What started as a small food shelf has become a resource for thousands of families in eight communities outside of Minneapolis. Hy-Vee supports Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners through the Red “My Heart” Reusable Bag Program.
Tell us about Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners.
Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners envisions building a vibrant community where everyone counts and all sectors and systems work together for the good of all. We strive to strengthen our community by meeting basic needs and equipping individuals and families for stability.
From the beginning, we have shaped a way for neighbors to help neighbors.
The organization started in 1979 when a few folks from local faith communities got together to discuss how they could respond to some of the needs they saw in the area. They wanted to build a community where everyone counts. This group created the nonprofit we know today as Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners.
From the beginning, we have shaped a way for neighbors to help neighbors. More than 40 years later, in 2022, we were fortunate to have more than 1,000 individual volunteers serve nearly 35,000 hours. The growth and longevity of this type of community support is really remarkable.
What services do you provide to the community?
Interfaith Outreach provides a state-of-the-art food shelf to our community as well as services in case management, housing, financial assistance, employment and youth and education.
What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?
What really sets us apart as an organization is the holistic approach we use across our services and programs versus just providing support with, say, housing or food. It comes together strategically for families.
What really sets us apart as an organization is the holistic approach we use across our services and programs…
For example, if we are helping someone who faces food insecurity, it may not be just through access to our food shelf but also helping them find affordable childcare or a living-wage job. We look at the big picture. And when a client needs a type of support we can’t directly provide, we use our partnerships with other community resources and organizations.
Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.
One of the things we’ve focused on recently is how to put the client in the middle of everything we do. We’ve done a great job of including the client’s voice in the decisions that we’ve made to ensure we are responding to the community’s needs. We call this being “client-centric.”
As a more client-centric organization, we can help families by living out our mission statement and creating long-term stability, and we have already implemented several ways to achieve this. Take our food shelf, for example. We worked with the University of Minnesota to become a SuperShelf, which meant a total revamp of what we do.
Our grocery store-style environment welcomes clients with a variety of dietary and cultural needs, including fresh produce, gluten-free items, kid-friendly snacks and many types of meat, including halal options. The food shelf is appointment-only, so when people come in to shop, they can have a guide direct them through. If they have questions about things or need support, we’re there. Our team also created food signage in our top four languages to help clients feel comfortable and welcome.
This is just one example of how we’ve taken on this client-centric concept. The clients’ input into the process was an important part of the design and offerings as we figure out how to build experiences around the client’s needs.
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
For four decades, we’ve been the safety net for our community. We’ve prevented homelessness more than 35,438 times. We’ve prepared more than 300 children for kindergarten. We’ve seen clients become donors, volunteers and even members of our staff.
For four decades, we’ve been the safety net for our community.
It has truly been a full-circle experience where neighbors are helping neighbors.
What do you want people to know about your organization?
Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners is a place that lives our values and stays true to our mission. We are here for our community, ready to respond to its needs.
How are you using the funds you’ve received from the Hy-Vee “My Heart” Reusable Bag Program?
Proceeds from the Hy-Vee Reusable Bag Program support our services and programs. When you participate, you are helping neighbors in our community work toward long-term stability.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Volunteers are essential to our organization, but only some people have the time to volunteer or the ability to donate a thousand dollars. The Hy-Vee Reusable Bag Program allows people to make a difference with that dollar donation – to easily and conveniently make an impact. Every dollar will benefit Interfaith and make our community programs better.
We are very grateful for this opportunity and for the continued support from Hy-Vee. It means a lot to us.
Kevin Ward is Executive Director of Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners.
Published March 15, 2023.