Rachel Nelson prepared barbecued chicken, burgers and hot dogs to be served Friday afternoon outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
Nelson, founder and president of Twin Cities Relief Initiative, said her group began handing out free essential items, including food, after George Floyd's killing last spring. The group's mission has expanded to Brooklyn Center — aiding protesters, residents and anyone else in need — since 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed by police officer Kimberly Potter in that suburb on Sunday.
"This is what we do. We feed the protesters, we feed the situation," Nelson said. "We want to try to turn the pain and the hostility into a conversation — and you need food to do that."
Churches, nonprofits including the Red Cross, and other organizations are stepping up to help in Brooklyn Center, where protests and police clashes have led to tear gas exposure, noise and sleepless nights for residents of nearby apartment buildings. Store closures and the lack of transportation have left many in the city of 30,000 empty-handed.
Many residents of the apartments near the police station are now staying at local hotels after money was raised for that purpose. Their relocation means they need food and supplies.
A map of organizations offering mutual aid (twin-cities-mutual-aid.org) shows dozens of options for donating and picking up needed items.
Brooklyn United Methodist Church is home to nonprofit West African Family and Community Services and its food shelf, which offers grocery staples and culturally specific food to feed the area's diverse population. On Friday morning, 15 cars were waiting when the food shelf opened.
"[The need] is high because most of the grocery stores have closed," said Edmund Ocansey, executive director of West African Family and Community Services.
The food shelf may be open this weekend if it finds volunteers to staff it. Otherwise, it will be open Monday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for donation drop-offs and pickups. After that, weekday hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The nonprofit is seeking money, African food items, cleaning supplies, personal care items and baby food and diapers.
Monique Hernandez, development and communications manager for CAPI USA, a nonprofit helping immigrants and refugees, noted that Brooklyn Center is a food desert. Having stores boarded up has made things worse, she said.
"Pretty much all day we've had a line around the building," she said.
The nonprofit is accepting donations at Cross of Glory Lutheran Church, their partner in collecting and distributing food, household items, detergent and soap, and baby items. Donations are welcome Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Future hours will be decided soon. Hernandez said the group is grateful for donations.
On Saturday, Nelson and others from the Twin Cities Relief Initiative will be distributing food and supplies from two semitrailer trucks to people in nearby apartments, families in hotels and others at the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
Donations are welcome at the site, Nelson said, including food, charcoal, towels and other items.
"It goes so fast," Nelson said of the aid. "We just try to keep them safe."
Erin Adler • 612-673-1781