A guide to giving

Our city is home to so many impressive charitable organizations. Now, more than ever, the city’s nonprofits need support from the community to carry out their important work helping people get by during these challenging economic times. We’ve compiled a list of noteworthy organizations and causes for our annual charitable giving guide.

Midtown Greenway Coalition
2834 10th Ave. S.

The Midtown Greenway Coalition is the chief advocate for the 5.5-mile bicycle and pedestrian corridor running from Uptown to the Mississippi River.

Recently, the coalition and its executive director, Tim Springer, have been among the most active opponents of an Xcel Energy plan to string high voltage power lines above a section of the Greenway, an effort backed by the city and many of the neighborhood associations along the Greenway.

The coalition also promotes safety on the Greenway through its Trail Watch program, which organizes groups of volunteers to patrol the path after dark and coordinates safety initiatives with Minneapolis police. Volunteers sweep up broken glass along the path, and coalition members keep their eyes peeled for burnt-out trail lights.

Through another program, Adopt-A-Greenway, the coalition organizes volunteer groups who clean along the Greenway and care for gardens. It has led Greenway greening efforts to add trees and native plant gardens along the corridor.

Other coalition initiatives aim to increase Greenway use and non-motorized transportation in the city as a whole. These efforts and others are described in its quarterly newsletter, Pathways, distributed in both a print edition and e-newsletter format.

The Bridge for Youth
1111 W. 22nd St.

In 2010, The Bridge for Youth marked 40 years of providing emergency shelter for homeless and runaway youth.

Family reunification is The Bridge’s primary goal. Family counseling is provided free of charge, and succeeds about 70 percent of the time in bringing the youth who end up at The Bridge back together with their families.

When reunification isn’t a possibility, The Bridge’s Transitional Living Program helps older youth aged 16–21 learn to live independently. On-site and scattered-site housing programs provide a stable environment as formerly homeless young people continue their education, seek work and build life skills.

The Bridge’s impact is especially felt in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. For a variety of reasons, LGBT youth are highly overrepresented in the homeless youth population.

The Bridge is also a safety net for young people aging-out of the foster care system or entering the juvenile justice system.

More than 37,000 young people have come to The Bridge for help since it was founded in 1970. There’s a good chance you know someone — a teen, a parent, an adult who faced homelessness as a young person — whose life has been touched by The Bridge.

Free Arts Minnesota
400 1st Ave. N., Suite 518

Free Arts Minnesota, a nonprofit based in the Warehouse District that helps improve the lives of youth through mentorship opportunities and art projects, has reached more than 10,000 children since it launched in 1997.

The organization works with youth who have been abused, neglected or are experiencing homelessness.

Free Arts has several programs — a weekly mentorship program that matches youth with a volunteer to collaborate on art projects; a program for parents and children to work on activities with one another; Free Arts Days, a one-day festival of the arts; and the Yes to Art program, an event that pairs local artists with youth for short projects.

Leaders of the nonprofit tout the ability of art to have a healing effect on kids.

“From the kids’ standpoint, it’s really about being able to be a kid again,” said Free Arts Minnesota executive director Dan Thomas in an interview with the Journal earlier this year. “Art lets you lose yourself and get absorbed in something else. There’s no wrong way to make something … that’s a big part of it.”

The organization outlines many ways people can get involved on its website — freeartsminnesota.org. You can make a financial donation online, donate art materials or offer to volunteer your time. Highlights of volunteer opportunities include leading an art skill training session for other volunteers; donating art materials or tickets to cultural events; donate to the organization to commemorate a special occasion; sponsor a Free Arts Day; and attend a Art Rocks! informational session to learn more about the nonprofit.

East Side Neighborhood Services
1700 2nd St. NE

The East Side Neighborhood Services has been serving immigrants, refugees and low-income people and families in Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis since 1915.

The nonprofit human services agency helps people cope with all kinds of issues — family violence, teen pregnancy, mental health conditions and divorce/separation, among many other things.

The East Side Neighborhood Services building in the Bottineau neighborhood is home to many programs. The first floor is home to the Menlo Park Alternative High School, senior dining, youth and volunteer services, and the Northeast Child Development Center. The second floor houses more programs for seniors, families and people looking for work.

The organization has a large group of committed volunteers, but is always seeking more helpers. To get involved, contact Eastside at 781-6011 or e-mail [email protected]

In 2009, 487 people and groups volunteered more than 24,093 hours for a wide variety of East Side events and programs, according to the nonprofit’s website.

“Drink Like You Care” campaign
Finnegans Irish Amber

Finnegans, the charitable beer company based in the Elliot Park neighborhood, is in the midst of its “Drink Like You Care” campaign.

The company’s distributors are matching its profits, which doubles Finnegans giving capacity. The campaign launched Nov. 1 and runs until Dec. 31.

Since first launching the campaign in 2007, Finnegans Community Fund and its local distributors have donated more than $31,000 to area nonprofits.

“The hunger figures for 2010 have been alarming — many food shelves are at capacity and they are challenged to meet the demands of those in need in our communities,” wrote Finnegans CEO Jacquie Berglund in an e-mail about the campaign. “It is due to this critical need that this year for our Drink Like You Care campaign we are partnering with local food shelves and our goal is to raise $20,000 to help provide over 100,000 meals to those in need in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota.”

During the campaign, $1 per case and $6 per keg of Finnegans will be donated to food shelves.

For more details on the campaign and to see the list of food shelf partners, visit finnegans.org.

American Refugee Committee
430 Oak Grove St., Suite 204
872-7060, arcrelief.org

Their reach may be global, but their headquarters is right here in Loring Park. Located in a near century-old office building on Oak Grove, the American Refugee Committee (ARC) is one of the nation’s foremost responders to international crises, its mission to help victims of war, civil conflict and natural disasters rebuild their lives. When earthquakes devastated Haiti earlier this year, ARC was there. The group is still there today, laboring to control an outbreak of cholera in the still ravaged country.

When monsoon floods affected 20 million people in Pakistan last summer, ARC dispatched their experts. The organization works in seven countries around the world. ARC programs in Africa and Asia provided health care, clean water, shelter repair, legal aid, trauma counseling, microcredit, community development services and repatriation assistance to 2.5 million people last year. ARC welcomes financial and stock gifts. As for volunteer opportunities, ARC welcomes volunteers for work at home and abroad, though oversees appointments often
require a specific skill set. Here in the Twin Cities, volunteers are needed at the Loring Park headquarters. Tuesday night drop-in events offer commitment-free opportunities to help with mailings, thank-you cards, events and research. More long-term, full- and part-time positions are also available.

Friends of Northeast Library
2200 Central Ave. NE

Library friends groups have been popping all over the city to help support Minneapolis’ 15 libraries.

Essentially the groups are devoted library patrons that are serving as ambassadors for their branch libraries and working with the Library Foundation of Hennepin County.

Becoming a “Friend” of the library has many benefits, including a chance to offer suggestions to library staff, free tickets to the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Omnitheater, special discounts on library events and one free Bestseller Express book rental. Membership starts at $25.

The Friends of the Northeast Library held book sales earlier this month at the Eastside Food Co-op to support the library on Central. The branch is currently closed for construction.

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
2525 Chicago Ave.
813-6117, childrensmn.org

Children’s has championed the health needs of kids and their families since 1924. That’s almost an entire century of catering to catastrophes large and small, from emergency room visits for broken arms to neonatal care for infants born prematurely. In fact, for this latter category, Children’s was ranked in the top 30 in U.S. News and World Report’s 2009 listing of best children’s hospitals in the country. The facility takes care of the largest number of high-risk babies in the state. Its pain and palliative care program also boasts international renown. Catering to kids who are terminally ill or faced with life-threatening conditions, it’s the largest program of its kind in North America, caring for up to 90 kids in their own homes everyday.

Children’s serves so many infants, the playrooms’ baby toy stashes often get depleted. Also, some overlooked age groups — like teenage patients — also need fun diversions. For donations, staff recommend things like rattles, receiving blankets and board books for the young ones; chess sets, electronic games and art kits for the older set. A full “Children’s Wish List” can be found at: childrensmn.org/Web/GivingToChildren/194660.asp.

A popular place for volunteers, Children’s evening and weekend shifts fill up quickly. But the hospital is always looking for folks to help out during daytime hours, usually from 9 a.m.–3 p.m. In support positions, volunteers answer phones, greet and escort families, run errands and provide clerical and administrative assistance. In patient care positions, volunteers work directly with children, providing companionship to young patients and their siblings: rocking and holding infants, playing games, arts and crafts projects, watching movies, playing video games, reading stories, giving parents and families breaks and pulling children in wagons.

The Nature Conservancy, Minnesota Chapter
1101 W. River Parkway
331-0700, [email protected], nature.org/minnesota

The Nature Conservancy is a worldwide organization that works to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.

Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy has protected more than 119 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of river. The organization also operates more than 100 marine conservation projects across the world.

While the organization fights global warming, preserves oceans, rivers and protected areas all across the world, it also has an impact in Minnesota.

The Nature Conservancy has helped conserve more than 500,000 acres of forest, grassland, and freshwater habitat in Minnesota. Some of its projects have become state parks, wildlife management areas, national wildlife refugees and even a national park.

The Nature Conservancy has several ways to donate to its cause.

The Plant a Billion Trees campaign will plant one tree in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, where only 12 percent of the original forest remains.  

You can also do the Adopt an Acre program, giving $50 to help protect lands in the place of your choosing. Those concerned about the Gulf of Mexico after the oil spill can make a donation to the Fund for Gulf Coast Restoration.

The Conservancy also has memberships, monthly giving programs and gift options. Go to nature.org for more.

Volunteer opportunities are available in a variety of fields. Visit nature.org/Minnesota for an updated listing or call 331-0700.

Library Foundation of Hennepin County
300 Nicollet Mall

The Hennepin County Library system serves more than 1.1 million patrons at 41 locations with a book collection totaling 5 million.

The Library Foundation of Hennepin County’s mission is to support the library system, which is the 12th largest in United States, by helping it buy books, increase library awareness, advocating on the library’s behalf and funding new library programs.

The Library Foundation today is the product of two longtime foundations that supported the Hennepin County and Minneapolis library systems. When the libraries merged in 2008, so did the foundations. With joined forces, the Foundation has 5,000 members supporting Hennepin County libraries.

Libraries have several functions in the community. For many, the library is a resource for finding jobs, searching apartments and other important tasks. A 2006 library survey showed that 70 percent of urban library users reported the library as their only place to access the Internet.

Small businesses use the library to access important databases and books to help guide entrepreneurs.

Libraries also help people become more civically engaged, help children with early literacy and help foster a sense of community.

For every $25 given, the library system, on average, can buy one book. Every dollar donated goes toward buying books. To donate, visit supporthclib.org.

Volunteers are needed to staff the Central Library bookstore as well as for providing clerical support to the Library Foundation of Hennepin County. E-mail [email protected] for more volunteer information.

People for Parks
PO Box 24901
Minneapolis, MN 55424
767-6892, peopleforparks.net

If Minneapolis parks are your passion, consider donating to People for Parks, a local nonprofit dedicated to improving the city’s expansive park system.

Launched in 1977 in response to the loss of 31,000 trees to Dutch elm disease, the independent group has organized countless efforts to enhance the city’s green space, water bodies and park facilities.

Past projects include the inoculation and planting of Dutch elm trees, the purchase and donation of a transportable stage called the Showmobile to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, construction of the Lake Harriet Rock Garden, sign improvements at recreation centers and many others. One of the group’s ongoing efforts is to replace pavers and refurbish benches at the Lake Harriet Bandshell.

People for Parks has more than 1,400 members led by a board of directors and it is always on the hunt for volunteers and donations to continue its work.  

The nonprofit accepts online and mailed monetary donations. Donations can be designated for a specific purpose.

“If, for example, they just loved trees, they could designate a donation to trees,” said People for Parks member Felicity Britton.

Donations that are not earmarked will go to the general fund and be used wherever the need is greatest, Britton said. She said People for Parks would also accept appropriate in-kind donations such as soil or trees.   

Another way to donate is to buy a personalized paver or adopt a bench as part of the effort to revamp the Lake Harriet Bandshell audience area. Detailed information about the program and pricing is available at the People for Parks website.

From tree and flower plantings to event organizing, People for Parks is in regular need of volunteers. Winter is slow, but projects will pick up in the spring, Britton said. Anyone interested in volunteering should e-mail [email protected]