A Rosemount group is finding that it takes a village -- or maybe a growing suburb with a small-town identity -- to tackle the complex issue of hunger.
Through an upcoming event and food drive called Feeding Families, a group of community leaders and volunteers will address the problem on both the local and national levels.
On March 2, OneRosemount, a group of 30 to 40 pastors, school principals and civic leaders, including the mayor, aim to pack about 285,000 meals to send to the Dominican Republic, where they will help feed 2 million Haitian refugees living there.
"The idea was, 'What if we came together as a community to literally impact the world?'" said Bill Goodwin, pastor at Lighthouse Christian Church and event co-chairman.
Feeding Families will enlist the help of 1,500 volunteers to work in shifts on assembly lines at Rosemount Middle School and Rosemount Elementary School, packing a nutritious rice-and-soy mixture into plastic bags and then boxes.
Another goal is raising $71,000 for raw materials and shipping.
OneRosemount also added a local food drive to benefit 360 Communities, an umbrella nonprofit that operates five Dakota County food shelves. The goal is to collect 10,000 pounds of nonperishable food throughout March, in conjunction with Minnesota Food Share's annual March campaign.
"There's a very large demand out there. This event will be great for awareness," said Shira Rabinowicz, 360 Communities' volunteer coordinator, noting that 500 people use the Rosemount food shelf monthly, half of them children.
A third aspect is a Resource Fair. About 40 nonprofits, businesses and other groups will set up tables March 2 in the middle school cafeteria. The fair will offer visibility and promote volunteer opportunities in Rosemont, said Tom Meaden, event co-chairman and store manager at the Rosemount Cub Foods.
An enthusiastic response
The event is the first major effort by OneRosemount, an organization known as the Rosemount Leaders Group until last summer. The group formed five years ago after a local teenager's stabbing, according to Rosemount mayor Bill Droste. Goodwin and others originally decided they needed to gather to address youth issues.
The idea for Feeding Families arose after Goodwin heard about a local nonprofit's work to address poverty internationally. He toured the warehouse of the St. Louis Park nonprofit, called Impact Lives, last spring.
He brought the idea of organizing a food-packing effort to OneRosemount and, by fall 2012, the group committed to it. There were initial questions about its large scope -- what if they didn't get enough people, or couldn't raise the money? But they moved forward.
"We do have a very involved community feel in Rosemount, which makes it unique," Goodwin said. He believed local volunteers "would rally to help."
They have. So far, about 1,300 people have signed up, he said, including church, school, scouting and sports groups, Meaden said.
He estimates that Cub will donate about 1,000 pounds of food, through direct donations, offering bags of groceries that customers can buy to donate and as a drop-off site. Cub also will provide food and drinks for volunteers March 2.
As for the $71,000 they need -- each meal costs 25 cents -- about $15,000 has been raised or pledged thus far.
"We're not there yet. We've scattered a lot of seed, and we're waiting to see that seed sprout," Goodwin said.
A February fundraiser at Cub, in which shoppers could purchase loaded baked potatoes for a donation, earned about $360, in addition to publicizing the event.
Something for everyone
The event resonates with different people for different reasons, said Donna Gainor, Resource Fair coordinator. Gainor, her husband and her son became involved through Lighthouse Christian Church.
Goodwin said he's "passionate and excited" about Feeding Families because he's gone on mission trips to east Africa and seen the difference nutritious food can make.
Gainor said that when she spoke to people at the February fundraiser, some were interested in the event's international reach, while others liked the local focus.
"You get a lot of international [hunger-related] efforts, but people thought it was cool that we didn't forget about people in Dakota County," she said.
Volunteer Gabe Ames, a freshman at Rosemount High School, signed up to fulfill a community service requirement for class. His teacher suggested it, and a flier was posted at school, he said.
"I just like to help people who need help. I'm more into the whole local part, helping people who live by me," he said.
Droste said he's happy to see Rosemount residents getting involved.
"When you see the whole community coming together for events like this, the results are wonderful," he said.
To volunteer at the event or to make a donation, go to www. onerosemountfeedingfamilies.com and click on "sign up to serve" or "donate."
Erin Adler • 952-746-3283