MN Prison Writing Workshop

Thank you from the MN Prison Writing Workshop

2017 Charitable Giving Guide

When you are considering where to donate, particularly at this time of year, it’s a good thing to remember the folks who sometimes get forgotten.

Often, the people with the greatest needs are the ones you don’t hear about: those who live in the shadows, whom the world has forgotten or never even knew about. There are different reasons why this might happen.

Sometimes it’s because of stigma. A person is dealing with addiction or mental illness might not want to advertise that they are struggling with a problem. There could be shame attached to asking for help, like when someone can’t afford healthy food or a decent place to live.

Sometimes, people that need the most help come from marginalized groups, who, in our society, can be invisible to the broader community. Or they might lack the kind of personal narrative that drives feel-good personal interest stories in the news. Maybe those in need have made mistakes in their lives but need help just the same.

Those hidden kinds of struggles can be the most painful, but their need is just as great.

Good Grocer

Good Grocer

Since opening in 2015, the Good Grocer has proven that building community is a great way to run a grocery store.

Founded by Kurt Vickman, Good Grocer’s mission is help low-income families and individuals access healthy food at affordable prices. The non-profit organization relies on volunteers, who help reduce employment costs for the store by 75 percent. Those volunteers — who contribute two-and-a-half hours of work a month or more — get 25 percent off all their groceries, which means it’s a store run by the people for the people.

In addition to nurturing the community feeling of the store through its volunteer model, Good Grocer also has a communal space, where folks can stop in and have a free cup of coffee or tea.

Unfortunately, in March, the building where Good Grocer is currently located will be demolished to make room for a new transit hub and exit ramp for Interstate 35W. In order for the organization to keep providing an oasis in one of the city’s food deserts, they’ll need a bit of extra support as they plot their move to further down on Lake Street.

Steve Rummler HOPE Network

Steve Rummler HOPE Network

The Steve Rummler HOPE Network aims to fight the opioid epidemic, the biggest public health disaster since the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. The wide availability of prescription painkillers, combined with an influx of illegal drugs like heroin, is causing a devastating rate of overdose deaths in the U.S. — which, since 2015, has surpassed deaths by car accidents and guns.

Steve Rummler was a high achieving financial advisor who became addicted to narcotic painkillers after having been prescribed them for his injured back. Rummler spent years fighting his addiction while going in and out of treatment facilities. He finally turned to heroin, which caused his death in 2011.

Following his tragic death, his family started the foundation to help others suffering from chronic pain and addiction. The non-profit organization provides education and training to hospitals, universities, community centers and first responders, teaching people to use naloxone to reverse an overdose and also training medical providers how to safely help patients in pain.

The organization advocated for the passage of Steve’s Law, which provides immunity for people who call 911 in order to save the life of someone having an overdose. By donating to them, you are helping to save lives and curb the impact of one of the country’s most deadly killers.

St. Stephens

St. Stephen’s Human Services

Every day, thousands of people across Minnesota find themselves without a home to sleep in. Between the lack of affordable housing and obstacles like lack of employment, chronic health conditions, domestic abuse and other sources of trauma, people find themselves experiencing homelessness for a variety of reasons.

St. Stephen’s Human Services provides an essential safety net for those in the direst of circumstances. Through their outreach work, staff partner with law enforcement, faith communities and social workers to find homeless people where they are, in order to offer help with what they are experiencing.

With their overnight shelter program, the organization serves as a first line of defense in the fight against homeless, offering a warm place to sleep and support around things like obtaining U.S. birth certificates, providing voice mail boxes and other services. St. Stephen’s also provides housing services aimed at either preventing homelessness or helping people transition into permanent housing.

St. Stephen’s mission includes advocacy and education work, as well, including the zAmya Theater Project, which brings together both homeless and housed individuals to tell their stories in moving theatrical performances.

Kulture Klub Collaborative

Kulture Klub Collaborative

The incredible work of Kulture Klub Collaborative proves that art truly has the power to not only heal but also to transform. Since its founding 25 years ago, the organization has worked with thousands of homeless youth, because art isn’t just for the elite, it’s for everyone.

Partnering with the homeless youth drop-in center and service organization YouthLink, Kulture Klub Collaborative starts from the premise that, for youth in crisis, inspiration is a key part of survival. Working with artists and arts institutions, Kulture Klub Collaborative provides young people experiencing homelessness with opportunities to take art classes and workshops and to encounter professional artists.

Whether it’s a workshop with local photographer Wing Young Huie, a class at Northern Clay Center or opportunities to breakdance, perform spoken word at an open mic or create a mural, the youth served by Kulture Klub Collaborative are connecting to their authentic voices and creativity while getting basic needs met.

Founded by Doris Cypris in 1992, Kulture Klub Collaborative is now under the direction of Crystal Brinkman and a small staff. Donating to this organization ensures that youth in difficult circumstances have ways to find hope, connect with others and heal through the power of art.

Smart Trips

Transit for Livable Communities–St. Paul Smart Trips

With environmental concerns so often politicized, it’s a wonder that progress is ever made on the issue. Thankfully, there are groups like Transit for Livable Communities and St. Paul Smart Trips, two organizations advocating for a multimodal future that merged a year ago to amplify their voices.

TLC-Smart Trips hopes to use the strengths of each organization to make sure the Twin Cities keeps moving away from a dependence on cars — because while Minneapolis and St. Paul have made great transit strides, there’s still have a ways to go. TLC-Smart Trips works toward transportation policy reform through research, engaging with communities at the grassroots level and, in partnership with allies, education about transit issues.

In the last year, TLC-Smart Trips advocated for transit funding increases in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, encouraged businesses to make walking, biking and transit easier for their employees and conducted community-based outreach and engagement in neighborhoods like the Riverview Corridor and the East Side of St. Paul about their transportation needs.

International Wolf Center

International Wolf Center

Wolves are some of the most misunderstood creatures of the animal kingdom.

We’ve all read “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and all the many fairy tells detailing how evil wolves are. But in fact, wolves tend to keep to themselves. There have been very few deaths attributed to wolves in North America, with the grey wolves of Minnesota being particularly unlikely to attack.

The International Wolf Center, based in Ely, aims to dispel myths about wolves by providing education and awareness about this important species to Minnesota’s wildlife. Based on scientific research, the wolf center supports a fact-based dialogue about how wolves fit into the broader ecosystem.

They have an amazing website and Facebook page, filled with videos, photos, factual information and news, sharing the latest research and providing context when controversies about wolves arise. The center also conducts educational programs, both on site at their facility in Ely, as well as in public schools.

The organization is also planning a big wolf conference in Minneapolis in the fall of 2018. In the meantime, visit the center in Ely to see the wolves that live in an enclosure there and learn all about why wolves are wonderful.

United For Puerto Rico

Unidos por Puerto Rico (United for Puerto Rico)

Since the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Katrina three months ago, Puerto Rico has suffered immeasurably.

The double whammy hurricanes, combined with unfortunate political posturing that surely didn’t help things, created a scenario where Puerto Rico has had to make do with large sections of the island without power, water and other infrastructure. As the rest of the United States looked on, some had to be reminded that the people of Puerto Rico are in fact American citizens.

Unidos Por Puerto Rico, an initiative put together by Beatriz Rosselló, wife of Governor Ricardo Rosselló, along with partners in the private sector, aims to provide aid and support to those affected by the natural disaster. The initiative has raised over $24 million dollars thus far, and has awarded grants that provide assistance to individuals and small businesses as they reestablish their food and shelter, work toward rebuilding homes and address social service and health needs. They have also signed an agreement with the Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR), which will provide technical and administrative support as the relief efforts progress.

So, while progress has been made, the need continues to be great, and every dollar counts to getting the island back on track.


Home Line

The bad news for renters in Minneapolis is that metro-area rents are trending higher and vacancy rates remain extremely low. That means many are paying quite a bit more than the recommended one-third of their income on rent.

The good news is that Minnesota has some pretty strong protections for renters. Minnesota also has some great non-profit organizations like Home Line, whose mission is to support and empower tenants.

Among the services Home Line provides is a tenant hotline that renters can call to get free legal advice from advocates and lawyers. Home Line also has numerous form letter templates for renters to download for easier communication with their landlords, in addition to policy information and guidance about rights and laws.

As an organization, Home Line has helped tenants organize and also advocates for tenant rights at the city, state and federal level. They work to ensure those who don’t want to or can’t afford to buy a home can still find affordable, clean, safe places to live.

As the city becomes less affordable, one way to make sure renters are fairly is to support organizations like Home Line.

Happy African American family with their baby.

Domestic Abuse Project

Violence within families and relationships has a ripple effect far beyond one particular incident. Trauma can last for years — for the victim, the perpetrator and for witnesses to the violence, especially children.

At the Domestic Abuse Project, staff members work with victims but also with those who have been violent, helping each recover and find healthier ways to cope and heal. They also work with children who have experienced domestic violence as witnesses or victims, using trauma-informed therapy techniques that help prevent young people from being involved in violence later in life.

In order to stop the cycle, DAP conducts individual and group therapy sessions for men, women and children and does case management to help families and couples find solutions both short term and long term. The organization also runs a 24-hour crisis line and provides support for survivors of domestic violence as they navigate the criminal and legal systems.

Advocates assist with orders for protection, accompany clients to court hearings and help file police reports. They also make sure that victims get referrals to other social services to meet food, safe housing and transportation needs as they work their way out of violent situations.

MN Prison Writing Workshop

Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop

The Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop conducts writing courses for prison populations taught by esteemed writers of the Minnesota literary community who volunteer their time to help people in prisons connect with their creative voices.

With courses that include fiction writing, essay writing, poetry and genre writing, the courses are aimed at nurturing the talent of folks who, because of life circumstances, have not had the opportunity to explore writing previously. In addition to classes, the Minnesota Prison Writing Project also coordinates readings where the writers can share their work with others, and they publish a literary journal.

The nonprofit offers mail-based writing mentorships for people who have taken at least one class, which gives an opportunity for people in the program to more fully develop their skills with individual attention from a mentor. There are roughly 10,000 people incarcerated in Minnesota, and they have limited access to the kinds of educational and creative opportunities provided by the Minnesota Prison Writing Project.

By donating to the workshop, you are helping people to build the skills that will help them once they are ready to re-enter society.

Guinean migrants
Guinean migrants return home. On June 13, a special flight chartered by IOM Libya landed at the airport of Conakry-Gbessia, carrying 161 Guinean migrants.
Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) / Lucas Chandellier 2017

International Organization for Migration

When CNN released their devastating expose of human trafficking in Libya in November, the world caught sight of how slavery can happen even in today’s world.

Sadly, despite international attention the issue has received, trafficking is still occurring in the area. One organization that is well positioned to help stop this atrocity is the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental organization that works closely with both government and non-government partners to ensure that migrant communities are treated humanely.

By providing secure and cost-effective services to people in need of migration assistance, fighting tirelessly for human rights and facilitating cooperation on migration matters, IOM works to help some of the people in the greatest need. In the wake of the shocking reports of slavery and abuse of people in migration, IOM has quickly mobilized, leading measures to tackle smuggling and mistreatment of migrants by scaling up its voluntary humanitarian return program, which has brought 14,007 migrants back to their home countries so far in 2017, according to IOM’s website.

The organization is addressing root causes for migration as they also increase programming to counter smuggling and human trafficking along migration roots.

Philando Castile Protest

Philando Feeds the Children

To the students of J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul, Philando Castile was known simply as “Mr. Phil.”

A cafeteria worker at the school, he was known as someone who smiled a lot, was kind and always looked out for the children at the school. He knew all the kids and loved his job, and was a great presence at the school.

Castile died tragically last year after being shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. Afterwards, an educator named Pamela Fergus formed a fundraiser on aimed at helping children whose families were late on their lunch money payments. The fundraiser nods to Castile’s practice of letting students get lunch, even if they were behind on their accounts.

Already the fundraiser has paid off all the debts for families attending St. Paul Public Schools. Now the effort has broadened its horizons, helping kids not just in St. Paul but beyond as well.

With the blessing of the Castile family, Fergus hopes to make the effort permanent, so young people will never have to go without lunch because their family is struggling financially. So, to honor the life of this wonderful person and help kids get healthy nutritious lunches, this is a great effort to support.