MAHTOMEDI, MINNESOTA – The St. Andrew’s Community Resource Center in Mahtomedi has been awarded the 2019 Award of Excellence in Homeless Coordination/Assistance from the National Association of County Community and Economic Development Association in recognition of the St. Andrew’s Family Shelter in Hugo, Minnesota.

The award recognizes the St. Andrew’s in their efforts to provide emergency shelter and assist families experiencing homelessness. The Resource Center also operates the Hope for the Journey Home at Guardian Angels church in Oakdale.

“We have a long history here at St. Andrew’s of service to our neighbors, which stems from our Lutheran roots,” stated Lead Pastor Mike Carlson. “We know the needs are still great and we look forward to future partnerships to help tackle those needs.”

In operation since March 2011, the resource center has sheltered 645 families; provided 782 families with rental assistance; served 4,101 families with food and basic necessities; and served 57,361 meals through the Thursday Night Community Meal.

St. Andrew’s was presented with the national award at the Washington County Board of Commissioners meeting Oct. 22.

“I read that average length of stay (in a St. Andrew’s shelter) is only two months, and that goes a long way to pointing to the effectiveness and success of St. Andrew’s,” stated Commissioner Lisa Weik. “To be recognized at a national level is so significant.”

Commissioner Wayne Johnson added: “This is such an overwhelming issue that without the commitment and a community like St. Andrew’s, we would just not even have a hope of getting the work done.”

Prior to the shelter opening over a year ago, St. Andrew’s worked with other area faith communities to find a location to serve the northern part of Washington County. The Church of St. Genevieve in Hugo offered its vacant rectory. Washington County provided $240,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, leveraged with private donations, to renovate the rectory into a homeless shelter, which serves up to five families, or approximately 15 people at a time. CDBG funds were used to purchase materials and pay professional contractors, and over 5,000 hours of volunteer labor was provided the other work was done by volunteers and with in-kind donations from several area congregations.

The shelter receives on-going community support. Thirteen churches provide volunteers for the shelter. With evening and overnight shifts of two volunteers each shift, it takes 1,352 volunteer shifts to make this happen every year. Together, the 13 churches fundraise to cover the annual operating budget of $90,000, all from private individuals and organizations.

In addition to shelter, St. Andrew’s provides resources to find transitional and permanent housing. In its first 14 months, St. Andrew’s has sheltered 19 homeless families, with 58 individuals and 34 children. Of those 19 families, 13 have found permanent affordable housing, three went to other shelters or options, and three are currently still in the shelter.

Representatives from St. Andrew’s who attended the County Board meeting are Jenny Mason, St. Andrew’s Community Resource Center Executive Director; Harvey Taipale, St. Andrew’s Volunteer Grant Writer; Dave Engh, St. Andrew’s Habitat Crew Leader, Sandy Zarembinski, from Faith Lutheran in Forest Lake and President of the former Forest Lake Area Mission for Families; and Sarah Breckenridge, St. Andrew’s Senior Executive Pastor. Others who were instrumental in launching the family shelter included Paul Kirkwold, Project Manager; Debbie Larson, Volunteer Coordinator, and Liz Schreier, former Resource Center Executive Director.

St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and the Community Resource Center are located at 900 Stillwater Road in Mahtomedi.

This article was first published in the Patch Neighborhood News