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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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Campaign 2022
Congressional candidates Craig, Kistner tried to define each other in only debate

In Minnesota’s most hotly contested congressional district where moderates might swing the election, both Angie Craig and Tyler Kistner are too extreme — according to each other.On Thursday, Oct. 13, the two candidates squared off in their only debate in Minnesota’s 2nd District, which encompasses much of the south metro.The contest is a rematch of 2020, when Craig, a Democrat first elected in 2018, defeated Kistner, the Republican challenger. The race is drawing national attention because it’s widely seen as a toss-up. The seat has swung back and forth from parties over the years and Craig, while the incumbent, faces the same headwinds other Democrats are facing in next month’s elections amid high inflation and President Joe Biden’s sagging approval.Thursday’s debate played out much as the campaign has, with each candidate trying to frame their opponent as extreme — while both sought to cast themselves in relatively moderate hues on issues ranging from abortion to crime.Economy a top issue

Both Kistner and Craig agree that the economy — and inflation in particular — is the top issue for voters. Consistent with a national Republican strategy, Kistner has repeatedly sought to lay blame for the economy on Craig by tying her to Biden via “the disastrous policies of Joe Biden, Angie Craig and Democrats.”At one point Thursday, he even pivoted from a question about whether he accepted Biden’s 2020 victory by framing it around the economy.“There’s no way of denying it, look at gas prices,” Kistner said at the debate, hosted by the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce and held at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount. “Look at inflation. You definitely know he’s the president. I think Joe Biden won the 2020 election just going off what the last two years have been.”Craig’s view of the economic challenges was more nuanced. She noted, for example, that the national unemployment rate of 3.5% is the lowest in a half century.She said inflation is a “serious global issue” and “disrupted supply chains from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic have caused inflation,” she said.She sought to parry Kistner’s criticism of massive federal spending plans approved by Congress by asking of the audience, “What of that spending … would you not have done?” before ticking off several bipartisan pandemic spending plans that sought to shore up local businesses.Craig ‘pushes back’ on Biden

But Kistner’s attempts to link Craig to Biden, as well as her more-liberal Democratic colleagues, are clearly a concern for Craig. At several times she emphasized, she has “pushed back” on her fellow House members, as well as Biden himself.For example, on Thursday, she criticized Biden’s decision to cancel college-loan debt for tens of millions of Americans, without congressional approval.“I have a lot of questions for the president,” said Craig. “Can a president spend $400 million without congressional authority or approval, and I would have to say that I don’t agree in principle that that should be the case.”Speaking to reporters after the event, Craig restated her most vigorous attempt to distance herself from Biden: She doesn’t want him on the ballot in the 2024 election, but would rather see “new leadership.”Kistner on abortion opposition

Since the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade — concluding there is no federal constitutional right to an abortion — Craig and outside groups supporting her have relentlessly attacked Kistner’s anti-abortion stances, which have included being on the board of a group that opposes abortions. It’s a strategy that Democrats have employed in campaign after campaign across the nation.After the Dobbs decision, Kistner refused to clarify his position, and a section of his website discussing his “100% pro-life” views was no longer visible.Craig has accused Kistner of opposing abortion in all cases, with no exceptions — but Kistner has denied that, and on Thursday, when questioned by reporters, Craig failed to provide evidence to support that specific claim.Nonetheless, Kistner has repeatedly tried to downplay the potential importance of abortion rights in the campaign. Kistner’s current state position on abortion is that he favors exceptions for rape or incest, but he has refused to entertain how he might act on the issue if he were elected to Congress.On Thursday, for example, he refused to say whether he would support a federal 15-week abortion ban proposed by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., saying he hadn’t seen the specific language.Dueling police endorsements

While the topic of public safety didn’t surface at Thursday’s hourlong debate, the issue figures prominently in this campaign as it has in many across the state and nation: Amid historically high rates of violent crime following riots that followed the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Republicans have sought to cast Democrats as anti-police, while Democrats have struggled to provide a clear vision that would include reducing crime while also increasing accountability for police.Kistner has accused Craig of supporting the “defund the police” movement — even though Craig has consistently opposed such efforts.Last month, Craig scored a coup by gaining the endorsement of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, which represents some 10,400 public safety workers. The group had endorsed Kistner in 2020, but in its endorsement, the MPPOA cited a number of initiatives Craig had supported that were also supported by law enforcement groups.However, this week, Kistner garnered the endorsement of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, the union that represents Minneapolis cops.Election Day is Nov. 8.