Conventional wisdom suggests not spending all your money in one place, but that’s exactly what Nancy Hausermann did when her COVID-19 stimulus check came through: All $1,200 went to food for anyone in need.
As the clock approached noon on Friday, Hausermann stood alone under a canopy on the side of Rocky Point Road outside Polson, surrounded by bread, eggs, potatoes, corn on the cob, fruit and more. Anyone in need of food was welcome to take it.
"I just can't stand seeing someone go hungry," she said.
Hausermann, 64, said the local school districts and Boys and Girls Club have essentially covered the need to get food to children in and around Polson. Most folks who stop by Hausermann’s stand are elderly, living on a fixed income and scared to go into a grocery store, she said.
It’s a bigger setup than she had in the days before. Her $1,200 came and went in the first day or two, and she only had one table to display the free food. But like the coronavirus, charity has proven contagious in Polson. After a photo of her makeshift stand alongside a “free food” sign permeated through social media last week, donations of food and money poured in and a local church offered up the canopy and more tables.
Craig Moody and Susan Peterson, who live up Rocky Point, saw the post on Facebook and wanted to help out. On Friday they delivered some water and soda to add to Hausermann’s stockpile.
“She’s going through a lot of trouble to help people,” Moody said. “It only takes a second to get on that bandwagon.”
Hausermann, wearing a University of Montana Grizzlies football jersey and a cloth face mask, waved at everyone who drove by. She made quick work of handing off items when people stopped. By 12:30 in the afternoon, a few cars had lined up and people waited in their cars for their turn.
These kinds of operations have been Hausermann’s bread and butter since she moved to Polson from St. Louis years ago. There, Hausermann said she grew up in a foster home with 13 other children. She recalls beans on the stove top every night, with a bit of ham, if they were lucky.
“I remember what it was like to be hungry,” she said.
“What she’s doing is very generous,” said Bobby Nelson, a 60-year-old California transplant living in Polson. Nelson is an enrolled member of a tribe in California but said he doesn’t have access to the emergency resources from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe. His stimulus check hasn’t come through either.
Life is tough right now, Nelson said. He remembers when AIDS first scared the U.S. No one knows when but Nelson is steadied by the fact that the coronavirus, too, will pass.
“It’s just one of those things,” he said.
Hausermann said her charitable spirit is explicitly tied to her relationship with Christianity. It's God who told her to feed people during the COVID-19 pandemic she said. For more than 20 years she has raised money for children, veterans, seniors, churches and more. In the same time, she's beat breast cancer and continues to stave off chronic bronchitis. Giving back, she said, "replaces all the (bad) things that have happened."
"You can't keep me down," she said from behind the cloth face mask.
As health officials and experts try to determine whether Montana has hit its coronavirus peak or whether a second-wave outbreak is on the horizon, parts of communities began reopening this week. The first to be allowed to resume normal functions by Gov. Steve Bullock’s reopening plan were the churches. If you’d expect Hausermann, who’s something of a patron saint here in Polson, to be conflicted by that, you’d be wrong.
“It’s a terrible idea,” she said. “Church is here (waves around). You don’t have to be in a building. You get out and live it every day.”
Hausermann asks anyone who would like to donate to her food stand call her at 406-871-9784.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.