Build Me Up: Spotlighting the Bemidji Community’s COVID-19 Response
Kraus-Anderson’s Build Me Up podcast will continue to deliver regular and uplifting content during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve seen people come together in amazing ways during this time. While it is natural to feel anxious and uncertain, it’s important to look around and see all the good that is happening. The city of Bemidji, up in Northern Minnesota, and the location of one of KA’s outer offices, is a great example of the power of community during difficult times. United Way of Bemidji Area, part of a network of non-profits that work to impact local communities across the globe, is on the front lines of providing support during the COVID-19 pandemic. We talked to United Way of Bemidji Area’s Executive Director Denae Alamano and Kraus-Anderson Bemidji’s Director of Business Development Tracy Pogue, who also serves on the United Way of Bemidji Area board. The non-profit’s service-oriented solutions has brought a sense of community they have never truly experienced before.
The Bemidji Community Steps Up
As the Coronavirus was quickly taking effect in the United States, the United Way of Bemidji Area established an Emergency Fund to support other local non-profits who were faced with unexpected expenses. The fund is focused on three areas: food access, emergency care, and elderly care. With the funding starting at zero on March 17th, the generosity of the community has raised over $150,000 to date. United Way has been able to fully fund almost every request around those three areas, a feat they didn’t know would be possible just months ago.
Gifts of Hope
Through the generosity of a local business owner, $100,000 was donated to do two things: help small businesses and help families who are struggling. Through a collaboration with the Bemidji Alliance, the Gifts of Hope initiative was born. Part of the initiative included buying gift cards from 18 local businesses to put together a package of around $500 in gift cards to struggling families. They included gift cards for groceries, restaurants, clothes, gas, and some fun family activities. The initiative helped 100 local families.
The second part of Gifts of Hope included a weekly lottery of 20 local businesses. The public can purchase a $40 gift card for $20, with the fund covering the $20 gap for businesses. It’s a win for the community and a win for the local businesses. With 1,200 gift cards available the first week, they sold out in under 15 minutes, and the site crashed with the unexpected flood of traffic. Over 27,000 hits were made on the website, proving the commitment and generosity from the Bemidji community.
With an outpouring of support, United Way of Bemidji has launched a number of programs to assist the community, from the Backpack Buddies program that distributes weekend food packs for students, to Step up to SIT, a program that fills the gap in child care for essential workers, and donating crafting kits to local shelters to give families activities and entertainment, the list of ways they are relieving the community just continues to grow.
Tune into the Build Me Up podcast for a more in-depth discussion on United Way of Bemidji Area’s COVID-19 response efforts. You can subscribe to Build Me Up wherever you listen to your podcasts.View Comments