Minnesotans are known for many things, like serving “hot dishes” instead of casseroles, saying hourlong goodbyes and living in a winter wonderland for half the year. But perhaps most importantly, Minnesotans are known for their desire to help others. Our “Minnesota nice” reputation doesn’t stop at scraping snow off our neighbors’ windshields or smiling at strangers on the sidewalk—it’s an attitude focused on truly giving back to our communities.
According to the WalletHub, Minnesota weighed in as the third most charitable state in the nation in 2017. About 35.4 percent of Minnesota residents volunteer, contributing to a collective 155.41 million hours of service and resulting in $3.3 billion contributed to charitable endeavors.
There are many organizations located in the Twin Cities that allow residents the opportunity to give back. One innovative organization is GiveMN, an online donation portal that allows donors to expand their generosity by electronically donating to any nonprofit or public school in Minnesota via one searchable website. GiveMN’s premier event is its annual Give to the Max Day, a one-day, 24-hour giving extravaganza. In 2017, the program raised $20.6 million, breaking its 2016 record of $20.1 million, which had already surpassed the previous year’s roughly $18 million. This event is not limited by online giving, however. Give to the Max Day engages the philanthropic spirit of the Twin Cities by providing additional opportunities for givers to join together. HUGE Improv Theater ran a 28-hour comedy “improvathon” to raise funds, Rochester Art Center in Rochester opened its doors and offered free coffee and gallery admission with donations of any amount, and Rumriver Art Center in Anoka had an open house with free family activities such as drawing, painting and polymer clay projects to help raise donations.
Second Harvest Heartland, another outstanding local charity, participated in Give to Max Day by hosting their first 24-hour “Pack to the Max” food packing event. Born in our very own Minneapolis-St. Paul area in 2001, Second Harvest Heartland is now one of the nation’s largest hunger relief organizations, with food shelves, soup kitchens, after school programs, senior centers and food packing events throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. The fact that two of our largest nonprofits work with each other, not against each other, to raise support speaks to not only the strength of volunteerism in the Twin Cities, but in its creative and generous nature.
While Second Harvest Heartland seeks to stop hunger in the Midwest, another Twin Cities charity strives to raise up communities that its volunteers might never get to meet. Feed My Starving Children is a food packing organization geared toward global hunger relief by putting together nonperishable meals, from the ingredient measurements to the packaged boxes. It’s easy to sign up to join a packing crew, and in just two hours, you and your fellow volunteers (ranging upward of just 5 years old) can pack an average of 216 meals per person. In 2017, volunteers packed enough meals to feed more than 779,000 children across 70 different countries for a whole year, and 2018 started off with packaging the organization’s 2 billionth meal.
Another local charity is Greater Twin Cities United Way, which serves the community by creating stability and alleviating poverty. United Way has responded to the needs of the greater Twin Cities area for over 100 years by organizing events with food banks, providing youth mentoring and investing in New American orientation. They invested almost $80 million in the greater Twin Cities community in 2016, touching over 1 million lives.
360 Communities is also a nonprofit organization that focuses on the local community and youth support. Their programs include a network of five food shelves, two domestic violence shelters, two resource centers and three academically driven programs that serve children from birth through high school graduation. Across such a wide range of support programs, 1,300 volunteers have found where they can grow and best use their gifts, and so can you.
Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity literally builds up the quality of life, health and prosperity in the metro area by constructing and repairing homes for those in need. This boost in home ownership, along with families, is part of the foundation of a successful community.
There are plenty of volunteering options for those who love furry friends, too, such as Wags & Whiskers Animal Rescue of MN, which operates in the Twin Cities area. There is no permanent shelter location for this nonprofit. Instead, all cats and dogs are housed with foster families. If you are unable to be a foster family, you can still help out as a volunteer for adoption events, home visits, transportation or fundraising events. You can also volunteer at the Animal Humane Society, another Minnesota nonprofit organization that works with a wider variety of animals, including rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs and birds.
Residents of the Twin Cities recognize the importance of community bonds. They pack meals, distribute food, provide support through shelters and academics, and build homes for one another. You have the opportunity to offer your skills, too. Whether it be packing a meal, mentoring a student, painting a room, swinging a hammer or helping carry loads of supplies, you are invited to help a neighbor in need and truly live “Minnesota nice.”