Informed this fall of the growing need for facemasks for the homeless people served by Catholic Charities, the University of Saint Thomas for all practical purposes replied, “We’ve got you covered.” Through the university’s Center for the Common Good, the Saint Thomas community has donated 900 facemasks to the nonprofit organization.

As COVID-19 concerns have escalated, so have requests for facemasks, according to Catholic Charities’ senior procurement manager Pam Hagen. Already vulnerable without a permanent home, Catholic Charities’ clients want to be safe from COVID and compliant with the prescribed precautions regarding facemasks, Hagen said.

“I think we’re all relieved to know that a vaccine has been approved and will soon be available,” said Dustin Killpack, assistant director of Saint Thomas’ Center for the Common Good. “But with the recent surge of coronavirus cases and the potential strain on the health care system, it’s extremely important that we all do our part to help mitigate the spread of the disease. We encourage all to consider donating masks to organizations like Catholic Charities.”

facemasks
Wearing facemasks just like the 900 donated by the University of Saint Thomas community, students Jake Plodge and Tiaryn Daniels join Catholic Charities manager Pam Hagen (right) and volunteers Martha Kinney and Jo Baregi in boxing Christmas packages for the homeless. Photo by Brad Stauffer

It was out of a longstanding collaboration between Saint Thomas and Catholic Charities that the school became aware of the need for facemasks. “In July 2019 the two organizations signed an agreement to strengthen our partnership,” Killpack said. “The goal was to coordinate efforts around volunteer engagement, academic pursuits, research, education, advocacy and thought leadership.”

   

This fall, while Saint Thomas was planning Tommie Give Day, an annual event that supports the university as well as the community at large, the university’s annual giving team approached the Center for Common Good and learned about Catholic Charities’ need for facemasks.

Since strengthening its ties with Catholic Charities, “the Center for the Common Good at Saint Thomas has worked to expand the partnership,” Killpack said. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of students volunteering at Catholic Charities…. Additionally, Catholic Charities’ Hunger Banquet and Family Homelessness: Journeys in Minnesota simulation have provided hundreds of Tommies with the opportunity to think critically about some of the biggest challenges in our community.”

“This year was our sixth annual Tommie Give Day, and our focus was on raising critical support for the Hardship Scholarship Fund,” said giving program manager Lindsey Donovan. “Hardship scholarships go directly to helping students pay tuition, stay in school and graduate. The need this year is greater than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

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“The annual giving team wanted to find another meaningful way to spread Tommie goodwill,” Donovan said. “We reached out to the Center for Common Good with our ‘give-a-mask get-a-mask’ idea. They right away shared with us the need at Catholic Charities. Everyone who gave $60 or more on Tommie Give Day was mailed a Saint Thomas-branded facemask. We donated 900 purple masks to Catholic Charities on behalf of our donors.”

“We received enormous support for this initiative from our alumni and community members,” Killpack said. “We had an initial goal of providing 300 masks. I don’t think any of us anticipated that we’d nearly triple that goal.”

Since strengthening its ties with Catholic Charities, “the Center for the Common Good at Saint Thomas has worked to expand the partnership,” Killpack said. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of students volunteering at Catholic Charities. Whole classes have engaged in creative collaborations at Catholic Charities sites. Additionally, Catholic Charities’ Hunger Banquet and Family Homelessness: Journeys in Minnesota simulation have provided hundreds of Tommies with the opportunity to think critically about some of the biggest challenges in our community and the innovative strategies to address them.”

Saint Thomas’ contributions to Catholic Charities have been invaluable, according to Hagen. “Catholic Charities serves 23,000 clients a year, and our Twin Cities distribution center provides a lot of supplies for basic human needs.” In addition to facemasks, the distribution center has an ongoing need for household goods, personal hygiene products, toys and clothing. For more information, visit Catholic Charities’ website at cctwincities.org.

— Anne Murphy

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