It has been a busy two years at local nonprofit CROSS.
CROSS is the primary provider of food, clothing, seasonal children’s programs, Peace of Mind Housing assistance, and Meals on Wheels to families and individuals in need living in the communities of Corcoran, Dayton, Maple Grove, Osseo, Rogers and west Champlin. It has undergone program and facility transitions to increase service to existing families and to reach out to more neighbors in need.
“CROSS board, staff, and volunteers spent much time during the first six months of 2013, discussing how we could make a greater impact with people in need in our community. We talked about what areas were working, what areas could be re-adjusted to better serve the needs of families and individuals coming to CROSS for help. When changes started taking place in July 2013, everyone began to take notice,” CROSS Executive Director Elizabeth Johnson said. “The walls had bright colors, the food program changed to client choice, the clothing program became easier to manage, and holiday, school supplies, and birthday programs were adjusted to become less labor intensive for the staff and volunteers, and more easily accessed by families.”
One of the resounding catalysts for the changes came in the form of a $50,000 grant awarded in July 2013 to CROSS Services by Hunger-Free Minnesota Capacity Building Grant.
“CROSS Services is filling a real need in NW Hennepin County in communities that could easily be overlooked,” Hunger-Free Minnesota Chief Campaign Officer Ellie Lucas said. “CROSS is doing exemplary work in the fight against hunger — it has a great story to tell. We are more than pleased to help advance such a worthy organization.”
The Hunger-Free Minnesota Capacity Building Grant was focused on helping to address the emergency food system in the community, specifically increasing:
• Awareness of CROSS resources in the community
• Food shelf usage by improving space and food delivery process
• Senior nutrition support by adding food choice and produce delivery to existing CROSS senior food programs
• Missing meals for children by expanding summer food snack program to include weekend food for children during school year
• Alignment of CROSS vision with the volunteers, boards, and staff
The grant, combined with renewed internal and community enthusiasm for growth and outreach opportunities, lead to several changes at CROSS throughout 2013 and 2014. Community partners essential to the several facility-related outcomes at CROSS Services included Integrated Governance Solutions, Mobile Hope, William Beaupre Studio, Maple Grove Senior High, Project Leadership Services, Parish Community of St. Joseph youth, St. Joseph the Worker Church, Maple Grove and Rogers Farmers Market, city of Maple Grove, city of Rogers, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, PRIME Design, Spangler Design Team, Hunger Solutions, Open Your Heart for Hungry & Homeless, Allina Health, Northwest Hennepin Human Service Council, EMC Foundation, Osseo Fire Department Relief Fund, Rogers Rotary, Crosswinds Church construction volunteers, Maple Grove Evangelical Church construction volunteers, Decimet Co., AME Concrete, and many others.
“Many expressed how positive they felt about the upbeat look and new flow of the CROSS environment. The changes in the programs resulted in many positive comments from families such as, the blessing of choosing their own groceries, being able to pick up needed schools supplies during their food visit versus having to schedule another trip to CROSS, and how much they enjoyed the opportunity to talk privately with a CROSS staff person about their situation,” Johnson said. “Our agency onsite partners Hennepin County, Jewish Vocational Services, and CAPSH, also were grateful for the new way at CROSS as they began to increase in client meetings.”
As a result of Hunger Free funding and community partnerships, CROSS Services made the following changes and enhancements onsite:
• Transformation of the food shelf distribution system from a volunteer bagging the food to a client choosing their food.
• Expansion of the cooler and increased shelving improved flow of shopping and increased space for produce donations.
• Partnering with the local farmer markets added the opportunity for clients to visit the food shelf additional times throughout the month for produce, bread, and other perishable food items.
• Movement of the food shelf into the warehouse, opening up a larger shopping area for clients.
• Adding a case management visit for clients coming to the food shelf.
• Movement of a free clothing program into a dignified, low-cost option for local families.
• Creation of a partnership with Mobile Hope in Corcoran as they worked to develop a community center for the city of Corcoran on their site, the Maple Hills Estate Mobile Home Park.
• Addition of a weekend and summer food outreach to area children through the Weekend Food for Kids Program.
• Expansion of food rescue opportunities through new partnerships with the Maple Grove Farmers Market, Rogers Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods Maple Grove.
• A new logo and messaging were developed “Helping Hand Reaching Out.”
• Creation of a waiting room with library for clients, a new conference room, and the addition of four administrative offices — all with volunteer work by groups such as Maple Grove Evangelical Free, Crosswinds Men’s Group, Custom Conduit Electrical, and Home Depot volunteers.
• Installation of an exit door ramp by volunteers, with material donated by Home Depot and AME Concrete Co. and the railing manufactured and installed by local company Decimet at no cost to CROSS.
• Community outreach continues to grow through these and other new partnership opportunities.
“The feedback, collaboration, and support from our board, volunteers, clients, community partners, donors, and staff have been amazing,” Johnson said. “Financial donations increased 50 percent over the previous summer  and food donations increased 100,000 pounds over the previous year and to-date donations of food and funding continues to increase. The positive impact on the families that benefit from these changes is hard to measure, but when people come in the front door scared and discouraged and leave with a hopeful smile, we know all these efforts have hit the target we aimed for…compassion, dignity, and great hope for the future.”
CROSS has been operating for nearly four decades and serves more than 600 families each month at its Rogers location. In addition, through partnerships and outreach, CROSS provides food to more than 5,000 people each month. For more information on programs, volunteer and community partnership opportunities, contact CROSS at 763-425-1050 or visit the website at www.CROSSservices.org.