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A construction company has gone above and beyond to help a local nonprofit continue to help homeless families in need.
Semler Construction, based in Cambridge, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and decided to do something that benefits the community for its anniversary celebration.
“I was looking for a way to celebrate our 40th year in business. After some reflection decided I would like to find a way to do something charitable instead that would benefit the community we live and work in,” said Jason Semler, owner and president of Semler Construction, who lives in and is native to the Cambridge area.
Semler Construction decided New Pathways, based in Cambridge, would be the beneficiary of the company’s first charity golf tournament.
New Pathways serves the counties of Isanti, Chisago, Mille Laces, Kanabec and Pine. Its mission is to build a stronger community by providing shelter and support services to families with children experiencing homelessness.
“I was looking for a charity in our local area that we could partner with. The goal was to find a charity that was involved in helping families with children,” Semler said. “After some research we discovered New Pathways and invited them to our office to discuss who they were and what services they performed in our community. My team and myself quickly determined they were a good fit and decided to partner with them. Their work to assist homeless families into temporary shelter and then eventually into permanent shelter was something my team and myself felt was something we had to get behind. Also, being in the home building industry, we felt that it was a great fit with what we do.”
The charity golf tournament, held Sept. 22 at Purple Hawk Country Club in Cambridge, raised over $15,000 for New Pathways. New Pathways Executive Director Mary Westlund is grateful for the support given to them by Semler Construction.
“At first, I thought, ‘Is this really happening?’ I felt like I was dreaming. Putting on a golf tournament is a lot of work, so to know that and to receive the proceeds without having to do that work is shocking. I am so grateful to the Semler team for choosing us. It’s hard to put into words what it means to us, it’s very humbling,” Westlund said. “Much like others, the pandemic has turned our world upside down. In March of 2020, our budget doubled when we transitioned our shelter families into hotels because all our partnering churches closed. Since, we’ve continued to shelter in hotels and plan to do so until October 2022. We’ve had some very difficult months, wondering how long we can sustain and will the program survive the pandemic. This wonderful gift came at the perfect time. It gave us hope, relief and we are so very grateful for the support. With hard work and the support of our community, like our Semler friends, we will continue to provide shelter and housing to families in crisis.”
Westlund said the $15,543 raised during the golf tournament will help New Pathways keep its doors open.
“The $15,543 will go into our general operating fund to be applied where it is needed most. Our budget is like a puzzle, grants often support specific expenses, so having general funds to bridge the gap is very important,” Westlund said. “These funds contribute to our stability, keeping our doors open to serve families with children experiencing homelessness in our community. With the eviction moratorium lifted, it is estimated the homeless population will increase 40%. For the last 21 years we have been needed, but especially now more than ever.”
Semler said the funds raised at the golf tournament came from fees for golfing, sponsorship from their vendors, selling raffle tickets for prizes, a hole-in-one contest and direct individual and corporate donations.
“We had 60-plus golfers and several volunteers. ...,” Semler said. “I felt it was a great turnout and success despite the fact that I only gave my team two months to plan. We have already started planning for next year and expect a bigger turnout.”
Westlund is grateful for the support provided by Semler Construction.
“Thank you for being amazing people willing to selflessly help others. You made it fun to make a difference in our community. We thank you for partnering with us to fight homelessness in our community,” Westlund said. “I think our partnership makes sense. We are both in the housing business, just on different sides of the spectrum. They build houses and we help the unhoused go home again. Isn’t that beautiful? They are reaching across that spectrum to help their neighbors struggling with homelessness — that is so awesome.”
Semler believes in giving back to the communities that help support his business.
“Local business has the ability to tap into its resources to raise awareness and capital in a way that can make a huge impact for local nonprofits. I think it’s important to help the people in need in and around the community that you live and work in,” Semler said. “My team should receive all the credit, as I only came up with the idea, they brought it altogether in a short amount of time and it was a success. Thank you to my team Lisa, Patty, Deb, Travis, Mike, Beth, Brian and Jenn. We look forward to making it a bigger and better event that we do every year. Special thank you to New Pathways for partnering with us; we look forward to working with them in the future. I also want to thank our host golf course, the Purple Hawk, and all our vendors for their participation and donations. If you’re looking to donate to a local nonprofit that makes a difference in the community, I encourage you to visit with the folks at New Pathways.”
New Pathways remains a needed resource for the area.
“New Pathways has the only shelter program in Region 7E (Isanti, Kanabec, Pine, Mille Lacs and Chisago) that serves families with children experiencing homelessness. We also have the only supportive housing designated units in Isanti County that provides permanent housing with on-site case management to families who have experienced long-term homelessness. Other than short-term hotel stays provided by others, we are it,” Westlund said. “When our founding women (Cheryl Gray and Marge Burns) started our program, there were no local solutions for solving the problem of homelessness in our area; that’s why they started our shelter program. It’s still not much different today.”
Westlund is grateful New Pathways has been able to continue to provide support services despite the pandemic and a lack of funding.
“We have been staying very busy. Due to funding, we haven’t been able to serve our normal capacity, which is five families, all the time. It’s fluctuated from two to five families, depending on hotel funding since March of 2020,” Westlund said. “Currently we are serving four families. Regardless to how many we can serve in shelter, we are holding a waiting list and provided support to those families as well, in hopes of solving their crisis as soon as possible maybe before a spot opens in shelter.
“COVID can’t stop good though. Last year, 76% of families served moved into permanent housing. That is right around our normal average for each year, so it is great to see we are still able to run a successful program while operating very differently. One thing that has been unique is we have had multiple babies born while their family was staying in shelter with us. Maybe every couple of years we will have one baby born while in the program, but since March 2020 we have had five. I am so thankful we were here to help those families during a very vulnerable time of their lives,” Westlund added.
Starting Nov. 1, New Pathways will be participating in the GiveMN Give to the Max Day Campaign. To support New Pathways visit https://www.givemn.org/organization/New-Pathways-Mn.