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Local Nonprofits Helping to Build Livable Communities

Livable communities aren’t created in a vacuum. They take planning, intention and contributing members to make them viable and vibrant. It’s not just security, affordable housing and transportation that contribute to livable communities, but also walkability, nature reserves and access to health and wellness resources.

In many communities in Minnesota we’re seeing business owners, nonprofits, government officials and community members come together in thoughtful and engaging ways to make their communities more welcoming and resilient. There are many such efforts happening right here in Minneapolis.

In this article we’re introducing three different nonprofit organizations that are helping to enrich our local community by offering access to services and activities that a livable community needs to thrive.

George Wellbeing Center

The George Wellbeing Center (GWC) was created by a grant from the George Family Foundation to be an integral part of the new YMCA at Gaviidae Common that opened in 2018. GWC’s 3,500-square-foot center is contained on the second floor and is open to both Y members and nonmembers.

GWC provides evidence-based integrative health and healing (IHH) practices shown to reduce stress, promote healing and improve health outcomes. Through the GWC, individuals and families interested in fostering better health can access lifestyle and nutritional counseling, massage therapy, reiki, aromatherapy, meditation, light therapy, tai chi, yoga, acupuncture and more in its four treatment rooms.

“The George Wellbeing Center brings wellness techniques and resources to people outside of the traditional healthcare system who might not otherwise have access to them,” states Penny George, board chair, George Family Foundation, who advised the YMCA team on the center.

There is a sliding scale fee based on the client’s ability to pay in order that the treatments and services may be available to everyone. Services at the center generally range from $30 to $95, depending on the length of session.

The center builds off the leadership role George and the George Family Foundation have played over the past two decades in advancing the principles of IHH locally and nationally. From co-founding the Penny George Institute at Allina Health, the largest integrative medicine program within a healthcare system in the U.S., to underwriting programs that fund culturally significant healing practices at the grassroots level through its Catalyst Initiative, George has helped to transform health care. Additionally, since 1994 the George Family Foundation has provided more than $17 million to support programs that promote IHH, its largest funding area. 

Fishing for Life

Founded in 2004, Fishing for Life (FFL) has spent more than a decade serving kids, families and communities through fishing and outdoor programs. This faith-based nonprofit creates fishing and other outdoor programs and events to initiate relationships with kids, families and communities throughout Minnesota.

FFL uses hands-on fishing events and innovative programs to impact the lives of at-risk youth and families in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. One such event is called Reel ‘Em In. Every April and May, corporate partners collect thousands of pieces of used fishing equipment which is then refurbished by over 300 volunteers in the metro. The refurbished rods, reels, tackle and tackle boxes are then distributed at no cost to organizations throughout the U.S. that work with children. This effort not only encourages kids to enjoy the great outdoors, but it also satisfies their commitment to recycling by keeping these items out of the landfill.

Other programs range from customized youth and family events to men's groups, wounded warrior support and more. The Mentorship Program connects the best of their volunteers with children in need including inner city youth, youth from single-parent families, and military families/kids who’ve lost a parent or whose parent has been incapacitated due to military service. The mentors work one-on-one with a child and commit to taking them to 15 to 20 outings per year. There is currently room for seven more youths to join the program. “Our goal is to provide our mentees with outdoor programming to encourage healthy lifestyles and build relationships that foster trust and provide guidance for kids who may lack these things,” states Executive Director Tom Goodrich. “This is where the great outdoors                                                                                    meets the great commission.”

The Good Acre

The Good Acre mission is to connect and strengthen farmers, food makers and communities through good food. Funded in part by the Pohlad Family Foundation, The Good Acre strives "to enhance how food is grown and shared in the Twin Cities region, to improve marketplace opportunities for diverse independent farmers and to increase access for all consumers to healthy, locally grown fresh produce,” shares Lindsay Pohlad.

As a food hub, The Good Acre provides support to growers with the infrastructure necessary to wash, process and store produce fresh from the field. They also secure new wholesale markets including Twin Cities public schools that use the fresh produce in lunches for students. An important aspect of the program is the training they provide to the Nutrition Services Staff at the schools in developing healthy recipes that kids enjoy.

The Good Acre offers commercial kitchen space for small food businesses to rent the space by the hour, making it affordable as they grow their business. There are currently 15 makers renting the space who also commit to sourcing their ingredients from local growers.

Now in its second year, Maker to Market is a food accelerator program for entrepreneurs wanting to turn their ideas into market-ready products. The Good Acre provides commercial kitchen and food storage space, business and marketing training, and guidance in sourcing local ingredients. Their program partner, Lakewinds Food Co-op, then provides guaranteed retail space for six months which helps the entrepreneurs build their brands and provides customers with unique and delicious new food items.

"With our farm to school training, grower support services, cooking classes, farm share program, commercial kitchen rental, warehousing, and the operation of a robust wholesale program, we strive to be an example of what an innovative food hub can do," says Nikki Warner, marketing manager.

Livable communities are reliant on nonprofit organizations like these that find ways to lift the community by creating support and events to build communities that are economically, environmentally and socially resilient.

George Wellbeing Center is located at 651 Nicollet Ave. #200, Minneapolis. For more information, visit ymcamn.org.

For more information on Fishing for Life, call 612-987-5466, email Tom@FishingForLife.org or visit FishingForLife.org. 

The Good Acre is located at 1790 Larpenteur Ave. West., Falcon Heights. For more information, visit TheGoodAcre.org.

For more information on Maker to Market, visit MakerToMarketmn.com. 

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