While the St. Croix Valley is sprawling, it contains a through line that represents the hallmark of every healthy community: supporting its own. For this Best of St. Croix Valley issue, we want to check in with a few stellar nonprofits and programs that share time, resources and passion throughout the community.
Youth Action Hudson (YAH)
This youth-led program is built of Hudson High School students who create their own programming throughout the year to engage and enrich the surrounding community. “Currently, we run 10–15 programs that our youth implement and participate in,” says YAH executive director Meredith Arcand.
The longest running of these programs is Peer-to-Peer, which provides resources and presentations to middle school students. “YAH youth reach out to their peers, engaging them in positive self-image, how to prepare for high school and how to be a positive participate in your community,” Arcand says. On average, she notes that 66 percent of all middle school students report learning something new from these presentations.
The youth-led nature of YAH also allows members to introduce events and programs of their own, which can keep pace with the ever-evolving needs faced by students today. One such program is the Mental Health Youth Ambassadors program, launched in January 2022.
“The goal of this program is to equip teens with the tools and information so they can become active at identifying a peer in crisis and know how to direct them to the proper resources,” Arcand says.
Arcand says she’s most proud of the program’s 47 youth participants. “Their lives are full of many things they have to do, and volunteering is not something they have to do; it is a choice,” she says.
Youth Action Hudson; 715.386.9803
St. Croix Valley Foundation (SCVF)
SCVF partners with 10 affiliate community foundations to encourage charitable giving, collaboration and connection between community members and the causes that speak to them. SCVF is steward to more than $90 million in assets, which they’ve raised through cash donations as well as gifts of appreciated stock, real estate, life insurance policies and more.
SCVF’s affiliates focus on local giving and local grant making, explains marketing manager Ellen Montgomery, while SCVF itself provides staffing, administrative, financial, investment and legal support for affiliates. This assistance frees up the more locally-focused affiliates to devote their attention to community projects and needs.
One affiliate, the Lower St. Croix Valley Community Foundation, recently coordinated a massive and multi-year bike trail restoration, spanning the communities of Lakeland, Lakeland Shores, Lake St. Croix Beach, St. Mary’s Point and Afton. In Stillwater, the Stillwater Area Community Foundation funded the restoration of the Stillwater stairs, a popular haunt of morning fitness climbers, and funded the cleanup and reclamation of Fairy Falls, where trails fell victim to erosion. The Hudson Community Foundation has recently funded W.H.O. Books, a program that seeks to provide young readers with books focused on diversity, equity and acceptance.
“These are just a few examples of the many ways that the local grantmaking of SCVF affiliates impacts communities throughout the St. Croix Valley,” Montgomery says. “... These projects rely on the generosity of those who support their hometown via their community foundation, caring for the place they love today and forever.”
St. Croix Valley Foundation; 715.386.9490
This community-powered, Stillwater-based nonprofit started as the St. Croix Valley Food Shelf in 1983 and over its almost 40-year history has grown to encompass many other programs that support community members in need. Valley Outreach helped pioneer the SuperShelf initiative in 2012 with Lakeview Health Partners, which sought to transform food shelves into welcoming environments that mirrored a grocery store shopping experience.
Valley Outreach offers three ways to shop: a drive-up service, home delivery and in store. In 2020, its in-store shopping experienced a major boost when funding through the Federal CARES Act, which allowed it to remodel the space and add coolers/freezers, amenities that open up the opportunity to expand their selection of perishable goods including diary, produce and proteins.
During the fiscal year between 2020 and 2021, Valley Outreach spokesperson Jessica Hauser says the SuperShelf distributed 1,447,727 pounds of food, and shoppers are encourage to come as often as they need food. The SuperShelf receives this food a number of ways, from community donations via food drives to a retail rescue program, which collects food from local grocery stores that needs to move off the shelves to make room for the stores’ next shipments.
Valley Outreach has expanded its reach to include clothing programs and more. “When people come to Valley Outreach, they often need help with more than food and clothing—like housing, transportation and utilities,” Hauser says. “That is where our Client Support Services team can help people find other resources that can help them move their lives forward based on their personal situation.” Last year, Valley Outreach served roughly 1,450 households through its Client Support Services work, Hauser adds.
Valley Outreach; 651.430.2739