For Twin Cities-based MATTER, the role of being a facilitator to serve global human needs – from Africa to Afghanistan – has stood tall and strong for two decades.
A Minnesota-based global NGO, MATTER brings together the best companies, experts and problem solvers to kickstart big ideas that can change the world. This collaborative movement activates healthy eating for children and families, and inspires innovative solutions in healthcare access, regenerative agriculture and student-centered education. Collectively, MATTER has impacted more than 14 million lives worldwide.
“We are working on some of humanity’s basic needs – food, healthcare, having access to that healthcare, hospitals, education, and agriculture,” said Quenton Marty, who joined the organization eight years ago and now serves as the president, heading the 16-person staff. “That’s what we do. We help people launch ideas that improve communities.
“We don’t discriminate against any geography, in terms of where somebody is located. We jokingly say, as long as you are on planet Earth, we can probably help you in some way.”
Locally, MATTER partners with community organizations to provide healthy food for children and families. With the arrival of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the early spring, and the civil unrest that engulfed the Twin Cities this summer, the need for food was urgent and growing. Marshalling their resources, MATTER was able to provide more than 150,000 meals for families in the Twin Cities.
“We’re in an interesting time,” said Marty. “The COVID pandemic has forced us get creative in how we serve others due to social distancing and other restrictions. But that’s one of MATTER’s core strengths. Whether we’re working on projects locally or around the world, we have to think outside the box to find solutions to the problems communities are facing.”
One of these solutions is the MATTERbox Volunteer Kit, a way for individuals and corporate employees to pack healthy snack packs in the safety of their homes. Volunteers can then give them directly to those in need or to organizations of their choice that will distribute them into the community. Since its inception in March, the MATTERbox Volunteer Kit has been growing in popularity.
“It’s been great to see the response,” Marty said. “People want to help, but a lot of volunteer activities are on hold due to COVID. The MATTERbox Volunteer Kit allows people to contribute to the needs in their communities, but to do it in a safe way. Many even get their children involved as they assemble the snack packs around their kitchen table. It’s a great experience for the volunteers, but more importantly, it’s helping provide food to kids that need it.”
Globally, MATTER collaborates with international partners to refurbish hospitals worldwide through the redistribution of medical equipment and supplies donated to MATTER by local hospitals. When the pandemic hit, Marty says that MATTER began receiving calls from these same hospitals, in need of the supplies which they had originally donated.
“We had thousands of masks in our warehouse when all of this hit, along with gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that was suddenly needed, “ Marty explained. “Within a couple of weeks, we distributed all those masks and the PPE to local hospitals.
It was an unusual time for us. We usually take in excess supplies and repurpose to others who need it. But here we were, helping right here in the Minneapolis community during a crisis. It gave our organization a strong sense of purpose during a difficult time.”
Marty, a married father of four, began his journey as a divinity student out of high school, which was followed by six years as an associate pastor at a small suburban church. His path led him to an interest in microfinance and using it to help others. He has lived in places as diverse as Ukraine and Poland to Lancaster County, Pa.
The next adventure for his family will be a move to Zimbabwe where Marty will oversee a nation-wide MATTER initiative to renovate key hospitals and establish nutrition gardens in partnership with Zimbabwe’s First Lady and her foundation, Angel of Hope.
“When we talk to our partners in Africa, the economic slowdown has created a lot of hand-to-mouth type of situations,” he said. “People are working day-to-day to provide for their families and put food on the table. There is a rise in malnutrition and, in some cases, starvation.
At the same time, in many of these countries the health care systems are in such need that even the most basic care is hard to come by. People deserve dignified health care. MATTER is excited to help Zimbabwe restore its health care infrastructure so they can better address the needs of their people.”
Marty encourages the public to partner with MATTER in making the world, from home to abroad, a better place.
"MATTER’s guiding belief is encapsulated in the simple yet powerful expression, YOU MATTER,“ Marty explained. “When people believe they matter, and believe others matter too, their ideas and actions can change the world. We have numerous opportunities for people to give back, help others and serve. By working together, we can help meet the growing needs here in the Twin Cities and beyond.”
To learn more, visit www.matter.ngo