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Sharing Seeds gets $45,000 grant from Worthington Regional Healthcare Foundation

Collaborative Worthington nonprofit Sharing Seeds will continue its efforts to provide a monthly package of food to children in need, thanks to many community efforts, including the $45,000 grant from the WRHCF.

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Jeff Rotert, executive director of the Worthington Regional Healthcare Foundation, left, holds a $45,000 ceremonial check representing the grant being given to Sharing Seeds, along with the Rev. Jeanne McCormick of First Lutheran Church, center, and Jessie Gaytan, operations and NRC coordinator at Head Start, right. (Kari Lucin / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Local nonprofit Sharing Seeds will continue its mission to halt hunger in Worthington, with help from a $45,000 grant from the Worthington Regional Healthcare Foundation.

“We’re so thankful, and I think it really does give us time to plan for the future, thoughtfully,” said the Rev. Jeanette McCormick Wednesday, as she accepted a ceremonial check from Jeff Rotert, executive director of the WRHCF, in the basement of First Lutheran Church. “This is a lifesaver.”

Rotert said the healthcare foundation considers the money a COVID grant, given how much Sharing Seeds has ramped up its operations since the virus started affecting the area.

The program is a collaborative nonprofit effort that has involved nearly every church in Worthington as well as many businesses and community groups, all with the goal of getting meals to school-age kids in Worthington every month during the school year, starting in October.

This school year, the first bag of food will go out on Oct. 14. Contents vary a bit between age groups, because small children can’t carry as much, but typical foods include macaroni and cheese, oatmeal, applesauce, beans, rice and granola bars.

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“We have noticed an immense amount of need,” McCormick said, noting that this year Sharing Seeds expects to have 700 to 800 people requesting the monthly food packages.

The program helps supplement the work of local food shelves, which have a limit on what they can give or require their clients to give an address.

“It’s easy sending it home,” said Jessie Gaytan, operations operations Eligibility Recruitment Selections Enrollment and Attendance (ERSEA) coordinator at Head Start, explaining why families might especially appreciate the Sharing Seeds meals.

“And this is a very cool program, so we want the community to get behind it as well,” Rotert said.

Sowing the Seeds

Sharing Seeds began in 2017 when McCormick attended her first Worthington ministerial meeting and heard concerns that students didn’t have good access to food and often needed to prepare what they did have by themselves.

The program began with Prairie Elementary but quickly expanded to all the District 518 schools, plus Head Start and St. Mary’s.

Sharing Seeds got a major boost when a Domestic Hunger grant was received from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, but many donors have contributed to the project through the years. Just during the 2020-21 school year, they included the Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council, Early Risers Kiwanis, Worthington Optimist Club, Worthington Elks Club, ELCA Domestic Hunger, Nobles 2 Power Partners, the Southwest Minnesota Synod of the ELCA, Southwest Initiative Foundation, Walmart, Casey’s, Abana, Thrivent Financial and Nobles County, through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

For its part, Fareway offers its food to Sharing Seeds at a discount, and tracks gift cards the initiative gives to people — usually so that they can purchase their own culturally-appropriate, fresh or just plain heavy foods. At the end of each month, Fareway can roll any remaining funds on the gift cards back to Sharing Seeds.

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Local churches, too, have offered their support, including First Lutheran, Westminster Presbyterian of Worthington, American Lutheran, Living Waters Covenant, Westminster Presbyterian of Minneapolis, American Reformed Church, and First United Methodist.

Money wouldn’t get the job done on its own, though, and Sharing Seeds has harnessed the power of volunteers to get bags of food packed and sent home with children or stockpiled at pickup locations. As the pandemic took hold, they used volunteer drivers to deliver the food, too.

“A lot of people have really stepped up as the program expanded,” McCormick said, thanking the many people who have helped support their neighbors through Sharing Seeds and emphasizing how grateful people are for the community’s efforts, both in volunteering and in donating.

“We are definitely looking for more support,” McCormick said.

Volunteers are always needed and so is funding. Any group looking for a service project can sponsor a packing event for $5,000, and Sharing Seeds is also seeking more diverse voices for its steering committee.

To volunteer or donate, call (612) 636-1533 or (507) 376-6148. To ask to be added to the program, call one of those numbers or talk to a teacher or counselor.

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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