The Minnesota Department of Human Services has announced the winners of its Circle of Excellence awards, which recognize organizations that have partnered with DHS and done an exemplary job of providing food, shelter and other assistance to Minnesotans in need. Many of the winners serve Minnesotans with disabilities.
“These six organizations have provided exceptional service to Minnesotans in need of assistance, which is especially remarkable during this extraordinarily difficult year,” said Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “They stand out not just for clearly meeting the Circle of Excellence Award criteria, but for their unwavering commitment to making a positive difference in communities across our state.”
Awards will be presented in the weeks ahead. The winners:
American Indian Community Development Corporation, Minneapolis, has done exemplary work in providing services and protection to the American Indian community, businesses and the homeless encampments in South Minneapolis, particularly in response to the pandemic. New initiatives included an overnight drop-in center; a hygiene services area to provide showers, food, supplies and a point of outreach; a 50-bed, 24-hour emergency shelter; and a 20-bed permanent supportive housing facility.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud has had to change its model for providing low-cost nutritious meal options for older adults in Central Minnesota during the pandemic. By incorporating frozen foods, developing pop-up sites and partnering with food shelves, the Senior Dining Program more than tripled its capacity and has been able to prepare and deliver about 91,000 meals per month (up from 26,000 meals a month in 2019).
CHUM (formerly known as Churches United in Ministry) provides shelter, food and assistance to people experiencing homelessness in St. Louis County. Open 365 days a year, it has 79 beds in a congregate shelter, six apartments for families and a drop-in center. CHUM allows people under the influence to stay at the shelter, welcomes companion animals and provides tele-health and tele-court services. Its food shelf distributes more than 600 five-day food packages a month.
FamilyWise, Minneapolis, educates, empowers and enriches families who are struggling with poverty, substance abuse, mental health issues, homelessness and domestic violence. When the pandemic hit, FamilyWise had to overhaul its operations. Within two weeks, it had converted its in-person visitation, parent education and coaching services to virtual formats to ensure families continued to receive critical services.
Olmsted County Housing and Redevelopment Authority developed contingency plans and partnerships to address unsheltered homelessness when the pandemic forced the closure of shelters in Olmsted County. The county’s Housing Stability Team partnered with the Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota and the City of Rochester’s library staff to open a day center and opened a nighttime shelter at the Mayo Civic Center. Among other things, their efforts led to housing more than 120 homeless individuals and the creation of 27 units of transitional housing.
United Community Action Partnership, Marshall, works to eliminate poverty and support families in southwest Minnesota. UCAP quickly responded to COVID-19 this spring by offering its income tax assistance virtually and using its community transit service to deliver food to seniors and others facing barriers to leaving their homes. It also stepped up to meet the need for childcare by reopening some of its Head Start sites in June.
The Circle of Excellence Awards are in their ninth year. Winners were selected based on how well they met the following award criteria:
- Supports the DHS mission to help people meet their basic needs so they can live in dignity and achieve their highest potential.
- Contributes to current DHS goals and priority projects.
- Demonstrates best practices.
- Achieves results that impact clients.
- Partners with others in the human services system.
Special consideration was given this year to organizations that provided exceptional service in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.