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Give Smart: Ways to donate, volunteer with intention

"The more we can do for people and see them for who they are and their culture, the better off we all are," said Julie Pierce, Executive Director of Nourish 282.

SAINT ANTHONY, Minn. — Whether it's your time, money, or items, there are ways you can give intentionally to make the most impact in your community.

Julie Pierce is the Executive Director of Nourish 282 in Saint Anthony. She said the nonprofit is about five years old and serves a small pocket of the metro. Pierce said families can enroll in their program as long as they live within the Saint Anthony and New Brighton footprint of the school district border.

Pierce said Nourish 282’s biggest initiative by far, is tackling food insecurity in a very focused way.

"The more we can do for people and see them for who they are and their culture the better off we all are, so we understand that you know, not everybody wants a can of SpaghettiO’s," Pierce said.  

That means asking donors for items that are dietary specific, like for vegetarians. Or, Pierce said they can be culturally specific for their global clientele that includes West African, Latinx, or Asian families. "Within that, we have good lists of what the spices would be and what the oils would be because those so often are the items that are more expensive when they go to the grocery store," Pierce said.

Pierce said they also provide a cap of $200 gift cards a month to grocery stores for families.  

"That self-choice is such an important component," Pierce said. She said they doubled their give since the start of the pandemic because the need is high.  

Pierce said their shelves are currently bare, so they're asking for more donations. She said the greatest need is always monetary. If you want to help, the information for donating is available here. Learn more about Nourish 282 here. 

Pierce said they are still able to continue serving people with a limited number of volunteers.

Tracy Nielsen is the Executive Director of HandsOn Twin Cities.  The 501(c)3 connects nonprofits, volunteers, and companies to provide impact in the community. Nielsen said they saw spikes of volunteerism throughout the year.

"When the pandemic first started back in March and April, we saw some of our highest volunteer numbers ever," Nielsen said.

Nielsen said HandsOn Twin Cities works with about 600 nonprofits in various efforts. She said needs for basic items and access to food continue to be great, so they're seeing demand for people to be a meal service driver to disperse food and hygiene items to people in the community.

When it comes to homelessness, an issue that’s only ballooned since the pandemic, and Nielsen said you want be thoughtful in your donations. Your neighborhood homeless organization’s needs can shift, she said.

"There can sometimes be a huge donation of gloves, but there are not blankets, or there’s a huge donation of blankets but there are other needs," Nielsen said.

Nielsen says you can always lend a hand serving up a meal. She said that has been a consistent gift for the homeless organizations they work with, uninterrupted with CDC protocols in place during the pandemic. 

If you’re concerned about COVID-19, there are plenty of other options that don’t require in-person interactions. Nielsen said nonprofits have done an incredible job at adapting the way people can get involved.

"I went to our site and there are almost 200 virtual ways for people to give back," Nielsen said.  "Phone companion to seniors in isolation, making cards, tutoring, mentoring online, pro-bono so putting your business skills to work, then just putting together potentially like kits or things," she said.

It's also recommended if you don't know how to best help, to check the website of the organization you're interested in or give them a call. The HandsOn Twin Cities website makes it easy to find a nonprofit if you want to volunteer. The website also has resources available if you want to help continue to the work of HandsOn Twin Cities through a donation.

There are other ways to help your neighbors that doesn't involve a non-profit or big organization.  KARE 11 Sunrise dives into mutual aid in the next installment of the "Give Smart" series, and how it's become even more necessary today.

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