Volunteers fuel efforts to serve the homeless in Anoka County

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 1, 2013 - 2:26 PM

Helpers can serve meals, host kids, mentor adults, raise funds.

Years ago, Junita Cathey of Brooklyn Park resolved to run a marathon by the time she was 40.

She’ll be 41 — close enough — when she enters the New York City Marathon on Nov. 3.

One day while training, she got another idea: “I decided to make it a more meaningful thing, and I thought about, ‘What can I attach to it?’ ”

Cathey — former director of Family Promise in Anoka County, an interfaith network that provides temporary housing to families in need — decided to use the race to raise money for the nonprofit.

It clicked in her mind as she headed uphill across a bridge which was quite a workout. That became a metaphor for the steep incline facing families that are out on the streets.

“It takes planning and energy to get to the top of the bridge,” which can feel like an impossible feat when you’re homeless, she said. When families that need help find their footing, they don’t have to be in crisis mode any more, she said.

Family Promise is one of a number of outlets in the north metro aiming to help the homeless, with food, shelter and other types of assistance.

Cathey’s goal is to raise $2,620, which breaks down to $100 per mile. So far, she’s about 38 percent of the way there.

But not every contribution to Family Promise or other organizations need be that ambitious, she said.

For example, Family Promise can always use volunteers to help families run errands or fill in at the day center. A number of local nonprofit agencies are also looking for mentors or people to organize food and clothing drives and the like.

Cathey encourages people to get involved in whatever ways are accessible to them, fulfilling their own goals.

Below is a guide to volunteer opportunities at north metro organizations that are working to end homelessness.

To contribute to Junita Cathey’s fundraiser, visit www.crowdrise.com/JunitaCathey/fundraiser/junitacathey1.

Family Promise

Family Promise in Anoka County, which falls under the umbrella of a national organization, partners with local churches to house families.

Irene Rodriguez, the organization’s executive director, explained that churches provide shelter to families for a week at time. They “set up a makeshift room as temporary sleeping quarters,” often in a nursery or library area of the church, she said.

Churches also help provide dinners during that time.

Family Promise assists families in the short term, until they can get back on track, Rodriguez said.

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