The holiday season is upon us. Stores are advertising their "gifts of the season," and we begin to mark up our wish lists. As we head out on the annual search for the perfect present, why not celebrate the gift of giving this year? Here are a few local Downtown- and Southwest-based charities looking for donations and volunteers.
SIMPSON HOUSING SERVICES
Simpson Housing is aimed at providing shelter and affordable housing, as well as support services, to the homeless in the metro area. Simpson also helps families and individuals improve their life situations with transitional housing, rental assistance programs and other services. Their immediate goal is to get people off the street with a long-term goal of ensuring that the men, women and children they serve have the resources to find permanent housing. Since 1981, and with help from donations, Simpson Housing has been helping local adults and families transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency.
Donations needed: Simpson has an urgent need for adults’ and children’s gloves, hats, scarves, mittens, and socks; long underwear, T-shirts sizes M–XXL, slippers, flannel pajamas, bras, shower shoes, underwear sizes 32–34, backpacks, and purses; Metro Transit cards, Kmart or Target gift cards and phone cards; and pillows. For a complete listing of other items Simpson, visit their website or contact Pat Botten at 455-0842. Men’s and women’s shelter donations can be dropped off Monday–Friday, 3–5 p.m. and Tuesday–Sunday,–9 p.m. at the men’s shelter, 2740 1st Ave. S. For family housing and household donations, drop items off at 2100 Pillsbury Ave. S., Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. or by appointment. Monetary donations are greatly appreciated and can be made on the Simpson website.
Volunteers needed: Simpson’s volunteers are crucial to the charity’s success, especially during the holiday season. Get involved by serving meals at the shelter, becoming an activity coordinator or volunteering your time at the annual Homeless Memorial Service — among other opportunities. To learn more about volunteer opportunities with Simpson Housing, contact Volunteer Services Manager
Christina Giese at [email protected] or at 612-455-0859. Also, view the volunteer calendars to see a complete listing of available opportunities and times offered at Simpson’s website.
Intermedia Arts is a multicultural, multidisciplinary arts center. It is a place to share and learn through dance, literature, media, music, theater, and visual arts and describes itself as a "catalyst that builds understanding among people through art." Intermedia Arts was founded in 1973 by a group of student media activists. During the past three decades, Intermedia Arts has become recognized internationally for its unique cultural programs. The center uses creativity as its main means for making positive change in peoples’ lives. By creating tools for addressing challenges and differences, Intermedia Arts strives to build healthy communities.
Donations needed: Monetary donations are accepted in any value and can be made on Intermedia Arts’ website. Donations can be designated to a specific program or to Intermedia Arts as a whole. Specific programs include ArtCar Parade, The Carol Connolly Reading Series, Espejos, The G.A.M.E., Minneapolis 55408 and Project Girl. Detailed information on the specific programs can be found on the website.
Volunteers needed: Volunteer opportunities range from afternoon projects to ongoing office support. Intermedia Arts is currently seeking poetry library volunteer staff to catalogue books and organize literature in the poetry library. They are also creating a Street Team to help spread the word about Intermedia Arts and are looking for a Street Team Coordinator and members. They are looking for digital photographers to volunteer on their Digi-Team as well. There is also the opportunity to join the Intermedia Arts Volunteer Team and be "on call" for volunteer projects and events throughout the year. For more specific program information, contact Ale Campbell or visit the volunteer opportunities page on the center’s website.
Aeon is a nonprofit developer of apartments and town homes in the metro area. Serving more than 2,700 people every year, Aeon manages 28 properties and 1,620 units of apartments and town homes in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Roseville. Since 1986, Aeon has provided quality and affordable housing options for those with low or moderate incomes. Aeon also has supportive housing services for homeless youth and adults throughout the metro area. Their mission is to create and sustain affordable and quality homes that strengthen the occupants’ lives and sense of community.
Donations needed: Because many residents move into Aeon properties without many household basics, these listed donations can help residents have a strong start in their new home. Aeon has a need for hats, gloves, mittens, and scarves for both adults and children; sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, alarm clocks, light bulbs, personal hygiene items, folding chairs, pots and pans, toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, household cleaning supplies for the kitchen and bathroom, and gently used or new beds of all sizes; and gift certificates from $5–$25 to local grocery stores, Target, or Goodwill, and Metro Transit passes. Aeon also needs books for youth and adults, and magazines including Atlantic Monthly, Newsweek, National Geographic, Time and Sports Illustrated. Monetary donations are always welcome and can be made on Aeon’s website.
Volunteers needed: There are many volunteer opportunities with Aeon, ranging from one-time to long-term volunteer projects. Donation drives, holiday parties, painting, landscaping and homework help are just a few of the available volunteer opportunities. For specific information, contact Tashia Weisenburger or visit [email protected]. Host a Building Dreams session by inviting four–five people to come learn more about Aeon at your office, community center or place of worship. Contact Jenny Johnson at 612-341-3148 ext. 237 or [email protected] for more details on Building Dreams sessions.
LIBRARY FOUNDATION OF HENNEPIN CO.
The Library Foundation of Hennepin County is a part of Hennepin County Libraries that uses public and private initiatives to fund and foster resources to keep libraries alive in the community. Incorporated in 1988, the foundation uses private donations to promote reading and advocate lifelong learning. Since its creation, the foundation has raised nearly $4 million in funds. They promote access to printed materials and digital resources to the public. They support reading through various groups and book clubs — from Baby Storytime, for children up to 24 months, to Hot Reads for Cold Nights, where teens and adults enter a prize drawing every time they finish a book in January and February. The foundation also presents the Pen Pals Author Lecture Series every year, wherein notable figures in the literary world stop by the Hopkins Center for the Arts to talk about their work. Upcoming speakers include playwright Tony Kushner ("Angels in America,") Austin native Tim O’Brien ("The Things They Carried,") and Richard Russo ("Empire Falls.")
Donations needed: The Library Foundation of Hennepin County accepts private donations on its website or by check. Donators can make a donation in the name of someone special or in their own name. The foundation is currently running the 2008 Collection Initiative for children’s material, where money donated will go toward purchasing picture books for preschoolers, contemporary readers, world language storybooks, CDs, digital books, and music, all of which contribute to the development of literary skills.
Volunteers needed: The foundation is always looking for volunteers to help at special activities and programs. They also look for volunteers to help in the office with mailings, filings and other activities. For more information about volunteering, send an e-mail to [email protected]
One of the country’s first shelters for runaways and homeless children, the Bridge for Youth has been helping troubled youngsters since 1970. The Bridge helps more than 1,000 youth and their families each year and operates free of charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Designed to aid youth between the ages of 10 and 21, the Bridge not only serves the homeless and runaways, but also manages family conflicts that result in a child running away from home. They also provide aftercare support to ensure their youth stay off the streets. The Bridge offers street outreach programs, short-term emergency shelter, housing-skills and career-development programs, and transitional and permanent supportive housing. Through their support, 70 percent of the youth they counsel are successfully reunited with their families.
Donations needed: The Bridge offers its services free of charge, so they rely on private contributions for more than half of their operating revenue. Donators can give online by visiting www.networkforgood.org and searching for "Bridge for Runaway Youth." To donate by phone with a credit card, check or donation of stocks, call Chelsea Miller at 612-230-6657. Donations can also be sent by mail. The Bridge accepts in-kind donations for items needed, which include anything from bath towels and washcloths to gift certificates. Interested groups can also put together care packages for laundry, bathroom or kitchen supplies, and more. To find out what items the Bridge needs, take a look at their wish list on the website.
Volunteers needed: The Bridge needs volunteer groups to work on different projects, including building maintenance, gardening, cleaning and collection drives. Interested groups should call Chelsea Miller at 612-230-6657. The Bridge is also looking for volunteers to work in the computer lab, as independent-living-skills specialists, cooking tutors and more. Interested volunteers should contact Shirley Carter at 377-8800.
Bolder Options is an early-intervention youth-mentoring program that helps at-risk youth by focusing them on fun and challenging athletic activities. Concentrated on children 10–14 years old in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, St. Louis Park and Richfield, Bolder Options pairs troubled children with a volunteer mentor. They meet two–four hours a week for one year, where they run or bike together, attend program meetings, volunteer in the community, participate in group activities and work on goal-setting. Runners participate in three 5K races, and bikers participate in three cycling events. Bolder Options opened in 1993 and says 80 percent of their youth have neither offended nor re-offended since completing the program.
Donations needed: Thanks to Bolder Options’ success and growing popularity, the group is currently undertaking their most aggressive capital campaign in their history. They want to expand programs to support children of prisoners in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, provide on-site family counseling, launch a marketing campaign to increase name recognition, hire more staff, and more. Interested donors can contribute online by visiting the website and following the link to www.networkforgood.org.
Volunteers needed: Bolder Options matches youth and volunteer mentors on a year-round basis. People interested in becoming a mentor should download the application from the website and submit it online to send it to their office. Mentors make a one-year commitment to their mentee, where they spend two–four hours a week running or biking together, working on homework, and doing other activities. Bolder Options also needs volunteers to work at various events around the Twin Cities. For more volunteer information, visit the website. Interested people can get information by calling the volunteer director at 379-BOLD Ext. 221 or by e-mailing [email protected].