Hometown Heroes: Local mom, nurse hands out family fun bags

Nette Nelson and daughter Darbee, pose with the family fun bags before being distributed in the area. Submitted photo

Nanette Nelson of Wadena is a mom, wife, Tri-County Health Care nurse, Thirty One bag representative, community volunteer and recently took on new teaching responsibilities.

Depending on the day she may play several of those roles at once. Considering all of her responsibilities to care for her family, patients and community, she surprisingly said she feels guilty about being an essential employee working with healthy moms delivering babies.

"I don't see myself as someone working on the front lines," Nelson said. As long as Nelson is deemed healthy she'll be working with those that can't be near those that could be ill.

The guilt comes from knowing other co-workers are potentially coming into contact with ill patients daily, potentially putting themselves and those around them at risk . She realizes that things could change and she could be pulled in to help in the ER.

"That does make me nervous," Nelson said. These days, it's the uncertainty about each day that has many feeling the same way.


Nelson copes with it largely by keeping her eyes off social media as best she can. The negativity she sees there is no help for someone looking to be a positive light to so many others.

As a Thirty One representative, Nanette, who often goes by Nette, said she puts together care packages regularly for those in need. Last year that included working with the hospital to create 100 care bags for cancer patients. Thankfully, some of those packages have not yet been distributed.

Again this winter she had the idea to work with other generous community members to fill 15 bags with supplies for numerous family fun nights. At that time, the bags were on hold until Nelson could find the 15 blankets she wanted to include to finish them off with warmth and comfort. Finally in March while on a shopping trip, she located the blankets she wanted, 15 of them, on sale. As she filled out the bags, COVID-19 struck the state with the first cases. Schools soon closed. Families were not running from this to that. They were home -- together. Nelson realized now was the perfect time to distribute those bags.

She put out a call on Facebook and soon had a list of households to deliver to. She dropped them on door steps around Wadena, Sebeka and Bertha and then sent off a notification that they were delivered. The response from those families was heartwarming as she heard numerous times that it was something they really needed in a time of anxiety and uncertainty.

"One dad commented that they were going to play one of the games that night," Nelson said.

Nelson was not looking to get recognition for her good deeds, she simply said it's the right thing to do. She appreciates the help from others in the community that allows her to do the work.

"Anytime I can give back, I do," she said. The commissions she could have gotten from the bags that community members purchased was put right back into the bags.

Her children now see more of her actions than usual. Her kids are ages 6, 8 and 10. The oldest has been keeping up on current events related to COVID-19 as a part of school.


"We're able to sit down and have a good conversation," Nelson said.

The others show some frustration toward the illness as it has disrupted schedules: No more going to church. No more going to school. Sports, Scouts, dance and more are canceled. She explains as best she can the efforts of staying at home and how that is helping them stay well.

"It's for them, it's for all of us," Nelson said.

Conversations and gatherings at the hospital are also very different than they once were. She recalled a recent conversation where the topic was, "What if after all these precautions, nothing bad happens?"

"That's what we want to happen," Nelson said emphatically.

Rather than sit back and watch, this mom, wife, nurse, salesperson, volunteer and teacher continues to use her talents to help others in times of need or abundance.

Nanette Nelson

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in the city of Verndale, Minn., but is bent on making it as country as he can until he returns once more to the farm living he enjoys. Also living the dream are his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at or 218-640-2312.
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