The Hopkins Elks are gearing up for another packing event to continue the effort to provide hygiene packs to families in need as part of the Teaming Up For Teens program. 

The program historically focused on providing hygiene products to homeless and at-risk youth within the Hopkins School District and surrounding areas. However, with the shutdown of the schools and the economy due to the pandemic, the need has increased.

“Hygiene products are often overlooked when providing support to those in need yet they are critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It was a critical need and a gap to be filled when we started the program eight years ago and it’s become even more critical in recent weeks,” said Sue Huttner, a club member.

As part of the last packing event, Teaming Up For Teens provided 150 hygiene packs for distribution during the last week of April. The family hygiene packs contain laundry detergent, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bar soap, shampoo, conditioner, men’s and women’s deodorant, feminine products and razors, among other items.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a high level of need from families within the school district who were benefiting from the packs and weekend food support, said Holly Magdanz, Hopkins One Voice Coordinator.

Distance learning and the stay-at-home order have exacerbated those needs.

“We found a totally new situation with a lot more families in need,” due to job losses and those at higher risk of COVID-19 complications, said Magdanz.

In response, Hopkins COVID-19 Community Outreach/ Support Taskforce was formed, which connects families to resources and mobilizes a volunteer pool of staff members, parents and community members, explained Magdanz, who is also a co-leader of the task force.

Brooke Davis, Gatewood Elementary social worker, is also a member of the task force. She explained that the district’s service delivery model had to change to better respond to the needs.

When the students were in school, social workers like Davis could more easily recognize the need and respond accordingly, whether it be by sending items home with them or connecting them with community resources.

By eliminating the human connection, the task force had to find creative ways to respond and deliver services.

Therefore, the group teamed up with the nutrition food services department to conduct a survey among families to collect information to help field those need requests.

They found the greatest needs beyond the district meals, which have expanded to seven days per week, were for ICA emergency food boxes and hygiene packs, both of which are available for pick up and critical needs delivery.

Since starting this effort, there has been an “outpouring of gratitude and support” by families thanking the volunteers and staff members, Magdanz said.

She said she is also impressed by the quick and generous response of the community as they volunteer their time to deliver these critical resources to keep up with the demand.

“It’s really, really amazing seeing our community step forward,” Magdanz said. “We wouldn’t be able to this without them.”

Teaming Up For Teens will host its next hygiene packing event Tuesday, June 2, with monetary donations now being accepted online at TeamingUpForTeens.org.

The next push will be in August and will also include school supplies.

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Kristen Miller is the community editor for the Sun Sailor, covering the communities of Plymouth, Hopkins and Minnetonka. Email story ideas to kristen.miller@ecm-inc.com

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