Nonprofit Collaboration-Saving Resources, Improving Communities

By: Liz Jones, Community Networking Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities

“Come together, right now.”

In response to the recent tornado devastation in North Minneapolis and in honor of 9/11 Day of Service, HandsOn Twin Cities and Rebuilding Together Twin Cities have partnered up to conduct repairs on the homes of 30 Minneapolis and St. Paul families.  Included in these homes are those of military Veterans, as well as homes that were affected by the tornado. 

Repair projects began earlier in the month and will continue throughout September. 

Nonprofit collaboration not only saves time and resources, but allows for a serious community impact to be made.  Together, HOTC and RTTC’s efforts will result in:

15 Home Repair projects (a Rebuilding Together Twin Cities program) which include: light carpentry, light electrical work, plumbing, painting, landscaping, etc. Each rehab will mobilize corporate employees and entail $5,000 of supply and management costs and will impact 15 families.

15 light repair projects which are identified through Rebuilding Together Twin Cities’ Safe at Home program. These projects will receive minor home safety or accessibility modifications with a supply and management budget of $2,000 per home. 15 families will be the recipients of these projects.


When organizations combine forces and pool their staff, efforts, connections, and ideas together, the outcome can be nothing less than amazing.  Whether they are working on a specific series of projects-like HOTC and RTTC, or are working toward a long-term community goal-like such coalitions as the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless and the Affirmative Options Coalition, nonprofit collaboration has continually been a proven success. 

“We are thrilled to be partnering with HandsOn Twin Cities.  Together, we will honor those who have given so much for our country and help more local families live independently in safe and warm homes.”

                           – Kathy Greiner, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together Twin Cities

“We are proud to be part of both a local and national collaboration in memoriam of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.  The Twin Cities corporations, organizations and volunteers continue to be inspirational in its community actions and we look forward to making a great impact for this Tribute.” 

                       -Kristin Schurrer, Executive Director of HandsOn Twin Cities

Join our tribute to the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and take part in this National Day of Service and Remembrance by participating in our culminating event:

On Saturday, September 10th at Victory Memorial Flagpole at 9am, volunteers will gather and listen to local dignitaries share the importance of service. Attending the event is Brian Dunn, Best Buy CEO; Kathleen Burnett, teacher and civic leader; and invited local leaders. Immediately after the speaking engagement, participate in volunteer opportunities until 12pm, including:

  • Clean and polish tribute markers along Victory Memorial Drive

  • Beautification needs at Farview Park in North Minneapolis

  • Tree and shrub planting at Theodore Wirth Park in North Minneapolis

  • Speed volunteering opportunities:

–      Draw and write on a Freedom Banner

–      Send electronic tributes to troops

–      Letters to the troops

Community members, individual volunteers, and volunteer groups may attend the culminating event and partake in the service projects without pre-registering.   

Registration begins day of at 8:45am, speaking engagements begin at 9am, and community members can pop in to participate in the speed volunteering projects anytime before wrap-up at noon.

Victory Memorial Flagpole is located at 45th Avenue North & Memorial Parkway in Minneapolis, MN. 



Leading the Nation in Volunteerism

By: JoAnn Schinderle, Community Networking Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities


CONGRATULATIONS TWIN CITIES- YOU DID IT!!You’ve been nationally recognized for your kindhearted acts of volunteering! According to, Minneapolis/St.Paul has been ranked #1 once again for highest percentage rate of volunteers per metro area! On average 37.1% of Twin Cities community members volunteer. In a close second is Portland, OR with 36.2%, behind that number is Salt Lake City, UT at 34.1%.  Minnesota as a state ranks #3 in overall volunteering.

HandsOn Twin Cities would like to extend much gratitude for all the raking, weeding, painting, cleaning, building, organizing, collecting, donating, mentoring, leading, sharing of knowledge and goodwill to build an all encompassing sense of community. You truly carry out the ‘Minnesota Nice’ stereotype, which proves to be a good thing.

So what is it about the Twin Cities that we’ve kept this title 5 years running? “It’s in our Midwestern values, it’s the way we raise our kids” says HOTC Executive Director Kristin Schurrer. Those values shine true not only in families, but in schools and work environments. Metro area schools focus on service-learning for students as graduation requirements. Local corporations highly encourage their employees to volunteer, even allowing them to do so during office hours. It just seems natural for Twin Cities residents to lend a hand, most of the time people are volunteering without even knowing it!

As a Nation, volunteers served 8.1 billion hours in 2010, valued at an estimated $173 billion ( That’s a whole ‘lotta people power! Living in a society where money is being nickel ‘n dimed and daily schedules are packed to the brim; it’s refreshing to know that helping out your neighbor is still a priority on America’s ‘Things To Do’ list.

This extensive research done by the Corporation for National & Community Service calculates all citywide organized volunteers,  yet it does not reflect the numbers of un-sung heroes in our area (those who deliver food to shut-in’s, or who watch their neighbor’s kids) we’d like to recognize those day to day acts of kindness as well. Thank you Twin Cities for individually and collectively volunteering in your communities, your work truly does make a difference.

 To see pictures of all volunteer work being done with HOTC around the community, check out flickr page!

American Express & Delta team up with HOTC and Captiol Hill Magnet School

By: JoAnn Schinderle, Community Networking Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities

Last Friday, HOTC along with American Express & Delta organized a school beautification project for Capitol Hill Magnet School in St. Paul, MN.  With the theme “Global Feast”; major projects included building a sustainable salsa garden, mosaic stepping stones, and interactive presentations from local Chef, Stewart Woodman (Heidi’s) on how to make fresh spring rolls, which students got to roll themselves and feast for lunch.

Volunteer’s literally got their hands dirty super dirty actually. Unpredictable rain didn’t stop our crew from creating a mud bucket brigade in order to finish the salsa garden on time. Smiles & determination were kept, along with the notion of how the students will benefit & learn from the finished product.

“It’s gratifying to work on projects that have a visible beginning & end. This project is especially cool because of the sustainability aspect; I definitely want to come back in the summer to check on the garden’s growth.” – Corporate Volunteer

Among the group of volunteers were parents of Capitol Hill students. They were extremely pleased with the small and large projects of the day. One parent commented, “These [projects] were all things that we needed and/or wanted to be done but we needed the people power to accomplish. It’s amazing how so much work can get done in such little time.”

Also digging in the dirt side by side with volunteers were our very own HandsOn Twin Cities AmeriCorps members. Last Friday’s project was a great way to close AmeriCorps Week. Large scale projects like Capitol Hill create a sense of community by bringing together students, parents, teachers, and community volunteers in an interactive way while engaging them on a personal level.

HOTC AmeriCorps members shared their insight in regards to how they believe their work is benefitting not only the community, but allowing them to gain professional tools necessary to grow in the workplace and beyond.

“As a young person growing up in the throes of corporate America, I have been exposed to a great deal of conversation regarding the drudgery of the common workplace. Living in a fast-paced society overcommitted to ideals of productivity and efficiency lends itself all too readily to burn-out, dissatisfaction, and an overwhelming sense of monotony. This morning as I considered my work, I wondered how I had managed to escape this grinding sense of obligation and lack of purpose. I am grateful that even in a struggling economy, AmeriCorps has offered me the opportunity to discover and exercise my interest in creating avenues for young people to become engaged in service and be successful in their communities. Through my AmeriCorps position I have been able to develop connections with the community and youth I serve, my fellow AmeriCorps members, and the greater nonprofit sector in the Twin Cities and these relationships have cultivated in me a greater sense of purpose, motivation, and personal responsibility. I am both challenged and energized by my work in a manner that has allowed me to develop personally and create meaningful programs for HandsOn Twin Cities. My two AmeriCorps terms have facilitated a smooth transition from academia into the working world and have fostered within me the desire to pursue my passions and travel along the path of lifelong service to my community.” – Abby Gaul, 2nd Term AmeriCorps National Direct member, Student Engagement Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities


 “One of the biggest benefits of serving at a volunteer resource center is that we are encouraged to seek out creative and meaningful ways to contribute to the community—and step out of our cubicles.  At HandsOn Twin Cities, we are granted 16 hours per month for volunteering. Because of this benefit, I have had numerous fun and valuable experiences: helping adult ELL students put their stories on paper, assisting job-seekers with their résumés, carrying heavy boxes of milk and soup for a food shelf, guiding clients at Project Homeless Connect, and selling raffle tickets at a community duck race. These volunteer experiences, however small they may seem, have been very significant to my work at HOTC. As Nonprofit Outreach Coordinator, it is important for me to learn all I can about the thriving nonprofit community in the Twin Cities. Even more, I have personally grown by gaining a more comprehensive view of the spirit, diversity, and resilience of Twin Cities inhabitants.” – Andrea Donahue, AmeriCorps National Direct member, Non-Profit Outreach Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities


“AmeriCorps has been a great place to stretch my professional wings.  I’ve appreciated the opportunity to build my resume with the grace of a supportive and encouraging team of professionals behind me.  HandsOn Twin Cities has been a positive place to be as a young professional and I’ve enjoyed the autonomy and support they’ve extended as I’ve taken my skills and experiences and put them to work on something new.  I will move on from this experience having gained practical and professional skills in program management, project development, volunteer management and supervision, grant writing, and nonprofit outreach.  Furthermore, I’ve been able to put my values to work all the while strengthening the community I am proud to be a part of.”-  Angela Carlson, AmeriCorps VISTA member, Project Development Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities


“The best part about my job is visiting our non-profit partners and learning about the work that they do in the community. I think it is important for all community members to have a few non-profits which we have researched, been involved with and support wholeheartedly. I also very much enjoy working with community members who are committed to improving the Twin Cities and making it a great place to live for everyone.” – Erika Dani, AmeriCorps National Direct member, Non-Profit Outreach Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities


“As I reflect upon my AmeriCorps term, I recognize that I am very grateful for all of the experiences that I’ve had and for the individuals that I’ve met along the way, and I cannot believe how fast time has flown by!  I feel very fortunate; not only to have been able to utilize my college degree to assist in carrying out the programming and mission of HandsOn Twin Cities, but for everything that I’ve learned from my position as well.  During the American Express/Delta service project at Capitol Hill Elementary, I was chatting with one of the parent volunteers who was very interested in learning about my AmeriCorps experience and proceeded to ask me a slew of thought-provoking questions; the final one being, “Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently?”  To that, I simply answered, “Not at all, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”  – Liz Jones, AmeriCorps National Direct Member, Community Networking Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities


“Through my term as an AmeriCorps member I have become more in tune with the needs of my community and the various works being done in efforts to address, remedy, and at very least create awareness throughout the metro area. Even though this is my 5th year living in Minneapolis, I have felt more connected and empowered to live here than ever before based on the exposure I’ve gained both personally and professionally.  I am thankful to have tapped into this culture of people with “do-good” mindsets & action orientated hearts. Its one thing to talk about issues affecting our fellow neighbors and it’s another to jump in feet first and get things done. I am extremely thankful my job allows me to do both, even in the same day.” – JoAnn Schinderle, AmeriCorps National Direct member, Community Networking Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities


 The best part of my AmeriCorps assignment is reaching out to nonprofits in the St. Paul community.  I thoroughly enjoy researching nonprofits, conducting site visits with volunteer coordinators and assessing volunteer programs.  It is a very rewarding experience when I am able to collaborate with an organization to build their volunteer capacity by utilizing the HandsOn Twin Cities Impact Now program.” –  Matt Bielefeldt, AmeriCorps VISTA member,  Project Development Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities


 “Through my position at HandsOn Twin Cities, I am provided with many wonderful opportunities. There are two particular parts that I truly enjoy. The first part is working with many different volunteers. I have the opportunity to network and connect with people from all walks of life and from all over the Twin Cities. Learning about the work that they do and what motivates them in their careers, free-time and everyday life is incredibly fascinating. This position has provided me with the opportunity to learn about the wonderful organizations and corporations there are right here in the Twin Cities. The second part of my position that I love is supervising and working with our Youth Advisory Board. At HOTC, our Youth Advisory Board tackles some of the most important issues in our community through the power of youth voice!  Plus, I get updated on all of the latest trends! Who doesn’t want to hear about the latest trend and issues that mean the most to the voice of the future?” – Sarah Bain, AmeriCorps VISTA member, Youth & Student Engagement Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities


 Thank you to all of the staff at HandsOn Twin Cities, HandsOn Network, and HandsOn Corps for making our experiences throughout the year ones we will certainly take with us in all of our future endeavors.


By: JoAnn Schinderle, Community Networking Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities

HandsOn Twin Cities is thrilled to announce the newest addition to our team, Lenny “Lend-A-Hand”!  Lenny is excited to be here serving as our reporter, advocate, community builder, as well as friend. Lenny represents the hard work, effort, and joy that volunteers receive while participating in HOTC projects.

Making small or large differences in communities should not go unnoticed. Every bit counts and Lenny will be there to promote, encourage, and help spread the word about good deeds being done around the Twin Cities.

To follow Lenny’s interviews, site visits, and antics, check our new “Adventures with Lenny” tab right here on our blog!

2011 Volunteer Expo re-cap

By: JoAnn Schinderle, Community Networking Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities

HOTC 6th annual Volunteer Expo was a HUGE SUCCESS! Held at the Mall of America, over 100 non-profits expanded the entire first floor with informational booths providing ways to get involved with meaningful projects in the metro area. On average, over 200,000 people walk the mall on a Saturday – just think if all of those people pooled their volunteering hands together and made a difference! It would be like creating a community brigade of do-gooders ready to be the change!

Not only was the MOA filled with information about ways to volunteer in the Metro area; there was hours of entertainment, a silent auction, on-site speed volunteering opportunities, awards recognizing outstanding volunteers, and a special appearance from Governor Dayton!


Speed Volunteering Events:

A station was set up at the Microsoft store where volunteers could decorate lunch bags and create birthday cards for the men, women, and children served by Meals on Wheels and Doing Good Together.

Brain Injury Association of Minnesota:  Over 200 cranes were assembled towards a goal of 100,000 cranes that will be showcased at this summer’s Art-A-Whirl to memorialize the 100,000 individuals diagnosed with brain injuries in MN. : Best Buy sponsored an online trivia program in which over 50,000 grains of rice were raised to help fight hunger.

Be The Change Award Winners:

Youth Award: Rachel Larson for her work with Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church

Youth Director Katie Hielman from Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church is here to accept the award on Rachel’s behalf. Rachel volunteers at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church as a Sunday School teacher and musician, Confirmation small group leader, is a student leader in Ambassadors for Change, and a spent a week helping rebuild homes on the Gulf Coast with the high school youth group. Rachel also founded her own nonprofit called Care for a Cure, which is a student-run organization that raises awareness of childhood cancer as a world-wide problem in an effort to get more youth involved in the fight against it.

 Environment Award:  Giampaolo Malin for his work with Tree Trust

Since 2009, Giampaolo has been serving in multiple capacities within Tree Trust’s Community Forestry programs; including helping homeowners add trees to their yards and participating in community tree plantings as a high-level volunteer who has completed ‘Tree Trainer’ training. Giampaolo also volunteers as a Tree Trainer at nearly every one of Tree Trust’s community plantings, and in fact, he volunteered more hours last year than any of Tree Trust’s other volunteers Giampaolo also regularly volunteers to help with upkeep of the Midtown Greenway, where he pulls weeds and prunes tree and shrubs. 

 Health Award: Mike Skelly for his work with Memorial Blood Centers

Mike has been volunteering with Memorial Blood Centers since August of 2006. He has worked in two primary areas: Hospital Services and Collections, where he has been involved in Blood Delivery and Blood Drive Canteen Staffing. Mike is a vital link in a life-saving process, a process that he takes very seriously and performs without fail when called upon. Equally important to Mike is serving as a Host at blood drives.  When Mike is staffing the Canteen, not only do our donors benefit from his care and attention, but our Collections staff are more at ease, as they know they can safely entrust Mike to look after our donors’ wellbeing.

 Economy Award: Denise Graves for her work with CASA Minnesota

Lori accepted the award on Denise’s behalf. Denise has been a volunteer Child Advocate at CASA Minnesota since 2002, where she represents the best interest of children in court where there are issues of abuse and/or neglect. From directly advocating for a large number of children and assisting in new volunteer development, to ensuring a better future for our most underprivileged families, Denise consistently involves herself in finding ways to help children and to better the outcome of families that find themselves in Child Protection. Denise has worked on 48 cases involving 98 children.  Currently, she carries nine cases as a volunteer, whereas the average volunteer caseload is two.


Afternoon performaning entertainment was provided by: Minne Brass, Helping Paws, Inc, The Irish Music and Dance Association, Lao Assistance Center,  & CitySongs.




We would sincerely like to thank all of our sponsors, non-profit affiliates, and volunteers who helped make this years Expo a meaningful event. Your contributions are greatly appreciated.

Volunteering is not ‘One Size Fits All’

By: Liz Jones, Community Networking Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities

“A better Minnesota for all of us, depends upon all of us”-Governor Mark Dayton

Last week, Mark Dayton was sworn in as Governor of Minnesota.  As part of his plan to bring Minnesota’s economic situation back to being one of prosperity, he challenged residents to volunteer their time, “I ask every adult Minnesotan, who is physically able, to volunteer a part of one day, every month, at a school, hospital, or social service agency.”


Upon hearing this call to action, the question most frequently posed was, “Is it possible?”


Simply saying, “Yes,” is not so simple. The opportunities and resources are definitely available to be taken advantage of, but it is up to individuals to do so and make it possible for themselves.


That said, even in this time of economic uncertainty and busy schedules, there are still ways to get involved and make a difference.  Our Executive Director, here at HandsOn Twin Cities, Kristin Schurrer, was quoted in the Star Tribune in regards to this issue, “Not everyone can commit to a year, but you can go to a school and just read to children. You can pass out a flier to collect for a food shelf. It all counts.”


It definitely does all count; and all types of volunteering are necessary.  If you look at our database or calendar of volunteer opportunities at local nonprofits, there are both ongoing and one-time volunteer projects that are in need of volunteers.

Kristin also replied to comments on the article that deemed volunteering to be more demanding than what the Governor called for, “many of today’s volunteer jobs are much more demanding than ‘part of one day, every month,’ and for those people that are able, please consider making this commitment.  It is very rewarding.  But, one time and episodic volunteer opportunities are often just as important.”


Those who are part of organizations that rely on volunteers know that people are busy, because so are they, which is why they are willing to work with individuals to find out what works best for them.  “I believe that people should do what they can do when they can do it.  That doesn’t mean that people have to make a major commitment to make a difference,” Kristin went on to say.


To sum it all up, Kristin made one final comment, “Volunteering is not ‘one size fits all,’ but there is an opportunity out there to make a difference that can fit everyone!”


Calls for individuals to serve their country via community involvement is nothing new, and have been prevalent in presidential campaigns of both major parties.   The most recent, being by President Obama in June of 2009…



For more information on how you can get involved locally, please visit

For more information on the national “United We Serve” campaign, go to


Building Community in the Workplace

By Angela Carlson, Project Development Coordinator, HandsOn Twin Cities

Here at HandsOn Twin Cities, we’ve taken the challenge of building community very seriously.  We have the great fortune of being a cohesive group of people, who genuinely enjoy one another and we are glad for it.  We’ve strengthened our sense of community in the office primarily by taking lunch very seriously…

A couple times each week, those in the office who are available and interested, gather to eat lunch together.  This has facilitated a safe environment for us to get to know one another in ways that encourage congenial working relationships.  We playfully tease one another’s lunch choices, discuss the books we’re reading or films we’ve seen, and as the holidays approach, we share traditions and memories with one another.  Out of these luncheons friendships emerge, as do connections that make workplace collaboration richer.

The crème de la crème of our community-building this winter has been everyone’s participation in “Souper Thursdays.”  Each Thursday for four weeks someone has brought soup to share for everyone.  We’ve had black bean, chili, red lentil, and corn chowders, and each has been a great mid-week pick-me-up.  This has further engaged everyone in the office community as we’ve marveled over one another’s culinary skills and traded recipes.  With ten more weeks scheduled (into February!), I look forward to lovely shared meals with the fantastic HandsOn Twin Cities community!