HELENA — St. Peter’s Health nurses are calling a group of Good Samaritans their “Snow Angels.”
For the past couple of weeks, volunteers have been clearing snow from the vehicles of hospital employees at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. before the shift change.
At 3,875 feet above sea level in the Rocky Mountains, it’s no secret that it snows in Helena -- although the past few months before February had been pretty mild.
When the cold snap did hit the Queen City of the Rockies, organizer Blair Fjeseth found herself doing what many people do on a cold, snowy day. She was on social media.
“I was looking through Instagram and I happened to see a picture of a kid that had gone to his hospital and cleared off the windows during a snowstorm,” said Fjeseth. “I thought this was a perfect way to get outside, get my kids engaged in community engagement and volunteerism.”
Fjeseth -- who also serves on the board for the St. Peter’s Health Foundation-- called up her neighbor and the two families got to work clearing off cars.
The first night it was a total of 10 volunteers, half of which were kids. They now have a Facebook group 40 members strong as of Feb. 16 who have been out in sub-zero temperatures clearing snow from vehicles.
Snow Angel Volunteer Andy Shirtliff was out clearing and scrapping windows with his family’s newest addition, a golden labrador puppy named Finley.
“Like all good things it started with a small group of dedicated individuals and people that wanted to take care of other folks,” said Shirtliff. “I can’t not help out. Our health care workers are heroes and it’s the least we can do to help them out. We got our name from a nurse who came out and said, 'you're our snow angels.'”
Jen Hensley cheerfully brushed the newly fallen powder from vehicles. She said she was out in the snow to thank St. Peter’s staff who have helped her family in the past, and make a tangible difference in her community.
“I was kind of tired of feeling frustrated and like I couldn't help or change anything and this is a tiny thing,” explained Hensley. “It might only make someone feel good for a half an hour or so, but I think that’s worth it after a long shift of helping people.”
Due to the nature of the facility, St. Peter's Health and their parking lots are under constant surveillance. Organizers have been in consistent contact with security, so they are aware of the volunteers presence.
Fjeseth says she’s been thrilled to see the support for the cause.
“It feels really good that people want to help out,” explained Fjeseth. “It’s such a small way for us to give back to those who have given and worked so hard throughout this year.”
At the end of the day what the Helena Snow Angels are doing is simply a small act of kindness. However, St. Peter’s nurses told MTN that sometimes it’s those small acts that mean the most.
“It’s a real blessing,” said one nurse who had just ended their shift. “I had a gentleman out here who was shoveling my whole car, not just my windows. It’s a really cool thing that they do for us.”
“My heart just swells,” said another nurse. “There are so many good people in the world. We’re very blessed to have this job and live in this community.”
Just like the story that inspired Fjeseth to take out her scrapped, she hope the Helena Snow Angel’s story will inspire others to help out the front line workers in their own community.
“I hope that the Facebook group will grow outside of Helena, because really and truly this is something that can be replicated everywhere in the country, everywhere in Montana I hope. It’s pretty easy for us to do small acts of kindness for health care workers, said Fjeseth.
The Snow Angel group is open to anyone that wants to help out or start their own efforts in their community. The meet any day there is newly fallen snow at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m.
Fjeseth encourages those not in Helena to reach out to their own local hospital or care center to offer their volunteer services.