Non Profits in Your Own Backyard

The mission of MATTER is to help people launch projects that improve communities. From improving access to health care and nutrition to tech for the underserved in Twin Cities and beyond.  

Vicki Bachmann, the VP of Business Partnerships at MATTER, is working to advance MATTER’s mission domestically and internationally by connecting businesses and giving them opportunities to serve.

One current project is the Chaya Project in Zimbabwe. The Chaya tree, native to Mexico and South America, thrives in the warm climate of Zimbabwe. Chaya is a highly nutritious food source and easy to propagate. So far, MATTER has been able to plant 75,000 trees to help children in Zimbabwe suffering from drought conditions and food insecurity. Vicki says, “The next phase in providing better nutrition and health outcomes is to train the women to grow and harvest the Chaya, using the plant to produce and sell products building a micro economy.” 

On a local level, MATTER has a variety of programs, including MATTER Box, an initiative providing a win for recipients in need of healthy food kits and the volunteers who assemble them. MATTER sells volunteer kits to individuals, families, groups, and corporations. Everything needed to assemble 50 healthy snack packs is contained in an individual kit. Volunteers can distribute them themselves or can bring them back to MATTER for distribution in the community. “These kits find their way into shelters, police departments, school athletic programs, mental health facilities, and centers that offer after-school programming. A few hundred thousand of these kits are made and distributed each year,” Vicki says.

MATTER encourages people to come see what they’re about. Vicki says a great way to learn about MATTER is to take a tour. “We are open arms. We invite you to visit our facility and learn how to engage with us. There are many ways to be involved." 

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Certified Financial Planner Chris Bentley had always been in the business of assisting clients with making important financial decisions. But after he lost a colleague unexpectedly in 2017, his eyes were opened to a new population that needed guidance. His co-worker’s wife, Liane, newly widowed, had joined a grief group and asked Chris if he would speak with them about their financial concerns. That experience prompted Chris to create Wings for Widows, a non-profit that steps in at a critical time to assist widows with financial matters.

Chris says research finds 86% of widows didn’t make financial decisions on their own before their loss. This new responsibility, being the sole decision maker and navigating their own financial goals, can be overwhelming for widows. Chris had a very productive pandemic writing a book that now serves as a roadmap for those new to widowhood and a framework when clients seek the services of Wings for Widows. 

Wings for Widows offers free, one-on-one virtual coaching matching clients with a financial planner. These personalized sessions, delivered via Zoom, can reach families in need wherever they are. Candidates complete an online “wellness check” and then are assigned a coach. They are fortunate to have over 60 volunteer CFPs who give back to their communities by lending their expertise in helping clients work through myriad administrative, financial, and legal issues.

Chris aims to add many more volunteers, including additional coaches. “We are a growing organization to meet a growing demand.” Also on their wish list are sponsors and monetary donations to expand their awareness and serve more clients. They desire to be a valuable resource in area churches, with hospice caregivers, community grief groups, and more. 

Wings for Widows is about getting down to brass tacks and providing professional financial advice, but there is a valuable ripple effect. Chris says, “People really can’t start their grief journey until they have financial clarity. We provide that and confidence and peace of mind to gently set widows and widowers on the road to recovery.” 

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Hope House is exactly that, a place that offers both shelter and hope to youth in the southwest metro. Rod Provart, executive director of Hope House, explains it isn’t merely a ‘facility’ but an actual house. Located in Chanhassen, Hope House is a three-way partnership between Westwood Community Church (who owns the land), the Open Hands Foundation (who serve as project managers), and 180 Degrees (who operates the shelter). “One thing we hear over and over again, is that it is a home. The teens live communally, sitting around a kitchen table…there is a fireplace. It really is a home.” 

Since 2015 Hope House has been able to serve 600 local teens. Unfortunately, they have also had to turn away 1,000 requests. Some need a respite for a short time, maybe a few days. Others need longer stays to get back on track with school or reunification with their family. The need is there. Rod says the board is eager to explore an opportunity to seek a larger house. “Demand is high, and our shelter cannot currently keep up with the demand.” 

Hope House is staffed around the clock and provides basic needs like meals and clothing, taking care of immediate physical and mental needs first. Beyond that, they assist with navigating school, helping teens take the necessary steps to graduate, gain employment, and secure affordable housing. 

Rod dreams of future opportunities for Hope House and the youth they serve. Perhaps someday, a steady stream of volunteers to teach basic cooking skills, auto repair, financial literacy.  All the skills teens and young adults need to survive and thrive are taught to them by members of their own community. 

Rod says, “The heart of Hope House is love. Love is what we do. When they come to Hope House, some of the teens are just lost. We meet every teen with love. We treat them with dignity. We offer them a home.”

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