Wolves Staff Volunteers At Second Harvest Heartland

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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According to Second Harvest Heartland, approximately 1 in 10 people in our region are affected by hunger. That’s why the leading hunger relief organization in the Upper Midwest works each day to repackage and distribute food for those in need.

With two Twin Cities locations in St. Paul and Golden Valley, Second Harvest Heartland expects to distribute 73 million pounds of food this year. On Thursday in Golden Valley, the Minnesota Timberwolves were one of six organizations who donated their time to help Second Harvest Heartland get that food ready for shipping.

Eleven members of the Timberwolves’ organization spent three hours labeling cans of soup and beans, repackaging them in boxes and loading up pallets to be distributed around Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. In those three hours, the Wolves’ volunteers alone helped package 16,155 pounds of food, which translates into 15,597 meals.

Timberwolves Community Relations Coordinator Kristin Mehrwerth said the team continuously looks for opportunities to volunteer its time to help causes like Second Harvest Heartland’s mission, in part helping to support members of the community who support the team each season.

She said learning just how big of an impact hunger has on the Twin Cities area helped motivate the team’s volunteers to get as much done in their allotted time.

“The community is important to us—one of the pillars of our organization is community involvement,” Mehrwerth said. “We want to make sure we’re doing that as much as we can. Being able to support the community that is supporting us is tremendous. These are the ones that are cheering on our team, and we want to make sure we are supporting them like they are supporting us.”

Second Harvest Heartland is a member of Feeding America, a national network of more than 200 food banks serving every state in the U.S. According to the organization’s official website, membership means access to millions of pounds of surplus food and grocery donations from manufacturers and producers throughout the country.

On Thursday afternoon, volunteers were divided into different groups and were tasked with packaging as much food as they could. Some worked with pastas, others boxed up cereal and other non-perishable items into family-sized boxes, and the Wolves were tasked with boxing soup cans and labeling and re-stacking cans of beans.

Timberwolves Fan Experience Specialist Pierre Harris said not only did he get a chance to help a worth cause, but it also was a team-building opportunity.

“Volunteering for the Second Harvest Heartland was fun because we were able to give back to our community, and then interact with our coworkers in a different setting,” Harris said. “And on top of that we were able to package 15,000 meals in 2 ½ hours, which is remarkable. So I would just like to thank Second Harvest Heartland for having us and the Minnesota Timberwolves there.”

Second Harvest Heartland West Director of Operations Carla Johnson said the organization has eight full-time staff members but relies heavily on a network of hundreds and thousands of volunteers through companies within the community. She said Second Harvest couldn’t do what it does without the support of its neighbors donating their time for a good cause.

“It’s very heartwarming,” Johnson said. “We can hold 100 volunteers here at a time for a shift, and then when there are 50 or 60 or 70 people here at a time, the energy is really great. They get a lot of work done, because it’s not what people normally do for their day jobs, so it’s a different kind of environment and they feel really good about the impact they make.”

Approximately 60 people from six companies were on hand Thursday afternoon during the Timberwolves' shift. Mehrwerth said the Wolves’ volunteers felt that energy and tried to repackage as much food as they could during their three-hour shift.

“It makes you want to do as much as you can to help those people, and I think it was great,” Mehrwerth said. “I think it kind of touched everyone. It was as quick as we could go to get as much done. It was awesome to see our staff motivated by what they heard and what is going on in our back yard.”


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