MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO is partnering with Xcel Energy all this week. Each day at five we’ll bring you stories highlighting how you can give a day of service to help your community.

With so much change this year, the need as never been greater for many organizations. It’s also never been more challenging, because of limitations on the ability to join together.

Last year, before the pandemic, WCCO employees joined the Xcel Energy’s Day of Service, packing supply kits to help homeless families in the Twin Cities, those volunteers coming together for People Serving People, the largest emergency shelter for homeless families in Minnesota.

As many recall, 2020 started with a homelessness crisis that never let up. The Drake Hotel fire Christmas Day destroyed an overflow shelter for homeless families. Then COVID-19 sent hundreds into tents, and on the streets.

“This year has been really tough,” People Serving People’s interim executive director Rinal Ray said. “I think the crisis around housing instability is much more visible.”

In normal times, People Serving People is more than just a bedroom. Volunteers read to kids, help with computers, job training. Everyone gets three meals a day.

It’s a combination of problems right now, with homelessness on the rise and the number of volunteers dwindling. Not only does COVID-19 make it potentially unsafe to have big volunteer groups in the shelter, many of the more than 6,000 volunteers every year come from downtown businesses. Most of them are now working from home.

“We miss our volunteers a lot. They have been and are incredibly critical in the ways we accomplish our mission,” Ray said.

The cafeteria is now empty. People Serving People employees package to-go meals, and deliver them upstairs to all the rooms. Some longtime volunteers are reading to kids over Zoom.

They need donations for items, and they’re seeking fixes to the real causes.

“It’s not a failing on an individual or a family. It is a much broader confluence of factors that comes together. It’s never one thing,” Ray said. “Our community has definitely showed up in may different ways. … We really need for it to continue.”

People Serving People has several ideas for donation drives you could do with your family or friends or school.

They go through almost 12,000 diapers a month, so you could do a diaper (especially sizes 4-6) and formula drive. Another idea: an infant care kit drive, with a nursery thermometer, easy brush and nail clippers. Personal care kits are easy too — full-size soap, lotion, shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant. Click here for more volunteer drives you can get involved with.

Jason DeRusha

Comments