive Vibes in your city, call Bertsch at 320-296-2803 or email [email protected]