We are beginning our “Season of Sharing” with Rachel Hickok, Director of Development at CEAP (Community Emergency Assistance Programs), as she tells us all about CEAP.
How did CEAP get started?
Rachel: “CEAP was founded in the early 1970s by a local woman, Madeleine Roche, who saw an increasing need for human services in our community. She gathered leaders in the community including local congregations, business leaders, and community volunteers to address the concerns of the community and develop solutions where people in need could rely on their neighbors for support and comfort during difficult times.”
Has CEAP always been a part of this community?
Rachel: “CEAP has always been based in the Brooklyn Center/Brooklyn Park community. We were founded on the idea that neighbors helping neighbors makes our community a better place to live, work, play, and visit. The vast majority of the people and businesses who support CEAP with their time and financial gifts are local. People here are kind and genuinely care about helping people during their times of struggle.”
But you’ve grown over the years and have expanded both your space and services, correct?
Rachel: “We moved into our new location in the Northwest Family Service Center in 2012 as a way to better serve our community. We have a much larger space that has allowed us to expand our programming and better address some of the co-existing challenges families face with hunger, including poor nutrition, transportation, housing and more. We’ve expanded our services to offer cooking classes, emergency rental assistance, and more. We also continue to offer programs such as Toys of Joy and Supplies for Success. Our offices are now located on a bus line, improving accessibility for families. In addition, by co-locating with Osseo School District and Hennepin County Health and Human Services, we can better collaborate and ensure families are getting their needs met in the easiest, most effective way possible.”
How has the community changed since you’ve been here? How has CEAP been a part of, or assisted with, that change?
Rachel: “The demographics of our community are rapidly changing, and the need for our services is growing. As a whole, our community is aging. Social security isn’t always enough for individuals to meet their needs, particularly as their medical needs rise. Our food often helps them stay in their homes. Our Meals on Wheels program goes even further to make sure people continue to feel connected to the community.”
“Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park are also more diverse than ever. We have people from all walks of life – long-time residents living alongside new Americans, hard-working blue collar families neighboring active, retired volunteers. In response, we continue to ask people from all walks of life to support our efforts with their time and financial gifts. We also make sure our food requests include pantry staples that transcend cultures such as cooking oil, rice, and beans, as well as culturally-specific foods like masa, fish sauce, and fufu flour. A few years ago, we transitioned our food shelf to a full-choice model, which allows families to pick foods that are most appropriate for them. It reduces waste and provides comfort during a difficult time.”
What are some of your biggest events?
Rachel: “CEAP is gearing up for the biggest event of the season – our Toys of Joy program. We provide toys and holiday goodies to 1,000 local families that would not otherwise have the means to celebrate the season. We rely on volunteers to register families, sort toys, and even help families shop! It’s a fun event, and we’re very excited to bring it back.”
“In March, CEAP will again participate in Minnesota FoodShare. This annual event brings together our entire community in support of our food shelf. We ask local businesses and individuals to support our food and fund drives, and we’ll be hosting special events to further these efforts. Details coming soon!”
How can people get involved and help?
Rachel: “CEAP serves over 21,000 people each year with only 19 people on staff, so we are incredibly reliant on volunteers to help us fulfill our mission. Volunteers can help out with special events such as Toys of Joy or our Meals for Minds school program, or they could have a regular shift in one of our programs. We need people to deliver meals for Meals on Wheels, assist clients in our food shelf, sort and pack food, and so much more. We can even take corporate groups! We welcome groups to include a volunteering activity as a part of their team building or meeting. To volunteer, you can fill out a volunteer application on our website at www.ceap.org/volunteer or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Rachel: “We are incredibly grateful for the support of the community. We wish we could introduce every donor to the lives they’ve touched:
The little girl who skipped out of our building with her new pink backpack filled with donated school supplies, excited about her first day of kindergarten. The tearful thank you on her mom’s face.
The quiet, sweet woman who looks forward to seeing her Meals on Wheels driver and sharing a conversation about the latest community happenings.
The father who is working multiple jobs to make ends meet, but can’t quite make it. He’s frustrated at his situation, but hopeful that soon he will not need our help.”
CEAP is a valued member of our community that improves the lives of everyone that seeks them out. But they can’t do what they do, without you. During Season of Sharing, just click “Like” on our dedicated Facebook status on Tuesday, December 13th and we will donate $1 to their organization, up to $750. Plus, it earns you an entry in the prize giveaway for the day! Click here for all the details!