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; kind connections – often among total strangers – are flourishing.
Carolyn Bertsch, who made that pot of soup, is the owner, with her husband, Matt, of Four Seasons Window, Carpet and Air Duct Cleaning. She is also assignment editor, proofreader and an award-winning photographer for the Newsleader newspapers in Sartell-St. Stephen and in St. Joseph.
The “Positive Vibes” program began with an act of kindness. Denise Gagner, former owner of Portraits by Studio D in St. Cloud, asked a friend (Bertsch), if she’d be willing to make a kettle of chicken-noodle soup for a Sartell family. The two 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 that worried family.
Bertsch made and delivered the soup. They were so happy to receive such a thoughtful “gift” from out of the blue, as it were.
Then Bertsch went further. Why not, she wondered, start a “meal train” for that same family? She contacted friends. They heartily agreed and signed on to the effort. In the following two weeks, people brought dinners for the family and snacks for the kids, as well as coloring books and art supplies. Other people pitched in money, and $200 was given to the family.
“Everybody was so happy to be part of it,” Bertsch said.
(Those two parents are now fine, having survived the Covid infection.)
Bertsch decided to extend the acts of kindness, reaching more and more people through two Facebook sites she created – Positive Vibes Sartell and Positive Vibes Sauk Rapids. More meal trains were initiated, and other unique, extraordinary acts of kindness and events continued to multiply 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 across from the post office. Positive Vibes member Emily Wood created a big colorful, whimsical backdrop in front of which hopped a big Easter bunny (member Shane Dixon in a fluffy, big-eared costume). Positive Vibes members Jenn Hengel, I-Jung Lee, Mady Bertsch and Carolyn Bertsch worked with Sartell Mobile Home Park Manager Connie Dixon to plan the details of the event. Vibes Volunteers hid within the park 600 plastic eggs, with treats inside them. The children scrambled happily to find them. The Bertsches’ daughter, Mady, painted the faces of the children.
“It was such a fun event and there were so many smiles,” Carolyn said.
Just before Halloween, Bertsch was told about a 10-year-old girl who was diagnosed with diabetes. Positive Vibe members rallied together to purchase toys and gifts. The items were placed in a big 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.
On another fall evening, Bertsch received a phone call from a Positive Vibes member who was concerned about a widow who had lost her husband and was feeling isolated and lonely. “Vibes” helpers made sure that woman received lots of cards and messages of friendship and encouragement.
In March, Bertsch’s husband, Matt, offered $50 off duct-cleaning to customers of Four Seasons in exchange for a food-shelf donation of 10 or more items. More than 100 pounds of food was then donated to the Celebration Lutheran Church Free Community Food Shelf.
Last October, Matt organized a clean-up of the woods by Sartell Middle School and Riverview Intermediate. The volunteers were treated to cookies and refreshments. The event, which was scheduled to take place again over Earth Day weekend, was rescheduled due to inclement weather and will take place again at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 1.
On Sunday, May 15 from 2-4 p.m. Positive Vibes participants plan to do rock painting at Sartell’s Northside Park, with people bringing rocks and Bertsch supplying paint, markers and brushes. The rocks will be painted with an inspiring message and placed throughout Sartell for people to find surprising, colorful day-brighteners.
There is great power in positivity and it is contagious in the very best possible way, Bertsch said she believes.
“People can inspire other people. We all count and we can all make a difference.” she said. “And when kids do these activities with adults they learn that they can make a difference too.”
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 who came from another country, shared an experience of “some real ugliness” that she had endured just because of her skin color.
“I have cried many times over that specific incident that happened right here,” Bertsch said. “I wish I would’ve been there to stand up for her.”
That woman, the target of ugliness, told Bertsch that Positive Vibes actions are most welcome and an opportunity for people to connect in order to strive toward a mutual goal.
“Every connection we make in life has influence,” Bertsch said.
The Bertsches have three children: Alex, Mady and Adam.
“I like to tell my children you never know where you’re going to meet your next best friend,” said Carolyn, referring to the surprising open-ended connections made possible by the Positive Vibes program.
Just the other day, a person posted on the Positive Vibes Facebook site: “I love this online community. I feel good being part of it, even if I don’t get involved in every effort. It really is what COMMUNITY is all about. I am inspired by the kindness.”
Bertsch and other Positive Vibes activists are determined to keep expanding the good vibes to create a nurturing network of caring and kindness throughout the area – and beyond. To get involved or start up a Positive Vibes in your city, phone Bertsch at 320-296-2803 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.