Hear stories from people across the state on how they are facing the challenges of this present moment with Hope, Resilience and Generosity.
Advocating for Racial Equity in Education
Carlos Mariani Rosa, executive director of Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MNEEP), speaks about shaping policies for Minnesota schools and universities to achieve educational excellence for all students.
“With the social uprising triggered by George Floyd’s killing and the simultaneous public health emergency caused by COVID-19, I believe we are in a special moment right now,” Carlos says. “This moment provides an opportunity to have an honest and broader conversation about race and racism between and among communities of color, indigenous communities and our predominantly white professional educator work force. Working together we can affirm that the safety for these communities means that the dignity and sense of self-worth of their children is at the guiding center of the work of all educators.”
Participating in a Greater Vision for Minnesota
Francisco Segovia, executive director of Communities Organizing Latinx Power and Action (COPAL), speaks about civic engagement, community connections and environmental justice as key components for their work with the Latinx community, especially in an election and Census year.
“Our job as a community is to participate in the larger vision of Minnesota,” Francisco says. “I believe that sometimes systems move fast without us. We need, as a community, to be able to articulate what we dream about and how we incorporate that dream into the larger picture. To achieve that, we have to organize ourselves and articulate this is what we want, so let’s build that together.”
Building a Connected Community of Leaders
Marcus Owens, executive director of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF), speaks about the economic and social impacts of recent events on the Black community, and shares how AALF continues to engage emerging Black leaders to create spaces for economic growth, leadership development and healing.
“It’s really about community,” says Marcus. ”We have to get out of this idea that there is a monolithic leader that will move us forward. If you look back at the days of Civil Rights movement, when we had Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X, and many others that were prominent and vocal leaders – there were so many other people around them that led and did things behind the scenes that moved that movement forward. We have to see ourselves in this moment right now that everyone has a role to play.”
Giving As A Way of Life
Abby, a former social worker, and her husband, Ken, turned the sale of a business into a legacy of giving that spans generations. Through their donor advised fund, Abby and her family support everything from food shelves and youth programs to conservation and music.
“That whole idea of helping people who could use some help fits with me as a social worker, the way I grew up in Massachusetts during the Second World War when we were always sending food packages to Europe. I have known giving as being a way of life since I was a little girl,” says Abby.
Helping Families Stay Safely Housed
Shellie Rowe, housing stability program manager for Neighborhood House, speaks about the impact recent events have had on families working to maintain stable housing, and how resources like the Community Sharing Fund provide support and hope during times of need.
“Despite the temporary eviction moratorium in Minnesota, families still owe rent. We’ve seen families come forward owing six to eight thousand in rent,” says Shellie. “In my program, a family can call in and do all the paperwork online. We can get to the end result, and we partner with Ramsey County Emergency Assistance, with the landlords and with other community agencies such as Community Sharing Fund to get to a zero balance. That’s our goal is to prevent evictions in Ramsey County.”
Giving is a Family Affair
Sue, a passionate advocate for a variety of local organizations, supports her community through a commitment to volunteerism. Using her artistic gifts, Sue guides children with life-limiting and serious illnesses through art experiences. Through mentorship, Sue helps budding artists move forward in their artistic journeys. Her family’s philanthropic legacy, started by her parents, has expanded to Sue and her siblings and now is moving on to her own children.
“It’s been an amazing thing," says Sue. "Now legacy is starting to happen in my own family. I am now doing what my dad did to me and going to our kids and saying ‘Hey, we give to this, but do you have anything that you’re passionate about that we could maybe start giving to?' So now the legacy is moving along, and that’s very big for me.”
Creating a Relief Fund in Greater Minnesota
Jason Subbert, chair of the Martin County Area Foundation (MCAF), speaks about the impact recent events have had on the south-central Minnesota county. MCAF responded to urgent community needs by creating a relief fund early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Martin County was one of the first counties in the state that was hit with COVID. We had 10 cases right away, before anyone really knew what was going on," says Jason. "We knew we were going into this, and we don’t know what it’s all about, but we’re going to have to put some effort forward into helping people. Not only now, but in the future with a relief fund, which we’ve never had before."
Bridging Social Distancing through Innovation
Mary McKeown, president and CEO of Keystone Community Services, speaks about turning the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic into opportunities by collaborating with other nonprofit leaders, listening to community requests and turning future plans into present action.
“We quickly accelerated some things that we had planned to do in 2021 because they were in our roadmap and the community said ‘This is what we need from you.’ One example is a partnership with Metro Mobility. They wanted to keep their drivers employed and keep them driving, and they are now coming and picking up food packages from our food shelves and delivering those out to people in the community that need that food support,” says Mary.
Supporting Families to End Generational Poverty
Sondra Samuels, president and CEO of Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), speaks about the impact recent events have had on the North Minneapolis community, and how NAZ has stepped up to help their community process their fear and anxiety through work that brings hope.
“At NAZ, we have a corny saying that we are hope dealers," Sondra says. "You know that African proverb that says when you unite a spider web you can tie up a lion – and for us, we have been tying up a lion of hopelessness because we have each other. This crisis situation has given me a lot of hope, and it’s the families; they are not giving up.”
Healing Trauma through Radical Self-Care
Dr. Joi Lewis, founder of the Healing Justice Foundation, speaks about the recent and historical trauma experienced by the Black community, and shares how self-care practices can disrupt that trauma and bring communities together through actions rooted in healing and joy.
“When we do the work of liberation, it centers radical self-care as resistance," Dr. Joi says. "When we talk about healing, we use radical self-care as a practice. What does that mean? How to get folks together in community to meditate, to breathe together, to move our bodies so we can interrupt that trauma."
Building a Safe Village
Ujamaa Place assists young African American men between the ages of 18 and 30 on a journey of transformation, rooted in the philosophy of African American culture and empowerment – that everyone is important, valuable, worthy and loveable. As Ujamaa Place celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, CEO Otis Zanders reflects on the organization’s theory of transformation.
“Coming to Ujamaa, I see myself in these men,” Otis says. “And I always try to create that safe village. And I think what separated me from most is I grew up in a safe village. And I try to create that same atmosphere here at Ujamaa.”
Carrying on a Friend’s Love for Babies
Mary serves as the adviser for a donor advised fund created by her dear neighbor Sydney before her death. Sydney’s love for babies inspired Mary to give to M Health Fairview St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood. The donation funded cameras in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) so parents can see their babies at any time of day or night.
Mary continues Sydney’s legacy by giving to causes Sydney supported. “Education and babies were some of her top priorities. She was a teacher.”
Keeping Child Care Doors Open
Barbara Yates, president & CEO of Think Small, shares how rapid grantmaking to family child care providers helped them stay open for essential workers and get needed supplies. Think Small is also gathering stories and reaching out to providers to understand how they’re coping.
“Child care providers… are the true heroes in this,” she says. “They have stayed open in numbers that are allowing essential workers to work and maintain their child care. It’s not easy.”
Sewing Together a Caring Community
Shellie, a quilter, began sewing masks in March and hasn’t stopped. When she gives a mask away, she asks the recipient to give to their local food shelf in lieu of payment. She and her husband Bob, donors with the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, volunteer and donate to hunger and education causes. They have responded to the pandemic by increasing their generosity.
“We all live in a community, and each of us alone can only do so much, but together we can do much more than we can do individually,” Shellie says.
Listening to the Asian Minnesotan Community
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the Asian Minnesotan community in numerous ways. Bo Thao-Urabe, co-founder & executive and network director of the Coalition for Asian American Leaders (CAAL), shares how they have responded to increased anti-Asian sentiments and found new ways to support leaders and nonprofits.
“Listening to the community is really what gives me hope about how we’re going to get through this," she says.
Investing in Minnesota’s Future
For the last 20 years, College Possible has dedicated itself to helping low-income and first-generation students attend and graduate college.
College Possible Minnesota Executive Director Geoff Wilson shares how the COVID-19 pandemic has only made coaching more personal for the organization, which is using its tech-connected program to reach students while social distancing.
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