MUSCATINE, Iowa—Usually a hub of activity, the National Pearl Button Museum @ History and Industry Center fosters community connections through leading educational tours, supporting local history and ecotourism through Mussels of Muscatine, and providing a gathering space for meetings of all sizes. With museums across the state temporarily closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the National Pearl Button Museum’s staff knew they had to find a creative way to continue bringing people together. Their efforts led them to found the group String of Pearls, which connects people wanting to make a difference across the county to those in need of support.
“The heart of the National Pearl Button Museum’s mission is to be a benefit to the citizens of Muscatine,” shared Mary Hopkins, development director for the National Pearl Button Museum. “While people feel uncertain, strained, and alone, we want to bind people together while extending care safely.”
To accomplish this mission, the National Pearl Button Museum created a Facebook group for area residents to join. Each week, Hopkins explained the museum’s staff works to identify, “people who are acutely hit by the effects of the virus, whether through loss of income, isolation, or illness, and providing practical help through monetary support from their community.”
After selecting an individual or family to support, they encourage members of the group to donate a dollar through PayPal or Venmo. For those who cannot donate financially, Hopkins also encourages people to join the group, share String of Pearl’s posts, and encourage their friends to do the same.
As the String of Pearls enters its third week of helping Muscatine County, the National Pearl Button Museum feels good that they have found a new way to bring the community together, safely. “Starting the group is an opportunity to express the empathy we feel for our hurting neighbors,” said Hopkins. “We want people that are alone right now to know we are thinking of them and this is our way of cutting through that isolation.”