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SERVANT HEARTS

Twin Cities residents are giving of their time and resources

Image by Big Brother Big Sister

Twin Citians might be known for a lot of things—out-of-towners talk about the many lakes, Midwest cuisine and stalwart spirits in the dead of winter—but above all, we are known for serving others. “Minnesota nice” isn’t just a bumper sticker slogan. Rather, it is an attitude that residents in this community take to heart. Whether it’s scraping the snow off a neighbor’s windshield in the morning or volunteering our time at local charitable organizations, the spirit of giving runs deep in the Twin Cities.

Perhaps the best example of this dedication is Give to the Max Day, an annual fundraising extravaganza. The event has been raising money for Twin Cities charities since its inception in 2009, and 2016 proved a successful year, raising over $20 million, shattering its own record from the year prior, which was $18 million.

Give to the Max Day is a program of GiveMN, which launched to simplify giving in the state of Minnesota. Today, Give to the Max Day sets the bar for other fundraising programs in the country. Participation in Give to the Max Day is just one example of Minnesotans’ dedication to philanthropy, which goes well beyond a 24-hour period. Out of 50 states and Washington, D.C., we ranked second for number of volunteers in a 2016 study published by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Additionally, we carved out a top 10 spot on WalletHub’s list of the most charitable states in 2015. Whether it is charitable giving, volunteering at a local food shelf or shelter, or simply doing a neighborly favor, Minnesotans take philanthropy to heart.

There are countless ways to get involved in the Twin Cities. Greater Twin Cities United Way serves the community by creating stability and helping to alleviate poverty. Celebrating its centennial in 2015, the organization made a promise to invest more time and resources into the Twin Cities metro. Upwards of 100,000 volunteers stepped up to help with the inaugural projects of the campaign, which helped students succeed in school, sorted 70,000 pounds of donated clothing, refurbished a child development center in Minneapolis, and planted four community gardens.

The Twin Cities are home to an organization that has massive, global impact. Feed My Starving Children was established in 1987 with the goal of helping to end hunger in places throughout the world. What started small now has seven sites throughout the country and sends specially formulated, pre-packed meals to more than five continents. Feed My Starving Children welcomes volunteers and large groups for packing days at their metro locations.

Located in downtown Minneapolis, People Serving People is the region’s largest and most comprehensive family focused homeless shelter. The facility serves those experiencing homelessness in a number of ways. With 99 emergency

shelter rooms and 10 two-bedroom apartments, they are able to serve thousands of individuals every year. Child services, tutoring, computer mentoring, health services, housing and job search help are just a handful of the ways the shelter extends a hand to help people get back on their feet. Some 5,688 volunteers donated 29,120 hours of their time in 2016 to support the mission of People Serving People, which is to stabilize families in the midst of crisis.

Another shelter that supports at-risk youth in the Twin Cities is YouthLink. The nonprofit helps young people between the ages of 16 and 23 gain stability in all areas of their lives. Helping kids get out of the cycle of homelessness, the YouthLink Youth Opportunity Center is a collaborative approach to achieving that stability, and programming provides health services, housing, education and employment services for a holistic approach to finding a solution for homelessness. YouthLink empowers young people so they can give back to their community, ultimately improving quality of life for everyone. In addition to volunteering, you can donate money or basic necessity items, such as gently used clothing, toiletries, gift cards and job interview attire.

Jeremiah Program is a group that impacts the community by investing in families. The organization empowers single mothers by aiding them in their pursuit of a college education. Founded in 1993 in Minneapolis, Jeremiah Program now has two Twin Cities campuses that offer affordable, safe housing for single mothers and their children. At Jeremiah Program, volunteers can serve in many different ways, including helping with childcare while moms are at school and work, serving meals, planning events, and tutoring residents in their coursework. The mission of Jeremiah Program is to help families move from poverty to prosperity two generations at a time.

The Twin Cities have more than 1,000 charitable organizations that provide the opportunity to give back to the community. No matter what the cause, serving is a way of life for Twin Citians.

My Take: Gloria Perez
President/CEO, Jeremiah Program

Founded in Minneapolis in 1993, Jeremiah Program invests in single mothers and their children. What began as an effort to give disenfranchised women access to higher education evolved over the years into a holistic program that breaks the cycle of poverty two generations at a time.

President and CEO Gloria Perez has been with the organization since its infancy. Jeremiah began with one campus in Minneapolis where mothers could receive financial help, professional skills training, education and safe, affordable housing. Today, there are five Jeremiah sites where mothers receive these services and children receive quality, early childhood education. Jeremiah’s well-rounded approach creates a one-to-four return on investment; an impressive feat for any charitable organization.

Leading Jeremiah Program in its mission to help single mothers and their families out of poverty has always been a passion for Perez. Raised by a single mother herself, she understands where these women are coming from and is grateful for the community members who support them.

“I was raised by a single mom because my dad died when I was 10. When my father died, she was really unprepared for continuing to provide for her family. She didn’t have a degree beyond high school and she wanted to go back to college. Some of my earliest memories are of accompanying my mom to professional development activities. Those experiences were evidence of how a program like Jeremiah could have a meaningful impact not just for my mom, but also for me as a child.

“I came to Minnesota to go to college and completed college because of the support of community members, so I have a real appreciation for compassionate citizens. And Jeremiah is an opportunity to bring people together to help these moms and these children become self-reliant.

“There are a lot of hands-on volunteer opportunities and we have episodic as well as regular opportunities. The episodic opportunities are things like preparing a meal for families; you can do that one time. It gives the volunteer an opportunity to meet the people they are serving.

“We have a strong belief in hospitality and respect. When people come to a community, we want them to be greeted and welcomed, and volunteers play that role. There are times when volunteers wonder if their work really makes a difference for the participants. But what we hear from the participants is that they are amazed and humbled by the number of volunteers that help them be successful. The compassion that they’re getting from the community is extremely beneficial, and it’s a morale boost. So many have felt marginalized and invisible in our communities; so to have people coming in and giving of their time and talent, they feel worthy and loved.”

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