Gearing up for another year of service

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January 18, 2010
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie
One year ago, Welcome Jerde and her family set out on a year-long goal of organizing a community service project once a month to benefit different nonprofits in the Twin Cities.

When President Barack Obama called for a national day of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, she reached out to friends and family and asked them to drop off items for YouthLink, a Downtown-based organization that serves homeless and at-risk youth, at her home in southwest Minneapolis. She was overwhelmed by the response.

Eighty-five people filled her porch and home with nearly 100 bags of supplies for the organization — everything from clothing to diapers. Someone even dropped off a fancy stroller and a full-size microwave.

Jerde isn’t content to leave the work of 2009 behind. She’s teamed up with friends Kathy Coskran and Meredith Young to organize another year of monthly community outreach projects.

The group has a new name — Service Works. The tagline is “Changing the world, one month a time.”

They have a presence on Facebook and plan to have a calendar with events planned two to three months out. Their mission statement is “to build and encourage a community of friends, neighbors and strangers with a monthly challenge and opportunity to serve those in need and celebrate our collective capacity to make a difference.”

Once again they will start out the year by collecting items for YouthLink on Jan. 23. Those interested in donating are encouraged to drop off items at Jerde’s home in southwest Minneapolis (see sidebar on how to get involved).

“I really have a soft spot in my heart for teens that are precariously housed,” Jerde said. “There are just a lot of kids out there that are invisible.”

In February, they are planning a service project in Linden Hills for the Little Brothers of the Elderly. In March, they will organize an event to benefit the Simpson Housing Services, focusing on the women’s side of the shelter.  

The goal this year is to expand the number of volunteers involved in their outreach efforts and keep it easy and inexpensive for people to get involved. They also want to focus on more kid-friendly service projects.

 “One of my main objectives is to have individuals know and kids know that they can do something positive and make a difference,” Jerde said. “In essence, we as individuals are very rich in a non-monetary sense and we can become even richer by giving away time or our own things by serving other people.”

To date, Welcome and her cohorts have about 100 people on their mailing list. They’d like to expand the list by a couple hundred.

Coskran, one of the Service Works leaders, said she became aware of organizations she didn’t know existed.  

Besides YouthLink, they adopted families for the holidays through Lutheran Social Services, buying gifts and grocery store gift cards for them, and collected items for the Youth Cultural Exchange, a program of First Universalist Church of Minneapolis. They also brought produce to area food shelves and did a massive cleanup day at Cedar Lake Park, among many other projects. Another project encouraged everyone to eat at a restaurant owned by new immigrants.

Young, another Service Works leader, is passionate about getting more families involved. She lives in Linden Hills and is the mother of three young children.  

“We helped the elderly to the very young — to even pets. I loved the variety,” she said. “It wasn’t one cause, but it was helping everybody.”

Get involved

Service Works

To learn more about Service Works and upcoming community projects, contact Welcome Jerde at For the group’s first project of 2010, they will be collecting supplies for YouthLink on Jan. 23. The organization is seeking the following items:

— General clothing and outfits for job interviews (age appropriate for 15 to 21 year olds)
— Outerwear (hats, gloves, winter coats, etc.)
— Personal care items (toothpaste, makeup, hygiene products)
— Items for babies and infants
— Small appliances
— Bedding and towels
— Household goods
— School supplies
— Gifts cards, bus cards and lip balm