Business & Economy

Opportunities to give and get help around Minnesota this holiday season

A woman sorts food in the back of an SUV.
Jennyffer Barrientos sorts through donated food in the back of her car before delivering it to families in the Northfield Public Schools system on Dec. 22, 2020.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Originally posted: Nov. 23

COVID-19 cases in Minnesota continue to spike as the holidays get closer. The pandemic is still affecting people statewide physically and financially.

Here is a list of nonprofits and organizations across the state in need of donations and offering help.


Minnesota organization GiveMN is a hub to search through thousands of nonprofits in the state. You can search their database any time to find a cause you’d like to donate to.

Second Harvest Heartland is the second largest food bank in the country. They provide various ways to find meals to fit specific needs all across the state. You can pick up at the food pantry or visit a dining site for prepared meals. They are looking for food and monetary donations as well as volunteers to sort and repackage food.

Whether you’re looking to help or trying to find volunteers, you may find some helpful resources on the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration’s contacts page.

Twin Cities Mutual Aid Project is a consolidated map of mutual aid sites around the state. There is a group of volunteers scanning the internet for organizations 12 hours a day, seven days a week. This tool can help folks not only find volunteer opportunities in their area but also services they might need.

Since March of 2020, Every Meal in Roseville has responded to the skyrocketing increase in food insecurity in their community as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They adapt food gap programs to get food to children and families who need it most. Every Meal is currently providing over 200,000 meals a month across 31 school districts. Donations are always needed, and people can also host online food drives.

If you volunteer at a food shelf that may need extra help responding to the pandemic, you may want to reach out to the Foundation for Essential Needs. They partner with food pantries around the state to help reshape the food shelf system to provide healthy and equitable food. There are also a variety of volunteer opportunities available on their website.

In Minneapolis, St. Paul

Volunteers of the South Minneapolis Meals on Wheels deliver full meals to elderly and disabled people who are unable to shop for groceries or have a difficult time putting together their meals. Meals on Wheels continues to deliver the meals in person using necessary PPE. They’re currently partnering with two fundraisers: Walk to End Hunger and Give to the Max. You can make a direct donation to either of the two fundraisers or directly to Meals on Wheels on their website.

Metro Meals on Wheels is currently working with the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation to match gifts toward their $90,000 Give to the Max Day goal. Your gift will help ensure all seniors in need of a meal are taken care of from now through the holidays. In addition to monetary donations they are looking for volunteers to help in the kitchen preparing meals or drivers to help deliver meals across the metro.

You can donate nonperishable foods and hygiene products to the Groveland Food Shelf in the Minneapolis area. Since the start of the pandemic, Groveland has been serving 2x the amount of visitors and are looking for volunteers to help out at the food pantry, make deliveries and pick up donated food.

The Union Park District Council is raising money for economic relief for residents of Union Park in St. Paul. If you’re interested in volunteering, they are looking for people to help clean up the neighborhood, enter data, write grants and help flyer the neighborhood to raise awareness of their upcoming events.  

The House of Charity in Minneapolis is asking for donations. Since the start of the pandemic, the expenses of keeping the shelter sanitary and afloat have taken a large toll. They recommend donating financially online and are asking for monetary, food and personal care item donations. 

Neighbors Inc. focuses on low-income communities in Dakota County and is asking for donations for their food shelf and their Clothes Closet. The Clothes Closet, their thrift store located in South St. Paul sells clothing, shoes, bedding, bath towels and kitchen items. You can bring your donations between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays to their contactless drop off location.

Project for Pride in Living provides help with young people experiencing homelessness, housing stability and career readiness for lower-income Minneapolis residents. They’re looking for support for their participants and programs by asking for in-kind donations. If you’re looking to get involved, check out some of their current open roles on their website.

Lutheran Social Services offers safe housing and food, hygiene, and housing supplies in St. Paul. They benefit most from donations of specific, requested items that they need and from cash donations. Check their website to find the specific items they’re looking for, by region. 

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is looking for folks to help out with homebuilding, home repair, and work in their warehouse. The organization has staff members working on building and repair projects and is taking monetary donations as it continues to provide help with housing during the pandemic.

Blood donations have also been essential during the pandemic. Right now, there is a critical need for type O and B negative blood types. You can schedule an appointment to donate blood or convalescent plasma at the Memorial Blood Center in St. Paul.

The Organic Oneness Food Pantry at the Baha'i Center of Minneapolis coordinates emergency food and supply response for neighbors in South Minneapolis. They serve 50 families a week and are in need of laundry and dish soap, hygiene and feminine products, diapers, formula and baby wipes.

Sanctuary Covenant Church hosts a drive-up food distribution the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. They are in need of diapers/pull-ups of all sizes, wipes, laundry detergent, and women’s products (pads preferred).

The Diaper Bank of Minnesota has been working to meet the growing needs of families resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. They can use donations of diapers or money and also have volunteer opportunities and information on hosting your own diaper drive.

Community Driven has been rescuing surplus food from local restaurants and groceries in the Twin Cities and — in partnership with food shelves — getting it into the hands of those who need it. They also accept monetary donations.

Jewish Family Service of St. Paul offers a variety of family and community services, including help for caregivers and those struggling with their mental health. They have volunteer opportunities, various ways to donate money and accept car donations — which are tax deductible.

Open Arms Minnesota connects people living with life-threatening illnesses to free, nutritious meals. Every November, they hold a Turkey Drive to help get Thanksgiving style meals to families. Individuals can start their own fundraiser to share with friends and family to support this effort.

Doing Good Together compiles a list of family-friendly volunteer opportunities around the Twin Cities every month. You can find their latest list on their website or subscribe to receive them by email. Many volunteer options can even be done at home.

Gichitwaa Kateri Catholic Church in south Minneapolis runs a food shelf, clothing closet for the homeless and other services targeted at helping local Indigenous families and individuals. They are currently holding a diaper drive to collect wipes, diaper rash cream, baby powder and unopened packages of diapers. As winter sets in they are also looking for donations of new, warm socks and new or gently used warm adult clothing.

In the Twin Cities suburbs

The Friends in Need Food Shelf is looking for volunteers to sort and stack donations and serve clients in Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Newport and Grey Cloud Island Township. 

The Ralph Reeder Food Shelf is asking for shoppers, drivers and other volunteers to help out during the busy holiday season. Check out their list of volunteer opportunities for all of the available options.

You can call The Open Door Pantry to schedule an appointment to pick up food in Eagan. The pantry is looking for food donations, specifically for fresh produce. They are also looking for volunteers to stock shelves, shop with clients and drive their Mobile Pantry.

Kids in Need Foundation helps teachers and students in under-resourced schools get the supplies that will fuel a full semester of active learning. You can help Kids in Need by donating money to go towards school supplies, host a school supply drive or apply for one of the organization’s open jobs opportunities. 

Mount Olivet Rolling Acres is a foundation focused on enhancing personal growth for people with disabilities by offering unique services and activities. If you’re interested in helping, Mount Olivet Rolling Acres has wishlists that you can find online with items for each of their current locations. 

If you live within the Independent School District 200 near Hastings, check out Hastings Family Service. This organization provides emergency and supportive needs to those who are struggling with food insecurity and homelessness. They are asking for donations of monetary gifts, food, personal care items, and brown paper grocery bags.

There are a variety of volunteer opportunities available at Help At Your Door, based in Golden Valley, to help seniors and individuals with disabilities maintain independence and continue living in their homes. You can be a volunteer personal driver, grocery helper, delivery assistant and more.

Substance Church in Spring Lake Park and downtown Minneapolis host food drives every Sunday for those who are experiencing food insecurity. They are asking for volunteers to help with sorting, packing and distributing food at the food drives.

Shakopee-based Esperanza focuses on serving youth and families from all walks of life including new immigrants, at-risk youth, and low-income families. They strive for a community who contributes all of their voices and skills for a better united community. They are taking monetary donations to help support these efforts.

VEAP (Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People) is a non-profit based in Bloomington that provides access to healthy food, social services and more. They are looking for volunteers to assist and schedule visitor appointments as well as volunteer drivers to deliver food to those who are without transportation.

Living Well Disability Services is asking for donations of gently used arts and crafts materials, books, DVDs and more for their residents. You can drop off your donations between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to their location in Mendota Heights.

If you are a senior living in Minnetonka and need help removing snow, Senior Community Services offers assistance with outdoor chores, housekeeping, minor repairs and safety installation. They are currently looking for volunteers who are over 16-years-old to shovel and blow snow for seniors.

STEP in St. Louis Park provides a variety of necessities to those in need. Their services include a food bank and emergency help with housing and transportation. They have several different ways to donate and volunteer during the holiday season.

CROSS serves families in need in several cities in the northwest metro area. They provide clothing, food and child focused services. They are currently seeking donations to their Give to the Max fundraiser that’s happening now.

Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf in Oakdale went from serving 4,500 people a month to 21,000 a month since the start of the pandemic. They provide drive-up services as well as mobile food shelves at some senior centers. Their satellite location, Today's Harvest, is open six days a week and offers perishable items. You can find a list of suggested donation items on their website as well as opportunities to volunteer.

Mission Outpost in Burnsville works with The Salvation Army to provide people in the south metro area with food, clothing and other essentials. They also run a dental clinic providing services to people who do not have dental insurance. They have several volunteer opportunities and accept donations.

Interfaith Outreach Cooperative Partners based in Plymouth provides a variety of services for families struggling financially. They also run a food shelf and accept money donations across their different efforts.

Southern Minnesota

Donors help Channel One Regional Food Bank in Rochester feed 11,800 people a month. They’re looking for volunteers to help pack emergency food kits and help sanitize their renovated food shelf.

Family Service Rochester provides a variety of services for families and children with welfare concerns. They’re currently looking for volunteers to deliver boxes of fresh food to older adults and persons with disabilities.

A volunteer-led nonprofit, Community Food Response in Rochester provides food for families on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They are in need of volunteers to drive to get the food from donors and for sorters to prepare the food for distribution.

The Echo Food Shelf in Mankato provides emergency assistance to people who need food in Blue Earth County and North Mankato. They are looking for both short-term and long-term volunteers. They also accept donations of food or money.

The Community Action Center provides food, housing, and basic needs to people living in Rice County. As needs have grown with the pandemic, they opened new food shelf locations in Northfield and Faribault. They provide mobile food distributions and have partnered with local farmers to acquire fresh produce. They’ve also broken ground on a housing project that addresses both homelessness and climate change in a shared community effort. They have several volunteer opportunities and ways to donate.

Northern Minnesota

In addition to monetary donations, Community Action Duluth has a variety of volunteering opportunities. Right now they’re looking for people who can help out as GED tutors on the subjects of math, grammar and reading comprehension. The organization provides resources and support to people overcoming economic, racial and cultural barriers.

Ely Area Food Shelf has an open callout for volunteers to help around their facilities. They are also taking monetary donations and are on the way to reaching a $10,000 donation goal. The food shelf is making delivery services available for people who are unable to leave their homes.

To the west, Great Plains Food Bank in Fargo, N.D., helps provide food for those in need across North Dakota and western Minnesota. They are looking for volunteers to help build boxes and prepare bags for special projects. They also need people to help out with their pop-up and mobile food services.

Central Minnesota

Big Lake Community Food Shelf is looking for food shelf volunteers as well as donations of food, money, cleaning supplies and personal care items. The organization helps connect local families with food, education resources and other local aid.

Feeding Area Children Together (FACT) in St. Cloud serve 510 students a week across three school districts. They’re in need of volunteers, monetary donations and also offer the option to sponsor a student for $5 per week or $180 per school year.

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