VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES IN MINNEAPOLIS & ST. PAUL
Beating in the depths of many a Twin Cities resident, lies a servant’s heart willing to donate not just money, but that even more precious commodity—time
By Tammy Galvin
Of all the accomplishments I’ve had in my life (children excluded), there is none more important, more meaningful to me than the two years I spent quietly volunteering in a most amazing, yet equally unassuming warehouse in Bloomington.
In the spring and summer months it was sweltering. I mean HOT. Lugging donated furniture and other household goods from the backs of countless vehicles to the aisles and shelves where they would sit…but not for long, only to be filled by another couch, loveseat or dresser. The average inventory turn at this warehouse would make even the world’s largest manufacturers melt in envy. This warehouse, I came to quickly learn, completely outfits 12 complete family-of-four households a day. A DAY. That’s everything from eating and cooking utensils to bedding, furniture, lights and artwork.
In the winter, the cold never bothered us—save for our hands—because the pace was equally brisk: Taking in one man’s junk, and sending it back out as another’s home-making treasure.
The warehouse is one of two owned and operated by Bridging, the largest furniture bank in North America. Furniture bank, you may rightly ask? Yes, a furniture bank—one that has furnished more than 80,000 homes for families transitioning out of homelessness or poverty with donated goods, truly “bridging” the gap between those who have and those who need.
A former businessman and entrepreneur, Fran Heitzman was struck with the idea for Bridging when he was working as a custodian at a local church and asked if he could find a new owner for a used crib. Now, more than three decades later, Bridging is still going strong, and so is Fran, at the age of 92.
Fran happens to be the father-in-law of a dear friend of mine, and it was at one of their family gatherings that I heard him speak of Bridging for the first time. He was explaining the “why” behind the amazing organization that he created.
“I look at the little kids I see every day in our waiting rooms and think, ‘That’s tomorrow’s society? And we allow them to sleep on their coats on the floor? We have to do better than that.’ When good people get together, good things happen—and that happens every day at Bridging.”
The waiting room that he was referring to, I later came to find out, was Bridging’s. It serves as the ultimate welcome mat for families in need…Families who can see a glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel: These families, you see, have made it over the first enormous hurdle and have secured a “home,” a safe place to live, but they have no means whatsoever to fill it with the most basic of necessities let alone all that Bridging freely gives them.
I share this story not as a plea for money, but as a plea for time. Your time. When you move to Minneapolis, St. Paul or any of the many surrounding suburbs, you will find communities of big-hearted individuals, like Fran and others, who live and breath the “Minnesota Nice” concept you’ve no doubt heard so much about.
Indeed, it should be nice to know you’re moving to an area with caring, responsible neighbors—and there are plenty of places for all of us to give back. Our dedication to volunteering and philanthropy is truly off the charts, and when you move here we want you to be a part of it. Out of 50 states and Washington, D.C., we ranked second for number of volunteers, with nearly 40 percent of all Minnesotans volunteering formally, according to 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.
A simple Google search will provide you with a laundry list of places to volunteer your time. Or you can start by visiting HandsOn Twin Cities, an online portal for available opportunities scattered around our region. Building on 95 years of experience as the nation’s first volunteer center, HandsOn Twin Cities is the central source for volunteerism in the Twin Cities.
But because volunteering is, well, personal, usually aimed at causes that are near and dear to your heart, I took a brief survey of my coworkers here at Greenspring Media (owner of visit-twincities.com and several other publications including Minnesota Monthly) in our downtown Minneapolis office to share some of our favorites. Join one of us, and volunteer at any of these amazing places after you settle in. You won’t be disappointed.
Volunteer Organizations in the Twin Cities
American Indian OIC
Image courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Image courtesy of Bolder Options
Image courtesy of Feed My Starving Children
Feed My Starving Children
Image courtesy of Animal Humane Society
Golden Valley Animal Humane Society
Image courtesy of Open Arms
Image courtesy of People Serving People
People Serving People
Image courtesy of PRISM
Image courtesy of Sheridan Story
The Sheridan Story
Vision Loss Resources
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