On the second and fourth Wednesday afternoons of the month since July, folks have put on masks and gathered outside the Bossen Park Apartments in Nokomis East. The 50 apartment buildings of various sizes there house about 1,200 people, but anyone in the community is welcome to attend these food give-away and resource sharing events hosted by the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association (NENA).
NENA Executive Director Becky Timm said, “We usually have a very busy spring, summer, and fall filled with community activities, but COVID-19 threw a huge wrench into our plans. When we hosted that first event in July at Bossen, I almost cried. We hadn’t been able to do any work outside in the community since the pandemic hit in March.”
The Met Council has identified the Bossen area as a “racially concentrated area of poverty.” NENA has been working alongside the residents there for more 10 years. Timm said, “When COVID-19 hit, we knew there were going to be increased short and long-term needs for residents.”
The number one need, then and now, is food. People are hungry, and money is in short supply.
Through a partnership with the Minnehaha Food Shelf and Second Harvest Heartland, NENA has been able to purchase food at reduced cost and distribute it for free at these outdoor events.
Previous gatherings have really run the gamut, according to Timm. She said, “We have hosted in 94 degree heat, freezing cold, rain, and wind.”
There are three more events scheduled for this year, regardless of weather: on Nov. 11, Nov. 25, and Dec. 16 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. Gatherings take place at 5734 Sander Dr. Bowing to the inevitable forces of winter, there are no gatherings scheduled for January and February at this time.
Again, anyone may attend and there are no questions asked. One of the imperatives of the program is to provide service with dignity. NENA received a CARES ACT grant from Hennepin County, and funding support through the city of Minneapolis Health Department and the Headwaters Foundation to help with delivery of this program. NENA also raised over $5,000 donations from the community this summer.
A recent Food Truck Rally hosted by NENA raised $1,500 in funds for another new initiative called Neighbors Connecting to Neighbors. NENA staff are grateful to the Nokomis East community for once again stepping up to the challenge of caring for neighbors.
There will be on-going efforts to build this solidarity fund that all Nokomis East residents can apply for. "There are many unmet needs that do not fall into the parameters of existing COVID-19 relief programs," according to Timm. Neighbors Connecting to Neighbors is an effort to help meet some of those needs with dignity and love.
Families, couples, and individuals will be eligible to apply for assistance through this first-come, first-served project. People seeking assistance will be paired with volunteer neighbor-connectors to learn about their specific needs, and how the solidarity fund can be used to meet them.
Timm said, “We hope that this program will foster relationships, in addition to passing out needed goods. What might some of those goods look like? A winter coat or boots, baby formula, gift cards to stores to access culturally specific needs.
“NENA staff members are very aware of the imbalance of resources in our neighborhood, and the racial injustice that is woven into that. We hope that these relationships will continue to grow beyond the scope of the program; that it really can be about neighbors connecting to neighbors in a meaningful way.”
Visit www.nokomiseast.org for more information about either the food distribution events or Neighbors Connecting to Neighbors.
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