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Southwest Metro food pantries seeking holiday donations for those in need

The holiday season is fast approaching which means spending time with loved ones, creating memories in the kitchen and gathering around the table for a delicious hot meal. However, for some families, holiday meals don’t come easy.

For this reason, local non-profits and churches will be seeking donations to supply those in need in the community with meals to feed themselves or their families.

Thanksgiving meal program

Patti Sinykin, Executive Director of Bountiful Food Basket Food Shelf, which serves Eastern Carver County, said for the first time this year, the organization will be launching a Thanksgiving meal program where it will be providing turkeys and all the Thanksgiving dinner fixings for its clients and shoppers.

“We are taking donations for all of the sides like stuffing, cranberries, instant mashed potatoes, green beans etc.,” said Sinykin. “We’re going to work with a company for pies and rolls but the general sides we need for a nice Thanksgiving dinner we’re definitely collecting for that program in particular.”

According to Bountiful Food Basket Food Shelf, 9.5% of households in Minnesota, many with children, are food insecure and will struggle to find enough food this week.

Sinykin said the nonprofit relies on the generosity of area community members, churches, civic organizations, groups and businesses to fill their shelves all year round.

“We’re definitely a community-based organization, and to me, it’s about community supporting community. The majority of our shoppers and the families that we serve are local from Eastern Carver County,” said Sinykin. “We don’t have a geographic boundary that we serve, but the majority of the individuals we serve are from this area. So, it’s really neighbors taking care of neighbors. It makes for a stronger community.”

Sinykin also said they not only accept donations during the holidays, but all year round.

“We accept food donations all year long, for both food and funds. As far as funds go, with our buying power we can actually stretch somebody’s dollar up to 10 times,” she said. “If you’re an individual or a company that would like to do a fund drive we can stretch those dollars. Food drives are extremely important because they allows to have the variety on our shelves that our families and induvial really enjoy and helps keep our shelves full all year round.”

Donated food may be dropped off at the Bountiful Basket location at 1600 Bavaria Road in Chaska during all open hours.

Collecting food, toys, household supplies

Over in Scott County, there are serval locations where residents can drop off donations for those who need it.

The Community Action Partnership Agency serves both Scott and Carver counties and assists people achieve social and economic well-being in the community.

Jackie Lara, Senior Director of Programs at CAP Agency, said the holidays can be stressful for many, especially low-income families, which is why organizations like the CAP Agency exist.

“The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone, and when you’re utilizing our food shelf and living with a tight budget, the holidays add to that daily stress,” said Lara. “The months of November and December are the busiest months for any food shelf, as the holidays during this time period are focused on food. It’s important to give back to those in need, as you never know when you may be the person in need.”

Lara also said CAP Agency’s mission is to make sure all community members have access to basic necessities such as food and shelter.

“We serve those from all walks of life and having compassionate support for our neighbors is the best thing we can do as a community,” said Lara. “We strive toward offering services in a welcoming and dignified manner, and ensuring we have a variety of foods to choose from can make all the difference to someone seeking a little help.”

As for donations, Lara said CAP Agency is always in need of any nonperishable food, toiletries, laundry detergent and pet food. She said what’s needed the most at the moment is cereal, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, canned fruit and canned soup.

This holiday season, CAP Agency is also collecting toys and household supplies for CAP clients through its Hope for the Holidays program.

“Our Hope for the Holidays program consists of Adopt-a-Family and Adopt-a-Senior. Both gift programs are 100% provided by sponsors within the community,” said Lara. “Adopt-a-Family provides gifts to children and parents that utilize our services. It’s a way for others to show support to families who may not otherwise be able to provide a bright holiday season for their family. In 2021, we had over 2,900 individuals sponsored.”

According to the CAP Agency, Hope for the Holidays 2021 touched the lives of hundreds of neighbors in Scott, Carver and Dakota counties. Donors contributed $161,050 worth of toys, gifts, and new household items for 1,540 households, including 1,680 children and 960 seniors. The agency also provided a $50 gift card to every parent in the program.

Lara added that the program works by clients in our programs completing a wish list of gifts, up to $50 a person. She said a sponsor designates what size family they would like to support and CAP matches a family with the sponsor which provides that family’s wish list to the sponsor to purchase the gifts. The client and sponsor remain anonymous the entire time.

The Adopt-a-Senior program provides a reusable gift bag full of essential items and a few fun gifts for seniors that participate in their Senior Nutrition, Chore, or Food Shelf programs. Last year, the CAP Agency was able to provide gifts to all 879 seniors within the program.

Lara encourages community members to give back, especially now when times are tough due to the pandemic.

“It’s a very difficult time right now, coming out of the pandemic and the rising cost of basic needs, such as food and utilities. Our agency can only do so much with the grants we receive,” she said. “We rely on the generosity of our community to fill the gaps in funding, especially with our food shelf and holiday programs, so we can continue to serve anyone who comes to our agency in need.”

Churches lend a helping hand

In Savage, Bridgewood Church, located at 6201 W 135th St. in Savage, is in dire need of donations for its outdoor food pantry, which is open 24/7.

Jenna LaCoursiere, church administrator, said the church first started its food bank in July 2020 right in the middle of the pandemic and has since been on demand in the community.

“We used to have an overflow, a separate closet to stock it and now it’s completely empty,” said LaCoursiere. “Our most popular items are peanut butter and jelly, they go really fast, as well as spaghetti sauce, pasta, canned tuna or chicken. Those are hot items we can’t keep up on.”

LaCoursiere said the church is also holding a Thanksgiving drive for the first time.

“I’m going to put a QR code on our pantry outside. People can just scan the code and fill out their info to contact them,” said LaCoursiere. “We’re asking for the first time from church families for $50 to sponsor a Thanksgiving dinner. I feel like it’s going to be well received.”

LaCoursiere added that donations can be dropped off any time, being that it’s an outdoor pantry and said as a Christian, it’s their duty to help people in need.

“From a Christian perspective, we’re called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, it’s why we’re here: we’re here to serve,” she said. “We don’t narrow it down to just the holidays. When it comes to giving, our benevolence funds help families all year round.”

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Rohe, Windschitl share mayoral opinions on homelessness, development in forum

Mayoral candidates for the city of Chaska, Jay Rohe and incumbent Mark Windschitl, shared their thoughts on a variety of issues in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Eastern Carver County on Oct. 13.

The event was moderated by Barbara Brooks, who is not a voter in Chaska. Each candidate had a minute and a half to answer the questions submitted by the public, which ranged from topics of diversity and inclusion to development and communication.

After opening statements, Brooks posed the first question: “What do you consider to be the number one issue facing Chaska and why?”

“I hear a lot about different projects that are moving forward, but I don’t hear anyone really talking about addressing the homeless and hunger issue that we have in Chaska,” Rohe said.

Windschitl wants to continue focusing on development and addressing the impending issue of a lack of land to expand into.

“What happens when we’re full? It’s one of those things that a growing city like this, most people haven’t thought much about it, but I think it’s something that we’re gonna start looking at and have to look at as we move forward,” Windschitl said.

The homelessness issue that Rohe brought up in his first response ended up being a segue into the second question: “Chaska has a growing number of people living in tents along the river. What will you do to reach out to the homeless in our community?”

“We have to do more. I feel like we haven’t done enough,” Rohe said. “We have great nonprofits in the area that are working hard to address these issues, but they need help.”

Rohe brought up that a little under a decade ago, there was a city council vote to decide whether to move forward with a plan to build a homeless transitional housing shelter. Rohe pointed out that he voted “yes” and that Windschitl voted “no” on the first iteration of that plan.

“If we had that now, it would be helping with the solution of getting people back into housing,” Rohe said.

Later on in the forum, Windschitl found an opportunity to comment on that point and mentioned that he has since voted “yes” on the shelter and that it should begin construction once financing is straightened out.

When asked what city projects were their favorite, Windschitl and Rohe had varying answers. Rohe expressed pride for the work put into creating Firemen’s Park.

“I had a lot of people, I think Mark included, that thought it was pretty risky to do this. I can remember the night that we took the final vote, I think Mark said, ‘I don’t even know if this is still the right project for us.’ But sometimes you gotta know in your heart and you gotta go forward and you gotta say, ‘This is what we’re gonna do, this is what we’re gonna be and we’re gonna make it happen and we’re going to be better — and that’s what we did with that block.”

After this remark, Brooks reminded the candidates, “We are here for an open oral exchange on the issues and no personal attacks.”

Windschitl called the “unsung hero” of the projects he worked on the Highway 212 and Big Woods Boulevard interchange, which was completed in 2019.

“Because what that did is it took 200 or 300 acres of land west of that, and took that land that would have been for housing, and we can now turn that into an industrial park. We’re already working on getting the infrastructure there,” Windschitl said.

Besides the opening and closing statements, 12 total questions were asked at the forum. For the final question of the forum, Brooks asked, “What kinds of policies, if any, will you pursue to promote social and racial justice in our community?”

“I think it’s vitally important for our community to be inclusive and to welcome new voices all the time,” Rohe said.

He then went on to propose a “mayor’s sounding board,” which would include a group of diverse individuals who would work to express needs and wants to the mayor and city council.

Windschitl answered the question by highlighting community conversations that have been happening with the police chief, the police department’s community outreach program and Chaska’s lack of crime compared to the rest of the state.

In their closing statements, the two highlighted their achievements and visions for the future:

Windschitl: “In the last 13 years, we have developed Firemen’s Park, adding the Curling and Events Center, Veterans Park, created an interchange on Highway 212 and Big Woods Boulevard, managed Chaska through a recession and a COVID pandemic. We have accomplished some really great things in less than perfect circumstances.”

Rohe: “This evening you’ve seen my vision and strategy for Chaska — Mark’s talked about consistency, I think that’s complacency. We need strong leadership and a focus on the strategic vision. I have the energy, drive, passion and 14 years of city council experience to develop a clear plan and strong initiatives that more align with what you’re asking for from our city.”

Voting for the next mayor of Chaska will take place this midterm election on Nov. 8. To find your polling place, visit here.