Community Support Center to host annual “Walk a Mile” fundraiser


The Community Support Center’s annual “Walk a Mile” fundraiser will take place on Sunday, July 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Silver View Park, located at the intersection of County Road I and Silver Lake Road in Mounds View. (courtesy of Community Support Center)

Residents wishing to participate in the walk can sign up that morning at the park. There’s no set distance, participants can do as many miles as they choose. For each mile walked, the church of their choice will receive credit for a $10 donation to the center. (courtesy of Community Support Center)

Working out of a single room in the Faith Christian Reformed Church in New Brighton, the Community Support Center helps area residents facing evictions, power shut-offs and other financial emergencies get back on their feet and plan for the future.

Initially started by a group of local pastors, the tucked-away neighborhood resource serves participants from Arden Hills, Mounds View, New Brighton, North Oaks and Shoreview. 

On Sunday, July 28, residents of the north metro and beyond can “walk a mile” in neighbors’ shoes by participating in the center’s annual fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Silver View Park in Mounds View.

The center has spent the last few months raising funds from area churches, as well as organizations and individuals, and the money is currently grouped together in one anonymous pool. 

 

Walkers at the July 28 fundraiser can choose which church they would like to represent, and for every mile they walk, that church will receive credit for $10 worth of the overall donation pool to the center. There’s no set distance, participants can walk as much or as little as they want. 

The center’s board chair, Iris McGinnis, jokingly calls it “the silliest game ever heard of.” Still, she says, walkers enjoy the friendly competition, and the event has gotten bigger and bigger over the last decade. 

Last year, she estimates there were about 400 walkers, a dip from previous years because it was the fundraiser’s first time in its new location at Silver View Park. Still, participants walked enough miles to allocate over $12,000 in donations. 

Walkers are also asked at the event if they would like to make an additional donation to the center themselves, which is completely optional. 

 

History of the center

The Community Support Center has evolved since being founded in 2004, from a strictly philanthropic effort to a more holistic, long-term assistance model.  

The nonprofit was started by a group of local pastors who decided to coordinate their individual help efforts. They pooled resources and raised funds, working with local nonprofits to distribute the money to those in need. 

“[By 2012], most of those pastors had moved on,” explains McGinnis. “A different group of pastors got together and said, ‘we don’t think it’s sufficient to be handing out money when people need help. We would like to work more long-term with them and help these people get on their feet.’”

Since then, the center has evolved into a host of volunteers and a full-time director, Karen Meyer, who are able to give ongoing financial and career coaching to residents after helping them through that initial financial hurdle.

 

Long-term guidance

Community members applying to the center for help go through a two-hour screening process where they show that, if they receive financial assistance from the center, they’ll be able to stabilize and improve their long-term situation. 

At any given point, the nonprofit serves roughly 16 to 20 participants, according to McGinnis. She estimates that about half are white and everyone varies in age, although demographics have changed over the years. 

“Our community has gone upscale in recent years. Many of the families that we would have helped before are no longer there,” she explains. She says many have been forced out of the area due to rising rents. 

Almost all of the center’s cities have seen sharp increases in the amount of cost-burdened renter households in the last decade. A “cost-burdened” household is one in which over a third of its income is going toward housing costs, a benchmark that was established by the United States National Housing Act.

Vacancy rates in the area are also consistently low, meaning landlords have more freedom to increase rent, according to Meyer. 

Additionally, the area’s population is aging, leaving many who are no longer able to take care of their home, unable to find a rental nearby. “We are seeing a lot more seniors,” says McGinnis. “Especially newly retired seniors who don’t have any savings and are confronted with resizing their budgets.”

 

Creating a support system 

On average, McGinnis estimates that clients stay with the center for a year or two, and many keep in touch loosely after that. “We get to know them pretty well,” she says. “Many of them lack family support or don’t have a good network.”

Being part of a participant’s support system means helping with budgeting and weak spots in that person’s habits, while also providing encouragement. McGinnis says the center’s volunteers are heavily invested in the success of its clients and that when a participant gets rejected from a job, it hits everyone hard.  

But then, she says, Meyer and her team of volunteers will coach participants in casting a wider net the next time around. 

Residents interested in joining this team of volunteers, or learning more about the center’s work, can visit www.communitysupportcenter.org or attend the fundraiser later this month.

 

Fundraiser details

Those wishing to join the walk can show up at Silver View Park, located at the intersection of County Road I and Silver Lake Road in Mounds View, on July 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. No preregistration is required and everyone who donates at the door is entered to win prizes donated by local businesses. 

Residents can also visit the Dairy Queen located at 409 Old Highway 8 NW in New Brighton any time on July 28, and have 10% of their bill go to the Community Support Center. 

 

—Bridget Kranz can be reached at bkranz@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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