Chasing the tornado money

By Charles Hallman
Staff Writer

According to the Minneapolis Foundation website, the Minnesota Helps — North Minneapolis Recovery Fund awarded several grants to local agencies, ranging in size from $10,000 to $50,000 or more, to help Northside residents who were directly impacted by the May tornado. One agency, EMERGE Community Development, received three grants for almost $100,000.

A $19,834 grant was used to open a response call center, explains EMERGE President and CEO Mike Wynne. “We operated that call center in the first days after the storm,” he says, adding that $10,000 went toward an “emergency discretionary fund” to help approximately 200 EMERGE clients.

Ten youth and two adults were hired for its StreetWerks Youth Program through a $30,881 grant, continues Wynne. He adds that the third grant for $50,000 will be used to hire youth workers from the tornado-impacted areas this week.

The MSR also contacted 10 other agencies and organizations for an overview on how the Minnesota Helps grant money has been or is being used and an estimate of how many families or individuals have been assisted by the funding.

“We were committed to do work in North Minneapolis before the grant,” says Matthew Haugen of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, which received $50,000 to help “under-insured” homeowners to make repairs to damaged properties. “They are homeowners who had damage and had insurance, but the insurance won’t make them whole again in terms of putting their home back to what it was.

“They are going to need a roof [and] severe landscaping help because of uprooted trees or [damaged] sidewalks,” explains Haugen. “We already started working with some homeowners, and we are going to be identifying more families in the coming weeks and months.”

The money “will help us help more families, because we don’t know if someone is going to need $3,000 worth of help, or if they are going to need $25,000 worth of help,” adds Haugen.
“We had to have some funds to help [the tornado victims],” says Plymouth Christian Youth Center (PCYC) Executive Director Anne Long. “We’d have had to take it out of monies from something else” if PCYC hadn’t received a $35,000 grant. She believes over half of the 260 students PCYC regularly works with, either in their alternative school or after-school program, were impacted by the storm.

“We found out what the needs are and responded in time with these funds,” says Long. The grant monies help provide basic supplies and transportation for storm-affected families and help enroll additional students in their Summer Friends program, she says.

Second Harvest Heartland normally serves needy individuals and families in 41 state counties. The program received $31,701 to work with such Northside agencies as NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center to distribute food and address other basic needs of tornado-affected neighborhoods.

“We already are experiencing a hunger emergency,” Second Harvest spokesperson Joan Watkins says. “Our emergency resources already were stretched. The timing of the grant was crucial to provide assistance on the ground when needed.”

“We will be able to continue serving meals, dinners and food to the kids in the neighborhoods that were affected through the funding,” says Erin Carlin of the Twin Cities Boys and Girls Clubs, which received $30,435. “We also will be using the funds to extend services for kids looking for things to do to the end of August.”

“We helped over 5,000 families since the tornado,” reports Bishop Richard Howell of Shiloh International Temple, which received a $25,908 Minnesota Helps grant to provide basic needs assistance to families. “People need rent money, food money [and] clothes,” he says. The grant will also support a summer youth work program.

“We’ve been doing that every year out of our own pocket,” says Howell. “Ironically, we were not going to have a summer work program [this summer] because we couldn’t afford it unless these monies came in.”

Minneapolis Beacons Network provides after-school and summer programs throughout the city. The program received $35,000 to expand their annual youth enrichment program at four North Minneapolis locations into August, targeting the neighborhoods hardest hit by the tornado.
The organization, which partners with the YMCA, YWCA, Boys and Girls Clubs and the Minneapolis Public Schools, “has a real strong presence in North Minneapolis,” says program director Jenny Wright Collins. “We serve about 3,300 young people a year.”

Collins says the grant will allow them to keep their summer program going for an extra two weeks. “We were supposed to end at the end of July,” she noted. “We plan to serve 200 young people as well as do outreach for their families through our staff, youth workers and social workers. We can make sure that [the children] are re-enrolled and they have their back-to-school supplies that they need to get back on board for the school year.”

“We had 19 families in our buildings that had some level of damage to their unit or to their personal property,” notes Project for Pride in Living (PPL) President Steve Cramer. PPL used a $5,000 Minnesota Helps grant to provide emergency supplies, food and transportation as well as connecting persons to other available resources. “We wanted to have some resources… That meant some food assistance [and] some transportation assistance, replacing some bedding…a wide variety of things to help people get back to a normal life.

“We do not anticipate asking for more [funds],” continues Cramer. “We’ve got a lot of repair work to do, but we are using insurance proceeds to accomplish that.”

The MSR also contacted the following organizations that received Minnesota Helps grants: $20,000 to Jordan New Life HUB; $35,000 to Kwanzaa Community Church; two grants to Urban Homeworks totaling $60,000; $35,000 to Pillsbury United Communities; and $9,507 to World Vision. We had not received a response from these programs by press time.

…but where’s the money?

“The monies are very useful because now we are dealing with housing issues,” says Shiloh’s Howell. However, he told the MSR last week that his church has not as yet received any of its grant money. “Not just us at Shiloh,” he says, “but other organizations have not received theirs either. I understand the money is coming. I don’t know what’s holding it up.”

“We have not received any disbursement of cash as yet” said Northside Achievement Zone CEO Sondra Samuels in a phone message last week regarding a $35,000 grant. “The funding request was to support an emergency childcare tornado relief fund to provide scholarships for families impacted by the tornado that need access to quality full-time child care for the duration of the summer,” Samuels said.

Family Partnership Chief Operating Officer Diane Haulcy says she was told that their $21,600 grant will be coming soon. Her organization also expects a second grant — $25,000 from the March of Dimes “to support pregnant women or women with very young children that were affected by the tornado.

“We are excited that we will be able to serve the community” as a result of the two grants,” Haulcy adds. “Our plan for the money is to be able to address the mental health needs of families that were affected by the tornado.”

“I believe we have received the check,” says Collins of Beacons Network. “We haven’t spent any of it yet because our focus will be in August.”

The MSR called the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches for comment, but as of press time we had not received a response.

“We are going to make sure that as those funds are spent, we are going to report very accurately…and make sure that they go to the appropriate places and families,” pledges EMERGE’s Wynne. “We are going to make sure that it gets out to families that need it.”

For more information on the Minneapolis Beacons Network, call 612-371-8728; Family Partnership, 612-339-9109; Second Harvest Heartland, 651-484-5117; Shiloh International Temple, 612-302-1463; Northside Achievement Zone, 612-521-4405; Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities, 612-435-1900.

Underinsured Northside homeowners or anyone else seeking more information on how to buy a Habitat home in North Minneapolis can contact Habitat for Humanity at 612-331-4090.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.