By Dakota Woodlands Representative
By Dakota Woodlands Representative
Since late January of this year our world radically changed with the spread of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) that has impacted the entire world. The virus has shown no boundaries and has caused thousands of deaths while the world tries to find a cure.
In early March the virus arrived in the United States and has virtually shut the entire country down. Minnesota is no exception and we are all going to great lengths to protect ourselves and our families from the deadly virus.
Living and working at the shelter has had its challenges. It's difficult to understand the threat entirely when at first glance everything seems fine. Our shelter has always been a safe haven for our residents and staff and it's a challenge having to deal with a threat that you can't see.
Living in fear and the unknown is nothing new to our residents. Unfortunately, this fear is present and has reared its ugly head into our shelter. To mitigate the threat of COVID-19 and anxiety for people living and working at the shelter, we had to work hard to shift expectations of all residents and staff to follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health safety recommendations. We are working diligently to stop the threat at our doorway. However, once the virus is in our shelter, it will be too late to stop it at the same capacity.
You may ask... what are we doing to safeguard our Dakota Woodlands’ community? The word WE is not meant to be used lightly, as it truly means the entire shelter community is working together to safeguard our home and workplace. We have locked our front doors to our building 24/7 to control access. Visitors are not allowed within our facility, except those with essential business. Anyone wanting access to our facility must make prior arrangements with staff, temperatures taken, and follow sanitation guidelines. All business and county related activities that involve residents and staff communications, including board of director meetings, are handled electronically.
We have also taken other steps to safeguard our community. We have transitioned communal activities and practices to a controlled distribution of resources, such as how we handle our food and social distancing in our dining hall. We have dedicated a washroom for hand washing, a station to support self-health screening - recording staff and resident temperatures daily, and isolating when temperatures are elevated 99.5 degrees or higher.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Eagan MN donated over 100 thermometers to us months ago not knowing of the future pandemic ahead of us. We also were fortunate to have N95 masks in our inventory and hand sanitizer that carried us over to when we started receiving these needed resources from donors. We have had and continue to have great support from the outside community. We are receiving handmade masks for adults and children made to CDC specifications; cleaning services provided by a grant through the State; the Board of Directors of Dakota Woodlands continue to network with restaurants, bakeries, and other sources to direct food donations our way; and individuals from the community dropping off toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc.
We are forever grateful to those that continue to support us through various resources of giving. We receive phone calls from past volunteers that moved out of state asking how they can help us. Volunteers that we depend on to pick up food donations continue to drop off donations at our site. A gentleman who is an electrical engineer that volunteers, he suits up in protective gear and comes into our shelter to take care of time sensitive repairs and plumbing issues. Working at the shelter as an employee and seeing those that are part of the DW team whether they are volunteers or staff are remarkable people. They are putting their personal fears aside, with a steadfast focus to continue to protect the most vulnerable and to help keep our safe haven 'safe'. This is exemplified by leadership at the executive level.
We are so proud of the people we serve, as we know it had been difficult to ‘shelter in place’ that was mandated by our State's Governor Tim Walz. The children staying with us are the most resilient, as they seamlessly dovetailed from being students in school facilities with friends and structure to 'sheltering in place' using distant learning to keep up with school work. We see young and older children working independently on their tablets, communicating with teachers and being very engaged in what they are learning. Teachers call the shelter often to connect with their students and we have an education person on staff that helps the children with questions and access to resources. Congratulations to all of our students staying with us that navigated and succeeded in their education during a difficult time!
In summary, like most everyone else in our country, we have our good days and bad days during this pandemic. However, as we see it, every day is a good day when we continue to keep our Dakota Woodlands community safe.
Midwest Dairy provided $95,000 in grant funding that enabled Second Harvest Heartland to purchase dairy coolers for 45 food shelves and shelters throughout Minnesota. Dakota Woodlands (DW) received a freezer which has increased our capacity to provide families in our community with more milk, more cheese, more dairy. The grant was intended to support food shelves and shelters in the increased distribution of cow’s milk and other nutritious dairy products that are in high demand.
“Second Harvest Heartland was thrilled to receive this grant to help agency partners safely distribute nutritious and highly sought-after dairy products to families experiencing hunger,” said Pat Pearson, Director of Agency Relations, Second Harvest Heartland. “We are grateful for the opportunity to have applied for the Milk 2 My Plate Agency Partner Grant Application through Second Harvest Heartland. The cooler allows us the ability to offer a larger variety of dairy products, increasing the amount of nutritional consumption by our DW community,” said Nicole Bathgate, Operations Director, Dakota Woodlands.
The grant covered both the cost of the refrigerator and delivery. Food shelves and shelters were able to choose from a selection of four different types of coolers to best meet the needs of their individual programs. Most of the refrigerators chosen featured glass doors to allow food shelf clients to view the products in abundance and take what they need.
In addition to Midwest Dairy, US Foods and Arctic Air provided generous support in the form of reduced pricing and delivery of the coolers to food shelves. Midwest Dairy™ represents 7,000 dairy farm families and works on their behalf to build dairy demand by inspiring consumer confidence in our products and production practices.
On any given day, one in 11 Minnesotans does not know where their next meal is coming from: kids come home to an empty fridge and seniors skip meals to pay for their medications. In so many ways, partners like Midwest Dairy make a transformational impact on our mission to end hunger and provide nutrition to people we serve.
By Dakota Woodlands Representative
One, two, three seemed to be the underlying theme for the recent upgrades at Dakota Woodlands (DW). Upgrades that consisted of room numbers and directional signs; number of parking signs; Doctor Seuss books of One Fish, Two Fish… and hand-crafted bookcases to shelve these classics and much more; and a beautified backyard for our children living at DW to hopscotch the day away: one, two, three…
Every one of our supporters deserves a special story about how they are making a difference in the lives of those that live at DW. Some choose to remain anonymous and others want to share their good work experiences to encourage others to reach out and help.
DW continues to get great support from the Boy Scouts of America, along with other groups, individuals, organizations, and businesses in the area. Several individuals from the Scouts have knocked on our door scoping out innovative ways to help all those that are part of the great mission of helping the homeless to transition out of homelessness to stable housing and bright futures.
Please read each individual story to learn about the amazing works of our young leaders of tomorrow; encouraged and supported by parents, mentors, and the organizations they help.
Scout Troop 9451 Apple Valley
Aaron Teuber, Eagle Scout from Troop 9451 Apple Valley, along with Eagle Scout mentor, Mark Reardon toured Dakota Woodlands this past spring. Teuber was looking for a service project that would fulfill a requirement by Boy Scouts of America to become an Eagle Scout. A service project involves planning, developing, and giving leadership to others while performing a project that benefits the community. While touring DW, Teuber identified that Dakota Woodlands didn’t have directional signs or common area(s) signage in the facility. Teuber thought changing this would benefit visitors and new residents by helping them locate services and amenities in the building without staff direction. He quickly got to work and prepared his service project proposal to present to DW. Shortly after, DW accepted the project as a beneficiary. In April of this past year, Teuber and volunteers from Troop 9451 installed 69 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant directory and directional signs that correspond with the building’s architectural floor plan. The project was well orchestrated with detailed planning. The project involved 16 scouts and 5 volunteers from the troop and 155-man hours from start to finish. Amazing!
Scout Troop 449 Eagan
Oliver Hess, an Eagle Scout candidate from Troop 449 Eagan, took on a service project that would involve the participation of the scouts and the City Of Eagan. Phase one of Hess's project was to remove the well-known invasive species, Buckthorn that was growing on the hillside of the property. Hess, with the help of other Scouts from Troop 449, spent hours cutting the Buckthorn down and stacking it to be picked up utilizing the Eagan Buckthorn Program offered by the Forestry Division of the city.
Once the Buckthorn was cleared, Hess wanted to make improvements to the two parking lots on the DW property; Hess wanted to install signs for the numerous parking stalls to designate parking for residents, staff, and visitors. Through planning, developing, and raising dollars, Hess raised enough money to install 20 new parking signs for staff and visitor parking. Two signs were made to designate one lot as resident parking and the other lot as staff and visitor parking.
The entire project involved 12 scouts and 29 volunteers from the troop that worked over 250-man hours! Whew!
Scout Troop 118 Farmington
Caden Carlson, Eagle Scout candidate from Troop 118 Farmington took on a service project that would fulfill a personal mission of his. Carlson is an avid reader and understands the healing power a book can hold. Carlson proposed to build bookshelves for DW and to supply a variety of books that people could either read and return to the bookshelves or take as their own. He worked with members of his troop and parent volunteers to make this happen. They relied on Phil Kadlec, a professional woodworker in Farmington, in guiding the troop with resources and a few pointers on craftsmanship when building the bookcases. This activity coincided with collecting books from the general public by using social media. In doing this, Carlson raised awareness of homelessness and the importance of reading. This inspired many from the community to donate over 500 books to Carlson’s mission. Dakota Electric Association also got involved by donating packing boxes for book transportation.
After the bookcases were made and placed at the shelter, the books had a place to rest and a good home in the hands of those that wanted to experience the joy of reading. “We were so happy to see the joy and excitement on the faces of the children when they saw all the books. Just to have them come in and be so excited to choose a book of their very own was so rewarding and heartwarming” said Kim Lang, grandmother of Carlson.
Scout Troop 293 Apple Valley
Jeremy Carlson, Scout from Troop 293 Apple Valley, and Paul Chellsen, President of Apple Valley Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Scoutmaster wanted to help Dakota Woodlands with yard work that beautified the backyard at the shelter. Last summer, this is exactly what happened. The team of Scouts from Troop 293 replenished the playground with 12 cubic yards of mulch, mulched flowerbeds and donated plants and shrubs to add to the existing gardens. They spent many hours working on beautifying the gardens and made a commitment to come back next spring and summer to care for them. Thanks to their effort, our children living at DW can enjoy the beautiful scenery and hopscotch the day away: one, two, three…
By Dakota Woodlands Representative
Early this October, corporate sponsors and individual donors made our Bringing Families Home Breakfast fundraising event a great success. The event was held at the beautiful Lost Spur Golf and Event Center in Eagan. The Center housed a room full of Dakota Woodlands (DW) supporters that learned about DW services and listened to a voice currently experiencing a personal journey through the hardships of homelessness.
Steve Zweber Chair of Board of Directors for DW welcomed the supporters and gave a great introduction that opened the floor to Executive Director Beth Bromen to talk about community. She shared the meaning of community, homelessness and the great need to end poverty. This was followed by a video and 'my story' told by a person experiencing homelessness that is using DW services / programs to reach goals of permanent housing. This personal journey experienced loss, poverty, struggle, isolation, hope, love, determination, family, community support, progress and great hope for self reliance.
This emotional testimony was followed by Zweber and how donors are making a difference. The support given by the community to help people in poverty is giving people a second chance in life. People in these difficult situations benefit greatly knowing that people care and that resources are available to help lift them up.
The fundraising event shined a light on a homeless crisis in our society, and it also showed a way out through community support and personal investment. Monetary resources are critical for necessities; food, shelter, clothing, etc. Investing in programs that support the mission of ending homelessness has a long term impact on the people we serve. People investing time in these programs build self worth and learn life building skills to help sustain well-being and independent housing once they leave DW.
Thank you to all those that attended the event. We hope you enjoyed the breakfast and you walked away from the event knowing the positive impact you are making with your support!
Thank you to our Corporate and Individual Sponsors!
Randy Nelson Randy Propp
21st Century Bank
David Charlez Designs
Robert Joswiak Insurance – State Farm
By Trusted Media Brands' The Family Handyman
Family Handyman employees volunteered their time and efforts as part of the 2019 Trusted Media Brands Day of Caring initiative, sponsored by the Reader’s Digest Foundation. Day of Caring began in 2005, and is a special day each year where employees are given the opportunity to give back to their communities by volunteering.
On Thursday, June 27, Eagan employees volunteered at Dakota Woodlands, a homeless shelter for women and their families. This year our team painted the family room and hallways. Once the walls were dry, we put the furniture back in place and hung pictures back on the walls. The best feeling of accomplishment came when a mother and daughter immediately sat on one of the chairs and read a book together. This was truly a heart-warming moment!”
By Dakota Woodlands Representative
What does drywall compound, paint, skill, and Day of Service all have in common? Haag Engineering, a global company of Forensic Engineers and Consultants.
A Day of Service is a day when employees of Haag Engineering can dedicate their time and skills to help those in need in the community. To find that need, Tami Fugle, Haag Engineering Branch Coordinator for the Burnsville, Minnesota location contacted local nonprofit organizations to offer a helping hand. Dakota Woodlands (DW) was one of the lucky nonprofits to receive that offer. DW is very familiar with Haag Engineering. In 2017, the corporation did repairs to the Shelter's playground equipment and replenished mulch in the backyard.
The current need: The Shelter’s stairwell ceiling finish had to be replaced.
On February 27, 2019, Engineers: Richard Herzog, Haag Engineering Branch Manager/Principal Engineer/Meteorologist; John Ortenblad, Senior Consultant; Dan Behrens, Senior Engineer; and Dave Ey, Civil Engineer tackled the project with efficiency and smiles. The main challenge was the height and working above the stairs. They scraped, applied mud, sanded, and applied a smooth coat of paint to the ceiling. No doubt, this was a dirty job. However, they controlled the dust from the sanding and left a pristine area when finished.
To make best use of the company’s time, other projects were adopted as stages of the ceiling were being done. Ey repaired furniture and peeled paint from dressers. Peeling paint is as tedious as watching paint dry. With this said, regardless, Ey was happy to help. Herzog floated between jobs from ceiling resurfacing to helping Ey peel paint.
The engineers, who were laden in dust, gathered their tools to leave DW for the day, vocalized their gratitude for the great work DW does for the homeless. While heading out to help the next organization in need, they stopped in their tracks and took a moment to pose for a picture to capture their day at DW.
Left to right: John Ortenblad, Dan Behrens, Richard Herzog, Dave Ey
This group of volunteers helped in a significant way. Their good deeds improved the look of the facility and saved DW money in repair costs. This act of kindness helps DW to be good stewards of resources and the savings will continue to help financially support DW in providing direct services to clients.
By Dakota Woodlands Representative
Non-Profit organizations like Dakota Woodlands (DW) depend on the generosity of others to enable them to carry out their mission. If it wasn’t for the support of local businesses, groups and individuals, who show their support by volunteering time, talents and financial resources, many critical projects would not be completed.
One such critical project that needed to be taken care of was the removal of a forty-year old fence that surrounds the DW property. Once removed, a new fence would need to be installed. The new fence would provide privacy for residents and more importantly, safety for the children, securing the playground area at the shelter. This expensive proposition had to be coordinated to ensure a seamless process of removal of the old fence and the installation of the new fence. Fortunately a series of events that occurred last spring brought two groups together that enabled the project to move forward.
Allison Wertz, a neighbor of DW who frequently drives past the Shelter was given funds from her grandmother to distribute to charities of her choice. She decided to find out if she could help the families who depend on Dakota Woodlands for safe shelter. After meeting with Executive Director Beth Bromen, they agreed there was a need to replace the forty-year old fence. It was then that Allison generously made a monetary contribution on behalf of her grandmother, Florence C. Wertz. This donation was timely.
During the same time, Operations Director Nicole Bathgate had a meeting with Frank Sullivan, a Boy Scout from Troop 9171 in Eagan. Sullivan was looking for a service project to fulfill the final requirement for him to become an Eagle Scout. After Sullivan was presented with several projects that DW had available, he decided to tackle the project of disassembling and removing the existing fence.
Miraculously a project that kept being put off due to lack of funds and labor was now able to go forward thanks to the synergy of Allison Wertz and Frank Sullivan.
Sullivan coordinated with Scouts from Troop 9171 and along with help from other volunteers, dissembled the old wooden fence. This project entailed removing 33 posts along with the concrete footings and the disposal of 246 ft. of materials. Sullivan informed Waste Management about his service project and asked for them to donate a 20-yard dumpster. Waste Management honored Sullivan’s requests and donated the dumpster and cost of the disposal. Once the area was cleared, on August 9, 2018 Midwest fencing installed the new fence.
Thank you to Sullivan and volunteers from Troop 9171 for taking on a massive service project. Their hard work opened the door to Florence C. Wertz’s wishes of having a lasting impact on a nonprofit organization through financial giving. Thank you to Florence C. Wertz for the financial contribution and for entrusting her granddaughter Allison to find an organization that needed help.
By Dakota Woodlands Representative
Commercial restaurant kitchens have a new tool in the ongoing fight to stay efficient and control operational overheads. Launched this summer by St. Paul based Smart Care Equipment Solutions, the Smart Care Planned Maintenance Program includes a new smart service app, nationally customized protocols for all planned maintenance service appointments and an enhanced network of Smart Techs providing both local service and national support capabilities across the country.
“This is a major step forward towards really bringing commercial kitchen equipment service and maintenance into the 21st century,” says Bill Emory, CEO, Smart Care Equipment Solutions. “Over the past six months we’ve expanded our national network of technicians putting more highly trained people into both our customer and growth markets. Now we’re turning our attention to equipping those smart techs with what we believe is some of the most innovative and forward-thinking technology in our industry.”
Smart Care’s vision is to ensure that every commercial kitchen in America is ready to serve. On January 25, 2018, through the company's community relations initiative, the Employee Resource Group came knocking on the door of Dakota Woodlands (DW). Kathleen Dempsey, Smart Care's Production Analyst, who volunteered at DW when she was a high school student, said, “You do meaningful work in our local community, and we want to offer our support.” This was the beginning of a new partnership between Smart Care and DW. Dempsey, Joe Radermacher, Manager Financial Analysis, and Leslie Elenbass, Human Resources, were the representatives from Smart Care that broke the initial ground of finding how they could support the nonprofit organization.
“Dakota Woodlands, located in Eagan, Minnesota serves the homeless population in Dakota County. Our mission is a pathway to sustainable and independent housing for homeless women and families by providing a continuum of supportive services. There are approximately 100 homeless families that stay at the shelter each year," said Beth Bromen, Executive Director, Dakota Woodlands. DW offers each individual person-centered care, life building education skills, hot meals, clothing, and a safe place to stay. "This goes a long way in the hearts and minds of an individual experiencing great hardship," said Bromen.
DW has a unique setup that allows meals to be prepared and served daily on campus. “Serving nutritional meals at the shelter is an important part of the day for operations. It impacts bringing families together to share a hot meal and conversation. Operating a commercial kitchen is no small task. Some of the responsibilities include proper food storage using climate-controlled equipment and space, planning dietary menus, preparing and serving meals, food safety, sanitation, and caring for equipment that makes the operation possible,” said Nicole Bathgate, Operations Director, Dakota Woodlands.
Smart Care understands how important it is to ensure that kitchen equipment is running at optimal performance. Safety and equipment uptime are two essential elements that Smart Care embraces. They invest their time and expertise to ensure their customers’ investments are protected through preventative measures and first-time fixes. Dempsey, Radermacher and Elenbass suggested that DW could benefit from their company's equipment maintenance program.
On February 8, 2018, Dempsey and Radermacher were joined by District Manager, Marty Olson, and Service Manager, James Schaffer at DW’s facility to gain insight of the commercial kitchen equipment being used. At that time, DW learned firsthand of the expertise and the state of the art technology approach that Smart Care offers. Through Smart Care’s charitable giving, DW’s kitchen equipment is now on a semi-annual preventative maintenance schedule and serviced by knowledge and highly trained technicians.
On August 20, 2018, Bill Emory, CEO, and his team gave a warm welcome to Bromen and her team when visiting the St. Paul Smart Care headquarters. The two entities learned more about each other and how the partnership can grow. During the meeting Shelia Mason, Volunteer Coordinator for Dakota Woodlands expressed the need for volunteers to help with serving meals at the shelter, pick up food donations from community partnerships, and the shelter's back to school party. Smart Care employees jumped at the opportunity to offer their support. Olson stated, "Smart Care and DW are a good fit."
On August 23, 2018, Dempsey and team associates volunteered at DW’s back to school party. Christine Schmidt, Sr. Marketing Communication Specialist for Smart Care is working closely with Mason to schedule future dates for Smart Care employees to serve meals at the shelter and pickup weekly food donations. “It takes a community to serve the homeless. We are grateful for those that step-up to help those in need,” stated Bromen.
For more information about Smart Care Equipment Solutions, please visit their website https://smartcaresolutions.com
By Trusted Media Brands' The Family Handyman
On a steamy-hot afternoon in June, 11 employees from Trusted Media Brands’ The Family Handyman reroofed a shed and cleared weeds as part of their company’s Day of Caring initiative.
The Family Handyman is a do-it-yourself home improvement brand that produces a print magazine, special interest publications for the newsstand and books. They also support a dynamic website and have an active social media presence. The Family Handyman’s editorial office is in Eagan, with 25 employees onsite.
Trusted Media Brands, The Family Handyman’s parent company, was formerly The Reader’s Digest Association, with headquarters in New York. Since 2005, the company has promoted an annual Day of Caring during which employees are encouraged to participate in community service projects. Habitat for Humanity, Project for Pride in Living and Feed My Starving Children have all been recipients of TMBI’s generosity.
This year, The Family Handyman chose to partner with Dakota Woodlands. They worked with Nicole Bathgate, Operations Director, to select projects that needed to be done on the Dakota Woodlands grounds. Reroofing the shed and clearing an overgrown patch of land were projects the group thought they could accomplish in an afternoon.
Thanks to good planning, plenty of water and snacks, plus a big dose of DIY determination, the shed now has a new roof and the weedy patch is clear. This was a win-win for everyone involved.