FARGO — Area nurses who are knee-deep in the pandemic are finding their community stepping up to say "thanks" after a local woman offered others the opportunity to show their gratitude through a social media campaign.

Vicki Wiisanen, of Fargo, just happened to tell some friends about a plan to collect a few dollars to buy gift cards for area nurses and staff working the COVID-19 units in town.

"I would buy a few dozen gift cards, and it wouldn't get very far," Wiisanen said. "I thought maybe people I know would like to contribute, so I put it on Facebook."

Just a few days after her Facebook post, Vicki has collected more than $6,000 and hundreds of gift cards. She also found out that, with new restrictions on restaurants, the project would help nurses as well as restaurants that sold the gift cards.

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"I actually had a woman who brought some gift cards to me the other day, and she told me she went to a small, locally owned restaurant and the woman filling out the gift cards was emotional because she was so grateful," Wiisanen said.

For the nurses working long shifts and standing at the bedside of those fighting for life, these simple acts of kindness from people in their community means a lot.

"I feel like our community has been so supportive throughout the whole pandemic, and we are immensely grateful for everything we received and what we will receive," said Janel Hodge, a registered nurse with Sandford Health.

The gift cards mean more to them than just a quick and easy meal. They are also a signal from the community to these exhausted nurses that they are appreciated.

Anyone interested in helping with the gift card project can send an email to Vicki Wiisanen at vwiisa@hotmail.com.