Help a neighbor in need donation bins from Neighbors, Inc.

Charlie Thompson: CEO of Neighbors, Inc.

Thanks to Cherokee Service for their support.

Neighbors, Inc. is a nonprofit that offers emergency and supportive assistance to low-income community members in West St. Paul, South St. Paul, Mendota Heights, Inver Grove Heights, Sunfish Lake and Lilydale. One-third of the program participants are from West St. Paul. Neighbors, Inc. is perhaps best known for their food shelf, though they offer a host of programs including a Clothes Closet and a dial-a-ride transportation program.

Neighbors, Inc. is keeping people fed—the food shelf serves more than 500 families every month. But they don’t do it alone. The organization relies on the support of nearly 1,500 volunteers.

“We are providing an opportunity for someone to thrive.”

Charlie Thompson, Neighbors, Inc. president and CEO

During the MN FoodShare Campaign in March 2019, West St. Paul stepped up and donated a combination of 84,937 pounds and dollars to Neighbors, Inc. (famously beating South St. Paul in a friendly wager).

Support Neighbors, Inc. This Thanksgiving

There’s an easy way you can support Neighbors, Inc. this Thanksgiving: walking.

Each year more than 5,000 people come to the Mall of America on Thanksgiving morning for the Walk to End Hunger. Neighbors, Inc. is one of 10 nonprofits that benefit from the charity walk and one of the founding partner organizations. This year Neighbors hopes to raise $15,000 from the Walk to End Hunger.

You can help in several ways:

  • Donate: You can donate to the West St. Paul Reader team to help us support Neighbors, Inc. We hope to raise $500. (Or just donate in general—we don’t care who gets the credit.)
  • Walk: Sign up to walk on Thanksgiving morning. The $25 registration fee is your initial donation (walkers under 18 are free), and then you can fundraise to help out even more. You can join our team or start your own.
  • Fundraise: If you can’t make it on Thanksgiving morning, you can still sign up to fundraise and support the cause. Join our team!

The Walk to End Hunger is a great way to give back before giving thanks. And it helps people in West St. Paul. Please donate.

Talking with Thompson

Charlie Thompson and volunteer Virginia
Charlie Thompson with founding member and current volunteer Virginia—who is 102 years old.

We wanted to know more about Neighbors, Inc., so we talked with President and CEO Charlie Thompson. He has 10 years of nonprofit experience, beginning his work with St. Vincent de Paul in both South Bend, Ind., and Tacoma, Wash., before starting with Neighbors, Inc. in 2017. Thompson has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in theater and nonprofit business training in both nonprofit leadership and fund development. He currently lives in Inver Grove Heights with his family.

How did Neighbors, Inc. get started?

Neighbors was founded in 1972 as a result of a local economic crisis. Volunteers from local churches came together to figure out how to help their neighbors. Access to food and clothing were their first priority. From those humble beginnings, Neighbors has grown to include partners from dozens of churches, businesses, and other organizations. Our services have expanded and include food support to more than 100,000 people annually; free and low cost clothing, household goods and other items at our Clothes Closet Thrift Store; a transportation program; emergency cash assistance; a holiday gift program and other services.

Neighbors, Inc. food shelf

Who is typically served by Neighbors, Inc.?

We serve people in need in northern Dakota County. Everyone we serve is valued and their story matters. When you use that lens to meet people where they are, you discover that every situation is unique. I would describe the people we serve as a mosaic. No two situations are alike.

How have the needs changed over the years What kind of differences have you noticed?

As a community, we have become more aware of the need to be inclusive in all that we do. Over the years, that has led to many changes in how we support our community. As an example, in our food shelf we strive to have ethnically diverse food and be sensitive to dietary needs. Other changes that have impacted us include the increased cost of housing and the aging population. The cost of housing has risen disproportionately to wages and it is harder for low to middle income households to meet their basic needs.

We are also serving more and more people over 65 who need support to be able to age in place and stay healthy.

What’s the best way to support Neighbors, Inc.?

We believe that everyone benefits from the generosity of our community. We are grateful for all forms of generosity—time, talent, and treasure. Financial donations give us the most flexibility to carry out our mission. We also couldn’t make it all happen without our dedicated volunteers. Last year more than 40,000 hours of volunteer time was given to support the service programs at Neighbors. Our volunteers’ time and talent is appreciated beyond measure. We also have tremendous support from our community in putting on food drives and other benefit events.

Getting food from the Neighbors, Inc. food shelf

What are the most needed food items? Is it better to donate food or donate money so you can buy food in bulk?

Financial donations allow us the most flexibility because we can purchase needed food items at a reduced rate from local food banks. We also appreciate the diverse selection of food items our community donates. The food items we are always in need of include nutrient dense, healthy food options.

Sometimes nonprofit work can be frustrating because there are always so many needs. But what gives you hope or excites you about this work?

I like to think that we are providing opportunity. When we help to feed a family, clothe someone who is experiencing homelessness, provide a ride to a medical appointment, pay a utility bill or simply listen; we are providing an opportunity for someone to thrive. That excites me and keeps me going each and every day.

Thanks to Charlie Thompson and everyone at Neighbors, Inc. for giving us some insights into this vital community service.

Don’t forget to support the Walk to End Hunger. You can donate now.

Support West St. Paul Reader by becoming a patron.

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