POVERTY: CAP

Single households can use the CAP Agency food shelf once a month, picking up enough food for a week.

There’s a lot the Community Action Partnership of Scott, Carver and Dakota Counties does that the average person may not know about, said Jeff Hansen. As the nonprofit’s new executive director, that used to be him.

“I’ve been blown away by the breadth of our services,” said Hansen, who took the reigns of the organization after longtime leader Joe Vaughan died suddenly in September 2019.

Those services Hansen mentioned include providing basic needs like clothing, shelter and food to local residents.

“We’re providing services to those who are somewhere in their life where they need help,” he said. “Our goal is to give them the help they need to get their life back to the point where they don’t need our services.”

With 25 years of nonprofit experience under his belt, Hansen stepped into the role just weeks ago, in mid-February. Now, he’s preparing for a likely influx of those in search of basic needs as people face hardships like losing their jobs and steady income in the wake of the novel coronavirus and related government responses.

He’s asking the public to help where it can, too.

Food shelf needs

The nonprofit, which houses its Scott and Carver county offices off of Canterbury Road in Shakopee, has sent most of its 175 employees home to work remotely for the time being. And its “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds” of volunteers are still showing up. Things are looking OK — for now, said Hansen. But in an effort to be proactive, the CAP Agency is calling on the public to help.

The agency’s food shelf, which operates under the leadership of just one paid employee and many volunteers, is still open, although it’s changed the way it gets food in the hands of those that need it through social distancing practices. Instead of local residents setting up appointments to come in and shop around, they send in grocery lists to the workers who do the shopping for them.

“People seem to be a lot more thankful,” Hansen said. “I think they’re having a hard time finding food at grocery stores.”

While the CAP Agency will still accept food donations from the public and needed items right now include toilet paper, hand soap and dish soap, paper towels, peanut butter, crackers, granola bars and easy meals like macaroni and cheese and soup.

Hansen said cash donations are preferred. Every $1 that comes in has the buying power of $9 at the food bank, he said.

Cash donations can also help sustain the CAP Agency’s mobile food shelf, which delivers hot meals to about 150 seniors, Hansen said. One of the caterers the CAP Ageny relies on for that service has cut back due to coronavirus concerns, but Hy-Vee has stepped up and been “a great partner,” he said. Still, donations to senior nutrition services are appreciated, he said.

Electronic donations may be easiest and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visit capagency.org and click on “Donate” to make a contribution.

“If people are going to donate, it’s all gong to stay here,” Hansen said.

Other services

The agency’s thrift store, also off Canterbury Road in Shakopee, remains open, Hansen said. That, too, is largely staffed by volunteers.

Throughout the operation, many volunteers are seniors.

“If the spread of this becomes greater, there might be a shortage of volunteers,” Hansen said. “As of now, that’s not the case.”

To learn how to volunteer, visit the CAP Agency’s website, capagency.org, and click on “Be a volunteer.”

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Rachel Minske is a regional editor and digital content coordinator at Southwest News Media. She's passionate about in-depth reporting and digital audiences. She's a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and enjoys exploring Minnesota.

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