ST. CLOUD -- COVID-19 has upended life as we knew it, and it's inspiring many central Minnesotans to look for ways to help others.

Pandemic or not, the Tri-County Humane Society is a busy place. Employees, with the help of dedicated volunteers, are still busy caring for animals, scheduling pet adoptions and keeping their facilities clean and disinfected.

The public is still allowed into the shelter, though access is tightly regulated and by appointment only to protect both staff and customers. Volunteer Coordinator Kate Kompas says, thanks to creative colleague and veterinary technician Rose Hegerle, Tri-County team members are now sporting homemade face masks.

"She's a Renaissance woman," Kompas said pf Hegerle. "I didn't know sewing was on her list of skills, but I wasn't that surprised."

Kompas estimates Hegerle has sewn about two dozen masks so far, aiming to outfit the shelter's roughly 30 employees and assorted volunteers. Hegerle has also taken to experimenting with different designs and fabrics.

"She's a very precise person," Kompas said. "She's made different prototypes. Some have elastic, some have ties. (Hegerle) wears glasses, and some masks cause glasses to fog up, so she's experimenting with materials to alleviate that problem."

Kompas says Hegerle, with her background and training in medicine, has been deeply concerned with her colleagues' safety since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"She jumped right in as soon as the CDC started recommending wearing (masks)," Kompas said. "She didn't ask for any payment, or even donations. She has all these materials at home, and she just wanted to do something to make people feel like they're safe at work, because a lot of what we do is so public."
Kompas says Hegerle continues taking requests for masks, and has even provided them to shelter volunteers' family members. Kompas says Hegerle has a "big heart" for animals and people alike.
"She knows how to take charge, and is just a very giving, selfless person," said Kompas. "For me, personally, this has provided a sense of comfort. It's more than a mask; it's nice that we're part of a team, and we can all pitch in to help each other. That was her way of doing it, and it's awesome."

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