Renewal by Andersen Twin Cities Becomes a Loaves and Fishes Volunteer
When design consultant Chris Fraune (Renewal by Andersen of the Twin Cities) was working with homeowners Melissa and Matt Cavanaugh, they got to talking about Melissa’s work as a development officer and grants writer with Loaves & Fishes, a nonprofit organization serving free, nutritious meals to those in need.
Founded in 1982 with one dining site each in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Loaves & Fishes now serves 2,000 healthy meals daily in seven Minnesota counties, and is the largest “open to the public” meal program in the state. It puts an emphasis on nutrition, which includes a local farm-to-table approach during Minnesota’s growing season.
During the conversation, Melissa asked Fraune if he thought Renewal by Andersen of the Twin Cities might be interested in a team building activity or volunteering opportunity. “With our emphasis on Signature Service and its goal of not just selling windows, but really making a connection with homeowners—and with our community, I thought it sounded like the perfect opportunity, and I took it straight to our leadership team,” says Fraune.
Leadership agreed, and General Manager Andrew Knopick connected immediately with Lonny Evans, Loaves & Fishes’ director of volunteers and outreach, to figure out the best way to help.
Initially, Knopick had hoped to have the RbA Twin Cities volunteers serve meals in in one of the 26 Loaves & Fishes kitchens across the metro area, “But we had so much interest in helping out, our group was just too big,” he says. “Not a bad problem to have—people excited to help others.”
Given it was spring in Minnesota, and that Loaves & Fishes has a farm-to-table philosophy, the next logical thought was “why not work in one of the gardens?”
“We have four gardens across the Cities,” says Farm for All Project Manager Kimberly Greene-DeLanghe, “Eagan, St. Paul-Frogtown, Richfield, and our largest garden—the one-acre plot donated by Peace Lutheran church up in Coon Rapids. For all of them, we rely on volunteers to plant and tend and harvest,” she continues.
Excited by the opportunity, Knopick signed the TC group up to work at the Peace Lutheran garden in early May (the start of planting season in MN is generally Mother’s Day).
Of course, given that it was spring in Minnesota, and that Mother Nature has a frenetically fickle philosophy…“We got a little worried when we had two feet of snow fall less than two weeks out from our planting date,” says Knopick.
But sunny skies prevailed, and by May 4, the air was warm, the earth freshly tilled, and Greene-Delanghe, Knopick, and more than 20 volunteers from RbA of the Twin Cities arrived for a day of digging in the dirt.
The group hoed rows, planted arugula, beets, salad greens, cilantro, radishes, and spinach. They also helped lay out the irrigation for the beds and set up sprinklers to water the newly planted seeds. Additional small projects included picking up rocks from the field and bringing trash and litter to the dumpsters.
“We’re so grateful for the team from Renewal by Andersen coming out and helping—this is a big garden, and so it’s all hands on deck. These gardens and our volunteers, and the Farm for All initiative, help us get fresh, locally grown produce to our dining rooms and help us give our guests the health (and taste) benefits of farm-to-table crops,” says Green-Delanghe.
Getting involved and getting out in the community helps everyone, says Knopick. “Sure, we are about helping our business grow, but we are also about helping our people thrive. These opportunities have the ability to impact our entire team in a very positive way.”
And the work at Peace Lutheran garden truly was a team-wide activity. Participants came from every sector of the business, including management, sales and marketing, operations, and installation. Events Manager Justin Miller even brought his two sons, Caleb and Micah, to help them share in the community involvement and the spirit of giving that permeated the day.
“The Andersen family and Corporation has a strong history of community involvement and philanthropic pursuits,” says Knopick. “You can’t help but get inspired by these traditions and feel compelled to give back to the communities we work in and that support our business. It was a beautiful day out there, and we had a ball. We can’t wait to find the next chance to spread some [good] out in the community.”
To see more images from RbA’s day in the garden, check out the Loaves & Fishes slideshow on Facebook. Visit loavesandfishesmn.org for more information about the organization. Interested in volunteering? Find out how here.
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