Minneapolis firefighter goes above and beyond in helping family impacted by COVID-19

A Minneapolis mother is thanking a local firefighter for helping her family while she was hospitalized with COVID-19.

Maria Lara said it has been a very difficult time. Her father died of COVID-19 several weeks ago. She contracted the virus not long after and had to be hospitalized and on oxygen for a week at Hennepin County Medical Center.

"It’s very painful, emotional," Lara said. "And it’s scary because you don’t know if you are going to make it or not."

Her daughter, Breanna Arnold, a senior at Southwest High School, said her first instinct was to reach out to a Minneapolis firefighter named Julie Flaskamp, who she knew through events at school.

"After seeing my grandpa die from COVID and seeing my mom in that same position, it was just really scary," Arnold said. "Julie was one of the first people I let know about my mom because I trust in her opinion about COVID since she’s a first responder and she sees it a lot. I called her and I said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on. Will my mom be okay?’"

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Flaskamp said she felt compelled to do more for the family after receiving the call.

"Breanna called just a few days ago, just sobbing," Flaskamp said. "And I thought, I have the time to help. It’s a win-win."

Flaskamp decided to make a special delivery to their home, which is about a mile from her fire station.

"She told me to sit outside and wait for her and all I see is this big fire truck coming down the street," Arnold recalled with a smile. "She gave us gift cards to Target and a gas station, along with cash and flowers."

Flaskamp has been a firefighter at Minneapolis Fire Department for 27 years. She said, in her free time, she likes to stay involved in the community.

"I volunteer a lot. That’s my second job, or my third job actually," Flaskamp laughed.

In addition to being a full-time firefighter, Flaskamp is a substitute teacher, coach, co-chair of the Parent-Teacher Association, sponsor for women in Alcoholics Anonymous and a musical director at school. She met Arnold during one of those musicals several years ago.

"She’s always there, if it’s part of her job or if it’s outside her job, she’s always there helping people," Arnold said. "That’s just the kind of person she is."

Arnold said Flaskamp also helped her family two years ago, when her mother was facing possible deportation after more than 20 years in the United States.

"The moment Julie heard about it, she jumped on the wagon, helped my mom get a good lawyer," Arnold said. "She was with my mom every step of the way so she could stay here and I could have my mom here with me as well."

"The lawyer had said at one point, ‘It’s not going to be easy to win this case,’" Flaskamp said. "So I called everybody that knew Maria, had everybody write letters. I knew people in the community that she didn’t know and everybody came together."

Lara was able to get a visa, thanks to Flaskamp’s help compiling resources and references.

"She’s an amazing person not because what she does for me, myself. She does for everybody," Lara said. "You see a person like her, you just feel like you are safe. You feel like you are in good hands."

"One of my mottos is ‘nobody can do everything but everybody can do something,’" Flaskamp said. "I think there’s just so much need in Minneapolis. We’re all hurting. So to be able to get into the community, it’s just a good feeling."

Arnold said Flaskamp is a true local hero who deserves recognition for her service to the community.

"There are some people right now during all this chaos, this pandemic, all this uncertainty, they feel like they don’t have the power to do anything," Arnold said. "But Julie is a prime example that you do have the power to change someone’s life."