"Excelsior Farmers Market Partners with ICA Food Shelf to Add EBT Card Usage," Sun Sailor, February 2018

With all the cold and snowy weather this winter, it’s exciting to think the Excelsior Farmers Market will return Tuesday, May 22, and will run through Tuesday, Sept. 25.

One change that customers will notice this year is the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the farmers’ market, has partnered with the ICA Food Shelf to add access for Electronic Benefits Transfer cards for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program users.

The idea to add EBT card access to the farmers market was put forward by Laura Hotvet, executive director of the chamber. 

"More Residents Using Minnetonka Food Shelf," Star Tribune, December 2017

When the doors of the ICA Food Shelf in Minnetonka opened at 11:30 a.m. last Monday, 20 people were standing in line or waiting in cars.

Some headed for racks at the front of the store where there were shelves of bread and bananas, while others signed in, having already scheduled appointments.

Economic distress is nothing new for some people in the Twin Cities suburbs, but the growth in clientele at the ICA, located in a small industrial strip mall, reflects the financial difficulties many people now experience despite state statistics showing lower unemployment rates.

"Nonprofits provide free counseling to clients," Sun Sailor, May 2017

As May comes to an end, so does the 68th annual Mental Health Month. Mental Health America initiated the first observance of May as Mental Health Month in 1949. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20 percent of adults in the U.S. will experience a mental health issue, like depression or anxiety, during their lifetime.

"Minnetonka Reflection Award to Ron Kamps", Minnetonka Memo, April 2017

"Minnetonka Reflection Award to Ron Kamps", Minnetonka Memo, April 2017

When dreaming of retirement, many people look forward to relaxing and retreating to a warmer climate during cold Minnesota winters. However, Minnetonka resident Ron Kamps had a different dream when he retired 12 years ago: he wanted to give back to the community he has called home for 44 years.

"EDCO Products Inc. establishes long term relationship with ICA", January 2017

"EDCO Products Inc. establishes long term relationship with ICA", January 2017

EDCO Products, Inc., a Minnesota based manufacturer of residential and commercial exterior building products, in conjunction with their 70th anniversary, today announced a partnership with ICA Food Shelf that will provide significant financial support, as well as additional employee involvement with future ICA initiatives. 

Oak Knoll to Host Inaugural 5K Run/Walk to End Hunger", Sun Sailor, May 2016

Gabby Landsverk
Sun Sailor
May 13, 2016

“According to the book of Hebrews, we are called to ‘run with perseverance the race that is set before us,’” said Pastor Jay Rudi of Oak Knoll Lutheran Church. He decided to take that biblical message literally, organizing a 5K event to bring the community together while simultaneously raising money to benefit those in need.

“We wanted to be a catalyst help make that happen, because we’re part of the neighborhood,” Rudi said. “We wanted an event to coalesce around the idea that we’re a neighborhood, and how we can be bigger than ourselves.”
The church has been a presence in the community since 1932, Rudi said, and its community includes not just Minnetonka and Hopkins but parts of nearby Hopkins, Plymouth, Wayzata and Golden Valley.

Rudi, himself a runner – “More like a lumberer,” he joked – said he had the concept of a fun run fundraiser in mind for years.  “It’s been an idea of mine for a long time,” Rudi said. “It just all came together, thanks to people who were excited about it.”  After about 10 months of planning, the inaugural event, dubbed the OK 5K Run/Walk to End Hunger, is scheduled for Saturday, May 21.  Rudi said he hopes to have a few hundred people involved, but he’ll be happy just to reach triple-digits for this first event.

“Out of small things can come great things,” he said.  So far, a number of local businesses have signed on in support of the event, including: Center for Diagnostic Imaging; Little Newton; Kim McClean of Alerus Mortgage; Nutritional Weight and Wellness; Kaskaid Hospitality; CSM Corporation; and Gregg Roeglin of Edina Realty.  All of the proceeds from the event will benefit ICA Foodshelf, which offers food, financial and employment assistance to people in need throughout the west suburbs. Rudi hopes to raise at least $5,000.

“Hunger is kind of a hidden problem in this community, and ICA is out there trying to make a difference and help people get on their feet,” he said.  The event will be held May 21, starting at 8 a.m. in the parking lot of Oak Knoll Lutheran Church (600 Hopkins Crossroad, Minnetonka). The cost is $15 per youth and $20 per adult.  Rudi was quick to point out that, while the idea originated in the church community, the event itself isn’t faith-based and all are welcome.
“People can just show up, have fun and do some good,” Rudi said. “Ending hunger is something everyone can agree on.”

For more information or to get involved, visit OK5K.zapevent.com

"Powerful Advocate for Pets", Southwest Journal, April 2016

Nate Gotlieb
Soutwest Journal
April 6, 2016

People & Pets Together provides pet food, vaccinations and supplies to ensure pet owners can keep their pets through hard times

Minneapolis resident Darrell Scott walked 56 blocks to the People & Pets Together food shelf on a recent Saturday morning for specialty food for his cockatiel.

The self-described animal lover said the food helped him keep his bird fed when finances were tight. “It was a blessing they were able to have cockatiel food,” he said.

The Minneapolis nonprofit organization helps ensure that pet owners can receive those benefits through tough financial times.

People & Pets Together provides pet food, vaccinations and supplies at no cost to people who need the extra help caring for their pets.

This January, the organization opened the first pet food shelf in Minnesota, from which it distributes food and supplies to food shelves around the metro.

“People often feed their pets over themselves, and we want to make sure they’re not having to make that choice,” said Dr. Adam Bennett, a veterinarian and board member. “If you take care of the animals, you’re taking care of the people.”

People & Pets Together developed out of the passion of Kim Carrier, a pet lover who wanted to ensure people could keep their pets through hard times. In 2009, she began collecting pet food and donating it to people in need. Her efforts led to the creation of a nonprofit called the Pet Project. The organization collected about 25,000 pounds of food in its first five months and began hosting vaccination clinics and fundraising events.

This past summer, it changed its name to People & Pets Together and announced its intentions of opening the food shelf in Minneapolis.

“We found that having our own space really lent us a sense of legitimacy for potential donors,” Carrier said. “When you’re working out of homes and coffee shops with a P.O. Box for an address, people are hesitant to help fund the vision. It’s easy to drop off food donations, too, when you have a destination.”

The organization decided to open the food shelf in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood, an area Carrier described as a “food desert.” Carrier also operates a hair salon in the neighborhood.

People & Pets opened the space in January and has continued to distribute about 5,000 pounds of food per month to nine local food shelves. Program director Laura Atneosen said dozens of Powderhorn and Phillips neighborhood residents have signed up for monthly services since the opening. To qualify, clients must be accepting some kind of public assistance or make below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Once a month, they can pick up food, a treat, a toy and one additional item such as cat litter.

People & Pets also offers quarterly vaccination clinics and will help pay veterinarian bills in limited situations. The organization relies entirely on donations and volunteers for its supplies and distribution and has one part-time staffer in Atneosen.

About 400 families ask for pet food each month at ICA Food Shelf in Hopkins, according to associated director Jason Palm. People & Pets provides food to ICA, which Palm said is greatly appreciated.

“For a family that views their pet as a member of the family, that’s something they’re not going to give up,” he said. “We really value what they do.”

By the numbers

— 150:Number of people who volunteer with People
& Pets Together
— 5,000: Number of pounds of pet food the organization distributes each month on average
— 9: Twin Cities food shelves where People & Pets distributes food
— 23: Number of pets the organization vaccinated at one of its recent quarterly vaccination clinics
— 1: Number of food shelves  in Minnesota dedicated entirely toward pets

At a glance

Location: 3755 Bloomington Ave. S.
Contact: peopleandpetstogether@gmail.com, 612-722-9998
Website: peopleandpetstogether.org
Year Founded: 2009

What you can do:
Volunteer to help plan an event, write a grant, maintain the website or more.
Drop off pet food at the food shelf. People & Pets accepts donations from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

Participate in the Fast and the Furry Races and Pet Expo on May 21 at Harriet Island in St. Paul.

About the Where We Live project:
This project is an ongoing series spearheaded by Journals’ publisher Janis Hall showcasing Minneapolis nonprofits doing important work in the community. The editorial team has selected organizations to spotlight. Nate Gotlieb is the writer for the project.

"Sizzle For a Cause", ICA Press Release, Feb 2016

ICA Press Release
February 9 ,2016

Minnetonka, Minnesota (February 9, 2016) – In the fourth annual Sizzle for a Cause, local chefs from five of the Lake Minnetonka area’s best restaurants will come together to battle it out in a Chopped-style cooking competition. The winner takes home bragging rights as well as the coveted Golden Cleaver. “The Sizzle for a Cause event brings the community together for great food, fun entertainment and a great cause. All proceeds go to ICA Food Shelf to help our community members in need.” - Peg Keenan, Executive Director of ICA Food Shelf

How does it work? Each chef will prepare a dish featuring a surprise secret ingredient, as well as pantry staples. Last year’s chefs were surprised with Spam. Who knows what this year’s surprise ingredient will be! Local celebrity judges include Paul Douglas, Meteorologist; Belinda Jensen, Meteorologist; and Ross Sveback, lifestyle expert. They will taste test each dish to determine which is best and crown the winner.

Restaurants for this year’s competition include two-time reigning champ Jake O’Connor’s, Cast & Cru, Coalition, Kowalski’s, and Spasso. Spectators will watch the action while enjoying appetizers from the participating restaurants. Dessert will also be provided, and a cash bar is available.

This year’s Presenting Sponsor is Kowalski’s and the event space was donated by Cast & Cru Restaurant at the Old Log Theatre. Gold sponsors are Synergy Products and Lux. “Supporting the community is important to us and we couldn’t be happier to host the 2016 event at Cast & Cru.” – Marissa Frankenfield, Owner of Cast & Cru and the Old Log Theatre

If you love great food, fun times, and your local community, you don’t want to miss this sizzling hot event! The showdown will take place the evening of Thursday, February 25, at Cast & Cru Restaurant at the Old Log Theatre in Excelsior. Purchase tickets at icasizzle2016.eventbrite.com.  Proceeds benefit ICA Food Shelf.

"Destitute in the Suburbs", Lakeshore Weekly News, December 2015

By Amanda Schwarze
Lakeshore Weekly News
December 23,2015

As members of a local church were participating in a sleepout to raise awareness of poverty in the area, an unexpected guest helped – a homeless man who was living in the truck he had parked in the church’s lot.

That man is not an anomaly in the western suburbs. There are high school students who don’t know where they will be spending the night, multiple families sharing small apartments, adults sleeping in cars and seniors depending on relatives for a home.  The homeless in the suburbs are all ages, come from all backgrounds and their numbers are growing.  “These are the people we see every day,” said LaDonna Hoy, executive director of Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners (IOCP) in Plymouth.

According to the IOCP, 55 percent of the Twin Cities’ poor population lives in the suburbs. Of the 2,033 families that IOCP served from April 1, 2014, through March 31, 2015, 285 were experiencing homelessness. That number is about three times higher than the number of homeless families they served the previous fiscal year. Then, the organization served 88 families who were experiencing homelessness.

Chris Anderson, director of community outreach for Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, works with a group called West Ecumenical Service Team (WEST), which is made up of churches in and around Excelsior that help people who are experiencing poverty and homelessness. He said that in November, he knew of nine different homeless families in Excelsior.  “A lot of it is hidden,” said Jessie Billiet, a case manager at ICA Food Shelf in Minnetonka.

The homeless in the suburbs are hidden because they are sleeping on the couch in the home of a relative or friend, or they might be living out of their vehicle. Others are forced to leave the community because of a lack of affordable housing and apartments that take renters with housing vouchers.  Housing is considered affordable, according to the Metropolitan Council, when a family with a moderate or low income pays no more than 30 percent to 40 percent of its monthly income for housing. Hoy said that even at the 30 percent level, many families are stretching their budgets to the limits. Among IOCP clients, she said, it’s not unusual for some to spend up to 70 percent of their income on housing.

Pat Gau, another ICA case manager, said landlords in Minnesota don’t have to accept housing vouchers. Over time, fewer have accepted them. Now there is less affordable housing than there was 20 years ago, said Mikkel Beckmen, director of the Minneapolis/Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness.  “The competition for housing is pretty fierce,” Beckmen said.

With so few buildings accepting tenants with vouchers, those that do are getting people from all over the metro. Anderson said that shelters in Minneapolis have sent people with no connection to this area to apartments in Excelsior. Their rent is paid for 90 days with the goal of allowing the tenants to take that time to find a job and get settled. Those people, however, have few possessions and likely no support systems in place. Recently, Anderson said, a man in that position showed up at the church who literally had nothing more than the clothes on his back. With no car, no computer and no knowledge of the area, it’s difficult for people to become financially stable within three months, he said.

Finding a job may not be enough for many homeless people. Hoy, Billiet and Gau said they frequently meet with people who are employed, but they’re working low-wage, part-time jobs with no benefits. Even when someone works several of those jobs, one problem can destroy their finances. A broken down car, an illness or anything that may mean missing a day of work or spending extra money could be disastrous.  “People are living on the the edge,” Hoy said. “They’re just hanging on.”

When someone seeks assistance from an organization like IOCP or ICA, they usually have one primary, urgent need, Hoy said, such as paying the rent, or paying for car repairs. Behind that primary need, are several factors that are leading to that problem, like a low-wage job, or child care needs that are too expensive.

While there are many factors that help lead people to poverty, Hoy, Billiet, Gau and Anderson agreed that transportation is an issue that needs to be addressed. The bus service in the area is limited and mainly focused on the typical commuter schedule. Even with that service, many people still need a car to get to work, job interviews, appointments or the grocery store.

Another issue closely tied to poverty in the area is education. Hoy said that the changing job market has left some people without the skills they need to make a living wage. Those who don’t have basic computer skills are already well behind the curve, she said.“Education is the surest way out of poverty,” Hoy said.

Among the people who know that best seem to be homeless youth.  “Ninety percent of homeless youth are still in school,” said Teens Alone Executive Director Lydia Kihm.  Estimates of the number homeless youth in the area differ. Pam Langseth, board member of Open Hands Foundation and a member of the Minnetonka School Board, said a study showed that there are about three to four homeless teens for every major high school in the area plus some homeless middle school students. Wayzata High School social worker Alec Albee said that number sounds accurate, but he said that most of the homeless students he works with are without a home for just a short period. He said he can count on one hand the number of students he sees in a year who are homeless for more than a few days.

Kihm estimates that number is higher; she said on any given day there are probably 30 homeless youth at the major west metro high schools. People tend to think the number is lower because many homeless students hide their situation for fear they will get in trouble, she said. Other homeless teens don’t think of themselves as homeless if they’re sleeping indoors, she said, even if they don’t know where they’ll be spending the night.  “Many of them are unseen,” Kihm said. “They’re couch hopping and going from place-to-place every night.”

Even with the chaos going on in their lives, most homeless teens have a strong desire to stay in their school and their communities, Langseth said. Open Hands Foundation is working with Westwood Community Church in Chanhassen and the Minneapolis organization The Bridge for Youth to open a shelter for young people who need emergency housing. The church donated a house in Chanhassen for the shelter that will have six beds. The Bridge for Youth will supply the professional staff at the house while Open Hands Foundation will cover the operating costs of the shelter, which are expected to be $550,000 per year.

The shelter is expected to open for overnight stays soon, but it is currently open during the day to help teens with counseling or to find other services they might need. The only other emergency shelter for youth in the west metro is the other Bridge for Youth site in Uptown, Langseth said. There the average stay is four nights, during which the teen receives a physical and mental health screening and counseling. The Chanhassen shelter will be run in the same way. The goal, Langseth said, is to reunite the teen with his or her family. If that’s not possible, the staff will find the young person other long-term housing.

The shelter is available to young people between the ages of 10 to 17. Teens Alone offers services to young people up to the age of 24 at its location in the Eisenhower Community Center in Hopkins. There, they can find food, guidance with resumes and assistance finding other services that might be of help to them. The organization also runs the Suburban Host Home Program, where adults offer food and lodging for a homeless young person for up to nine months.

Regardless of the age of the people involved, poverty and homelessness are complex issues. The many organizations, churches and individuals working on the problem are seeing some results. Beckmen said thanks to local efforts and new federal programs, there are few homeless veterans left in the metro area. He estimated that housing will be found for the remaining veterans in the first half of 2016.

Locally, groups have created networks where someone seeking help can easily be directed to the services that will best fit them. The donations from residents have helped countless people by keeping them fed, helping them with rent and giving them assistance in their job search.

“This community is faithful, they have stuck with us,” Hoy said. “We are very, very fortunate to have people who know how to get things done here, and they have the heart and the will to help all kids and families have whatever they need.”

More help, however, will always be welcome, Anderson said.  “There will never be too much help with this,” he said.

"Celebration of Service", Minnetonka Schools, October 2015

Minnetonka Schools
October 27, 2015

Over 242 students, groups, alumni and adults spent over 46,000 hours serving local and global communities. On October 27, 2015 we celebrated this service. Minnetonka students knitted new born hats, volunteered for community theatre shows, lent a hand at the ICA food shelf, recycled bikes for needy children and so much more. Minnetonka students are passionate about service. For more information please visit http://www.tonkaserves.org

"Excelsior Apple Day", Sun Sailor,

Sun Sailor
September 23, 2015

Basement Kings plays at the Excelsior Apple Days on Sept. 19. (Sun Sailor photo by Paige Kieffer)

Over the weekend Excelsior celebrated Apple Days on Sept. 19. (Sun Sailor photo by Paige Kieffer)

Brian Peterson at the Sept. 19 Excelsior Apple Days car show. (Sun Sailor photo by Paige Kieffer)

Kids at Excelsior’s Apple Days on Sept. 19. (Sun Sailor photo by Paige Kieffer)

Ashton Voehl and Ellie Koch take caramel apple sundaes at the Avery’s Apples booth at the Sept. 19 Excelsior Apple Days. (Sun Sailor photo by Paige Kieffer)

The ICA Food Shelf sells slices of apple pie at the Excelsior Apple Days on Sept. 19. (Sun Sailor photo by Paige Kieffer)

Avery’s Apples at the Excelsior Apple Days on Sept. 19. (Sun Sailor photo by Paige Kieffer)

Kids dive into their apple pies at the Sept. 19 Excelsior Apple Day pie eating contest. (Photo by Sue Craig, suecraig.com)

Excelsior resident AndrewPunch won two awards for the Sept. 19 Apple Days baking contest. (Photo by Sue Craig, suecraig.com)