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Joining Together to Serve in North Minneapolis

By Brian McNeill, Dignity/Twin Cities

North Minneapolis is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota. Historically the home of communities of colors, it has a rich history of heroic individuals who have struggled against the racism, violence, and poverty that disproportionately afflicts the area. One of those heroes is Lorraine Smaller.

About five years ago, seeing the children in her community suffering without the structure of school and the support of school meals during the summer, Lorraine, with the help of Jennie Downey, a member of Dignity/Twin Cities, decided to do something about it. Together they began finding food for meals and bringing it to the children of the neighborhood. Dignity/ Twin Cities assisted, in a small way, by providing $50.00 of seed money and a cooler, which, with refrigeration, allowed the group to start receiving some milk and sandwiches from the Minneapolis Public Schools’ kitchen. The children and their grandmothers often had nothing else to eat.

Recognizing the need to provide food for the soul as well as the body, Lorraine used her knowledge of theater to provide activities, such as games and athletics, as well as entertainment for the children, ages 6 to 15. At the end of the summer, “Lorraine’s Kids” would present a non-competitive talent show at North High School.

The summer program has evolved into an after school program called We Care which provides academic enrichment and performing arts experiences. We Care currently has 50 children enrolled. Lorraine has been able to access help from tutors at the University of Minnesota, and found space at the Oak Park Community Center where the children also benefit from health and dance classes.

During DignityUSA’s national convention in Minneapolis this summer, July 4-7, we’ll have an opportunity to participate in this great work. We’re planning a picnic at Farwell Park the afternoon of Friday, July 5, for the We Care children and their family members. Volunteers from the Convention will be able to help prepare, serve, and clean up.

If you want to be part of this great effort serving the children of the Northside, please sign-up for “Breaking Bread” when you register for the Convention at http://conv2013.dignityusa.org/. Please also consider helping to underwrite this activity and visit the sponsorship page to make a gift.