Take a few minutes to get to know our new Executive Director, Jennifer Harrison!
By Dakota Woodlands Representative
This week brought a wonderful surprise to Dakota Woodlands. Not only was the weather beautiful with sunshine and cool temperatures of 63 degrees, we had a special visitor from Chef Lucas Pizza – serving over 31 pizzas to residents and staff! Chef Lucas is no stranger to DW. We first met Lucas Hobbs in 2016, when he was 13 years old. Chef Lucas showed up at DW with a food truck and served hot meals to the people living and working at our organization. At the time, we learned that Chef Lucas had gone through a battle with cancer and that he wanted to give back to the community that helped him put the cancer in remission. With the help of his parents and the Minnesota Food Truck Association, Chef Lucas could make his dream a reality, by sharing his passion for cooking and serving good food to the community he so loves. This mixed with his determination is what it took to grow his vision to what it is today. Now 18 years old, Chef Lucas has launched the Chef Lucas Pizza food truck to help serve that mission by bringing delicious hot and fresh pizza directly to the Minneapolis community. His 501(c)(3) charity Chef Lucas Food has served thousands of meals across the country in that effort. To learn more about this amazing individual, please visit https://www.cheflucaspizza.com/.
A MESSAGE FROM OUR BOARD CHAIR, STEVE ZWEBER
On behalf of the board of directors, I am happy to announce that we’ve selected Jennifer Harrison to be the new Executive Director of Dakota Woodlands. The board is grateful for Beth Bromen, who has led Dakota Woodlands for more than a decade, but has planned to retire this year. Beth is leaving Dakota Woodlands financially and operationally stable. On this firm foundation, we are excited to grow into the future under Jennifer’s leadership.
Jennifer’s appointment comes at the end of a thorough recruitment process in which we sought a skilled nonprofit leader with a passion for serving families and who has a welcoming, inclusive style.
She will begin her leadership role effective June 14. She will work through a successful
transition with Beth throughout the month of June.
Jennifer has more than 16 years of experience working in nonprofit organizations, most
recently as the Development and Communications Director at the Greater Minneapolis Crisis
Nursery. Throughout her career she has advanced through various nonprofit organizations in
the Twin Cities including human service organizations helping individuals and families in crisis
such as Episcopal Community Services, Emerge Community Development and the Greater
Minneapolis Crisis Nursery. At each of these organizations, she sat on the leadership team, was involved in strategic planning and organizational management decisions, and worked closely with the board of directors and staff.
Jennifer is a Certified Fundraising Executive, and holds a Masters of Nonprofit Management
from Hamline University.
In her free time she enjoys getting outside with her dog, Jake, exploring local parks and trails,
running, reading, and gardening. She makes her home in Dakota County.
"I am so thrilled for the opportunity to work alongside the staff and volunteers at Dakota
Woodlands to support homeless families on their journey to independence,” Jennifer said.
Please join us in welcoming Jennifer to Dakota Woodlands!
Steve Zweber, Board Chair
MESSAGE FROM OUR VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR, BETH BURNETT
April is a National Volunteer Month and we want to give special recognition for all of the hard work that you do around our building and community and to say "THANK YOU"! We are so grateful to have a solid group of regular volunteers who show up every week to get things done as well as volunteers who may come for a one shift or a few shifts before moving on. Both types of volunteers are important to the ongoing work at Dakota Woodlands.
This past year has looked a little different for many of our volunteers, as our needs changed. I have been so impressed by the willingness to 'jump' in and help when needed as well as the flexibility to make changes. Many tasks that volunteers do often go unnoticed by residents and families due to you coming and going without anyone seeing you. However, this unseen magic is what makes the stays better for all the families.
As we look forward to the future, I am excited to see where this year goes and the positive impact that all of our volunteers will have! This month we are celebrating YOU!
On behalf of Dakota Woodlands' community, THANK YOU all for your help this year!
Dakota Woodlands (DW) and Nicole Bathgate, Deputy Executive for DW, are honored to be funded by Target Corporation to virtually participate in New Strategies, an advanced online training program conducted over four consecutive Wednesdays from March 3 - 24 by Georgetown University’s Business for Impact. Bathgate will join a class of 64 nonprofit executives from around the country to participate in New Strategies’ Symposium specifically designed to help nonprofits increase and diversify their revenue streams.
Executives will learn from leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropy fields, Georgetown business school faculty and each other on topics ranging from cause marketing, earned revenue, using predictive analytics to increase individual giving levels, deferred and major gift funding options, virtual fund raising, alliances and mergers and more. Ongoing access to the expert speakers and networking among the nonprofit executives is a hallmark of New Strategies.
There is no application to apply to New Strategies, so being named by Target Corporation is itself an honor. Only those nonprofits funded by a corporation or foundation are invited to participate in the program and only after being approved by New Strategies.
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.
Dakota Woodlands Representative (Nicole Bathgate)