March is Minnesota FoodShare Month, and local businesses are doing their part to encourage community donations.
The FoodShare Campaign donations throughout the month of March will be matched by the Minnesota Council of Churches. This event has been happening over the past 35 years and now, more than ever, donations are needed locally.
“The match is based on both money and food that is collected; your money stays right here in Cambridge,” said Michelle Thomas, resource development manager for Family Pathways. “We need you to help people with their basic food needs while they are in crisis. It’s a scary thing to not know where your next meal is coming from, and your support provides nutritious food in the most nonjudgmental and respectful way.”
The Isanti County News in Cambridge, along with businesses including Chilson Jewelers in Cambridge, Minnco Credit Union (all branches including Cambridge, Isanti, North Branch, Cub Foods in Cambridge and Andover), Isanti Rental in Isanti, North Branch Liquor (both North Branch locations), Masterson’s Staffing in Cambridge, Walmart in Cambridge, Coborn’s in Isanti, Hair Design of North Branch and First State Bank in Wyoming and Stacy are donation drop-off locations throughout the month of March.
Community support is vital
In 2017, the Family Pathways Cambridge food shelf served 11,035 households. Of those visits there were 29,843 individuals; 4,037 seniors over the age of 65; and 10,222 children under the age of 17.
There was a total of 671,132 pounds of food distributed, which equals 536,906 meals, of which 187,547 pounds was fresh produce. Also distributed were 5,696 different resources.
The Food Shelf not only provides food to those in need, but also personal hygiene products, dog and cat food, baby food and diapers when available, as well as handmade items and a variety of other items donated.
Family Pathways is also a member with the Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank, which enhances its ability to offer more for each donation.
“Family Pathways’ membership with Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank means we can turn your financial donations into much more food than you may have thought possible,” Thomas said. “Through food bank purchases we can turn a $1 donation into $7 worth of food.”
In addition to the partnership with Second Harvest, the food shelf also receives donations from local churches, business affiliations, farmers and individual donors.
Donations of food and personal care items are always welcome and can be dropped off at 1575 First Ave. E., Cambridge.
Family Pathways celebrates 40 years in 2018
In 1978 Family Pathways began as the Family Resource Center in Chisago County, where its focus was on providing counseling services to youth and families.
Over the past 40 years the organization has transformed into a much larger organization, offering a variety of services to community members in Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec, Mille Lacs and Pine counties in Minnesota, Polk County in Wisconsin and the city of Forest Lake.
Family Pathways now offers services ranging from The Refuge Network domestic abuse programs and shelter to aging services, youth programs and teen centers, as well as hunger relief through food shelves, mobile food trucks, the school backpack program and community meals.
Many of the programs are run on volunteer hours, and without the dedication of their volunteers, the services wouldn’t be available to those in need.
“Basically, if we didn’t have our volunteers, the food shelf wouldn’t be here,” said Cambridge food shelf coordinator Tami Kruezer. “If we didn’t have all of our volunteers we wouldn’t be able to offer the service.”
There are currently 39 volunteers, both full- and part-time, who dedicate their time through the food shelf to help support their community.
Family Pathways has a total of 347 volunteers throughout their entire organization, and in 2017, 11,615 hours were donated.
The volunteers help stock the food shelf’s shelves, load clients’ bags and boxes with food, and provide assistance to those in need.
Volunteers are key to Family Pathways
Braham graduate Joan Lamberg retired from her position in purchasing and sales at a manufacturing company in 1999, and after enjoying a few years of retirement she decided she wanted to be more active physically and mentally, so she looked to the food shelf for volunteering opportunities.
“My daughter had suggested that I volunteer for the food shelf so that I wasn’t so lonely,” Lamberg said. “There were so many things I wanted to get done when I retired that still aren’t done, but I really enjoy volunteering here, there’s so much to do.”
From unloading donations from boxes and stocking them on the shelves to assisting clients with the items they are able to take, there are a variety of different options available within the food shelf.“I love the organizing, it is my thing, I love organizing,” Lamberg said. “I also really enjoy walking people around and helping them to get all of the food they are allowed. It is determined by government standards what families can take and it is our job to make sure they get the correct items.”The volunteers all work together to get things accomplished.“There are a lot of us that like to do different things around here and it really works out well,” Lamberg said. “It’s like a family around here. We all get to know each other and enjoy working together, everyone is just so wonderful. It has become my home away from home; none of us would be here if we didn’t want to be.”
Lamberg has spent two afternoons per week over the past two months at the food shelf, volunteering her time to make a difference in the lives of others and to become a member of the food shelf family.
“They treat us volunteers like gold,” Lamberg said. “To anyone thinking about volunteering, I would say give it a try, what do you have to lose?”
The Cambridge food shelf location is always looking for volunteers. More information can be found at www.familypathways.org.
Linda Beckman finds peace through volunteering
After losing her only daughter in 2007 at the age of 26, Linda Beckman found herself lost, and she spent the next 10 years looking for peace at the bottom of the bottle of alcohol.
She knew her lifestyle wasn’t healthy, but she thought it would help to ease the pain of the loss.
“For 10 years I was drinking, I wasted 10 whole years of my life,” Beckman said. “At that time I was very good friends with Darcy, who was the coordinator at the food shelf. It wasn’t until she said she couldn’t stand coming over anymore and seeing me the way that I was that she mentioned the food shelf. One day I just picked up the phone and called to ask what it took to volunteer. That same day I came in and I’ve been here ever since.”
It was August 2016 that Beckman began her volunteering. She goes in Monday through Friday every week, and although she tries to take a “me day” once a week, she still ends up at the food shelf on those days.
“This is the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me. It fills my day so I’m not drinking, I’ve got a social life back again after all of those years,” Beckman said.
Her experience isn’t only beneficial to her, but to the clients she interacts with on a daily basis.
“When the clients come in the door, I already know their names; I know them, and they know me, and I might be the only person they talk to all day long. Some of our seniors come in just so they have someone to talk to and I might be that one person,” Beckman said.
Beckman is overwhelmed with the need for the food shelf throughout the area but is grateful to be able to help.
“I think times are very tough for people and prices are going up and wages are not,” Beckman said. “I am also a person that has a file here and I am also a person who benefits from this. I don’t do it if I don’t have too, but sometimes we need the help like many others.”
Beckman’s passion through her volunteering is walking with the clients and helping them stock up.
“At the end of the day I sit in the car and I think, ‘Wow, today we really had a great day.’ I go home feeling complete, happy, just knowing all the people that did come in and were able to get help,” Beckman said. “It really feels amazing to be able to help people. This opportunity has given me a second chance at life, and I am going to take it and help make a difference for others.”