Giving Tree to support Catholic Charities Outreach for those in need

In what looks like a giant back stockroom of your local Target store, Ronnell Nadeau scans the tightly packed aisles of the Catholic Charities warehouse looking for items her many clients need to survive.

"The donations here at the warehouse are pretty darn important," Nadeau gratefully explains.

Nadeau is a case manager with the St. Paul-based Housing Focused Behavior Health Support Team, more simply called HBST. She has a sophisticated organizational job title, but to her clients, Nadeau is nothing short of a guardian angel.

"Last week, I saw a woman outside on our patio that did not have any shoes," Nadeau recalled. "I talked to her and got her shoe size and came to the warehouse and within an hour, I was able to provide that need."

Nadeau will tell you she is really nothing more than a connector and a creative problem solver. But on this day for one woman with no shoes in the middle of a Minnesota winter, she was that angel tossing a lifeline.

"As soon as she was given those boots, it was like instant relief coming over her," said Nadeau. "And she knew that that need was something she didn’t have to worry about."

The Catholic Charities warehouse is a life-sustaining resource for Catholic Charities and many social service organizations that serve clients often in vulnerable positions in life. Some have no home. Others have lost a job or have fallen into crisis as government support programs end.

"We serve over 20,000 people from youngsters in our early childhood education center in north Minneapolis to the vulnerable adults seeking shelter with us," said Keith Kozerski, a program manager with Catholic Charities. "Coming out of COVID-19, so many of our families had gaps in employment or the eviction moratorium being lifted. They’ve lost housing, and they come to Catholic Charities as that place that’s going to help them meet the basics."

As a way of helping to fill the warehouse with basic needs, Catholic Charities is once again launching its Giving Tree. This Christmas marks the 30th anniversary of Giving Tree as a way for the community to help out. This year’s Giving Tree event will be held at the Macy’s Court in the Mall of America from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, December 17th, and Sunday, December 18th.

Catholic Charities will have staff and volunteers at the MOA where anyone can grab a tree ornament containing a list of items needed for the warehouse.

"It’s a really fun family activity," explained Elizabeth Lyden, the community engagement and partnership manager at Catholic Charities. "We hope people come and grab a gift ornament, look at the kind of area that you’re interested in supporting, then go shopping and come right back with what you find."

The organization actually has a top-five list of its greatest needs, and they all revolve around warmth.

"A warm winter jacket, sweatpants, warm winter boots, underwear to waterproof gloves or mittens," said Kozerski. "Things that our clients who may be living in the street to may not have the ability to purchase these Minnesota essentials for themselves."

If supporters cannot come to the Mall of America for the Giving Tree event this weekend, Catholic Charities accepts donations year-round at its St. Paul warehouse located at 341 Chester Street, near the Holman Field airport.

Ronnell Nadeau says having access to the supplies at the Catholic Charities warehouse is a source of relief for the clients she serves.

"Being able to have something that’s provided just takes away that extra stress," Nadeau said.