Telling Our Story
Since February 2011, The REACH, a resource center supporting youth ages 16-24 experiencing homelessness, has served over 5,200 unduplicated youth in a nine-county region. The center provides critical basic necessities, housing options, access to support services, and independent living skills; however, it strives to offer something intangible but just as important—a feeling of belonging.
“Give a child the gift of reading, and they will have a lifetime of learning.” George Peterson and his daughter, Kristin Cain, are lifelong Mankato residents who are passionate about reading. Although publishing and selling books has supported the livelihoods of four generations of Petersons, their mission is what drives them: achieving 100% literacy.
A simple conversation amongst friends sparked an initiative to support local teachers and the children they serve. In the fall of 2020, Shannon Sinning was visiting with friends when he and Anna Reichel stumbled upon a conversation regarding the obstacles teachers in our district faced. “I knew our teachers were struggling because of the barriers brought on by the pandemic, but I had no clue how much money out of their own pockets they used to help kids,” said Sinning.
Just over a year ago, when Melissa Enter began her new job as a Day Service Specialist at MRCI, one of her goals was to make sure those she served felt welcomed into the world around them. In her experience, she noticed that people with disabilities would often look down—at their feet or the ground—as they had been told to stay out of people’s way throughout their lives. She joined MRCI because she knew they wanted something different than that.
It is common to hear whistles blowing and fans cheering at Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Blakeslee Stadium, the home of Maverick Football. But in the middle of January? Now that was a first. Such was the case when the puck dropped during Hockey Day Minnesota 2022 at the temporary outdoor ice rink sitting atop Blakeslee Field. Hockey players and fans from across the state gathered to watch, cheer and play during the State of Hockey’s annual celebration of their favorite sport.
On any given day, Natasha Frost is taking orders, catering events or determining new menu items for her Mankato restaurant, Wooden Spoon. But one day in the spring of 2019, plans changed after receiving a phone call from Sheri Sander-Silva, the Executive Director of Feeding Our Communities Partners (FOCP).
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the Mankato area, local nonprofits felt its effects immediately. Programs shut down, government funding was shifted or cut, and the uncertainty forced many nonprofits to question their future and how best to serve their constituents.
On any given day, it’s nearly impossible to find Mohamed Abdulkadir at home. He begins his workdays at MRCI in Mankato, where he fulfills his duties as a Refugee Employment Specialist, connecting refugees with employers and other resources in the region.
Women's Giving Circle
WE WANTED WOMEN TO FEEL THE POWER OF GIVING. “And to think it all began over a cup of coffee.” This is the tagline on the emails from Women’s Giving Circle (WGC) leaders Laura Stevens and Melanie VanRoekel, and it speaks to the power of a single conversation between two friends looking to make a difference in their community.
Donor Advised Funds
It’s not every day you drive by 135-foot-tall children. Unless you’re a Mankato resident, that is. The Ardent Mills grain silos in downtown Mankato, home to the newest of internationally-renowned artist Guido van Helten’s enormous original murals, feature the likenesses of elementary school students. This way-larger-than-life masterpiece is a celebration of Mankato’s past, present and future; it features local children and adults learning, playing and dancing at the Mahkato Mdewakanton Association Powwow.
A YEAR AGO, “PPE” MEANT NOTHING TO A LOT OF PEOPLE. Today, personal protective equipment (PPE) is required for all Minnesotans in public spaces, and every day tens of thousands of Mankato area residents don reusable face masks they received for free, thanks to the work of Priscilla Roos and Get Mankato PPE. “When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the U.S., I was glued to the television, horrified, for two solid weeks. Finally, I said, ‘That’s enough. I need to do something.’ But I wasn’t sure where to start,” Roos said.
Special Projects & Programs
Nancy Zallek never anticipated her job would involve endless conversations about plumbing, flooring and electrical wiring. It wasn’t really in her job description, but that’s just what happens when you build and later expand upon a successful nonprofit center. “I now know more about HVAC than I ever cared to,” Zallek said, laughing. “But it’s all for a great cause.”