Merrick Community Services’ March food drive can use your help

Merrick volunteer, Randy, sorts a colorful array of donated fresh-food items.

Merrick Senior Participant, Joyce, hugging a Meals on Wheels volunteer.

Merrick Community Services has helped people in need on the East Side of St. Paul for more than a century. 

The nonprofit agency’s most widely used services offer assistance with employment, family services, senior and youth programs, and food programs including the Woodland Hills food shelf, Meals on Wheels, and mobile, culturally-specific food banks. 

“We’re a multi-service agency,” says Brandon Griffin, director of resource development at Merrick. “So when someone comes in for an emergency need, such as to our food shelf, they need food right away so we help them. But if they’re unemployed, we’re also able to refer them to our employment services where we help them gain the credentials to find a job.” 

Merrick also helps low-wage workers and unemployed individuals learn new job skills, with the goal of earning a livable wage in order to have a sustainable lifestyle.

Merrick opens its Woodland Hills food shelf three times a week and serves 50 to 60 needy families from Maplewood and the East Side. Last year Merrick’s food programs served over 12,000 households, giving out more than 700,000 pounds of food. 

March is an important month for safety net agencies like Merrick, because that’s when the Minnesota FoodShare campaign takes place. Many local churches, schools and businesses find ways to raise donations for Merrick’s big March food drive every year, and extra volunteers are needed to help process and stock the influx of food and non-food essentials. 

Businesses also find unique and creative ways to get involved. AgriBank, for example, offers employees the option to wear jeans on Fridays if they make a $5 donation to the Merrick food shelf. 3M brings in volunteers for bagging fundraisers at Cub Foods, and a local salon has donated hair products to the food shelf during March, as well as foot care kits for seniors.  

“There are so many innovative ways that clubs, businesses and organization can get involved,” Griffin says. “The only way we are able to raise money is with our partnerships in the community; it’s really a community effort to do this.”

Griffin adds, “Hunger can affect anyone, even your neighbors, and you may not even be aware that they don’t have access to affordable, nutritious food.”

Later this year Merrick will be moving into a new, permanent home on the Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church campus, located at Arcade Street and Larpenteur Avenue. 

The new site will quadruple the social service agency’s space and house programming, with a computer lab, classrooms, gym activities, meeting rooms, administrative offices and an expanded Meals on Wheels and a new food shelf to complement the Woodland Hills food pantry. 

The Merrick staff expect to settle into the 15,000-square-foot space after renovation work is completed in late summer.


Small donations go a long way ...

Here’s what your donations can do for 

someone in need:

• $5 will feed a senior for a day

• $20 will purchase a box of fresh vegetables (potatoes, onions, carrots, etc.)

• $25 will feed a senior Meals on Wheels participant for a week

• $50 will provide emergency food supplements to five people through our food shelf

• $1,000 will feed a senior citizen for an entire year


Volunteers needed ... 

Merrick Food Shelf can always use volunteers to help with restocking, distribution, intake, data entry, and that’s especially true in March, when the statewide Minnesota FoodShare campaign takes place. 

Volunteer shifts are very flexible to fit the schedule of anyone interested in helping with these tasks. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, contact Samantha Soriano at 651-287-2088 or


How businesses can assist the 

annual food drive ...

• Employee incentives (jeans day, etc.)

• Friendly competition between departments

• Skip lunch for hunger

• Donation jar at cash register

• Donate portion of sales for a day

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