Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Great news for Neighbors Helping Neighbors in Nashwauk

Tony Potter / Hibbing Daily Tribune
 By Tony Potter Hibbing Daily Tribune 

NASHWAUK — A major change has taken place at the Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN) Food Shelf in Nashwauk. Director Joen Blomberg was hired by vote of the NHN Food Shelf Board to be the nonprofit’s first paid staff member on Jan. 1.

“We needed a point person,” said Publicity Director Karen Peterson. “There is too much work for the average volunteer.”

The ability to hire a paid site coordinator was made possible due to a two-year grant from the Blandin Foundation, she explained. The grant allows the director to earn $10,000 in salary during each year of the contract.

Blomberg said that when the position was offered to her by the board, she was too honored not to accept it.

“My heart leads me to helping people,” she said, adding that she has also volunteered at a Colorado food shelf and done community outreach for churches. “… I love this. It’s my passion.”

Blomberg first got involved with the NHN Food Shelf as the secretary of the board when the organization opened up in November of 2009. She eventually became the site coordinator, and has served as the food shelf director over the past few years.

Blomberg noted that even though her title has changed several times, her duties have remained fairly similar. She said her primary duties consist of ordering food, overseeing all aspects of the operation and implementing board decisions.

Being the nonprofit’s only paid worker provides an added push to work even harder for the food shelf, Blomberg said.

“It gave me motivation, and a lot more responsibility,” she said.

Blomberg said that her previous experiences at the food shelves in Nashwauk and Colorado have helped prepare her for this opportunity.

“I feel that I have a lot of experience that helps me know every aspect of the organization,” she said.

With the added flexibility, the food shelf also has new goals. The hope is to expand the nonprofit’s hours and add delivery to the senior apartments in Nashwauk, Blomberg said.

“We want to get seniors more involved,” Peterson said, noting that seniors make up just 10 percent of the food shelf’s clients. “We want to make it easier for them to get food.”

Peterson also noted that the Blandin Foundation grant can be extended if the following requirements are met: the food shelf needs to increase food access, the population served must closely resemble area demographics, and all regulatory reports need to be filed on time.

“Joen doesn’t have set hours, but she is constantly working,” she said. “She has got a phone call here, an email there and paperwork at home.”

The board is truly pleased with having Blomberg as the food shelf director, Peterson said.

“Joen is just incredible,” she opined.

But the whole seven-member, volunteer board serves as working staff members, Blomberg said.

“Since the beginning, they’ve all held a critical role,” she said. “They don’t just come to the meetings. They are all hard workers.”

And the rest of the volunteers have been just as vital to the food shelf’s every day operations, Blomberg said.

“They are all incredible, reliable and volunteered for more than 2,000 hours in 2013,” she said. “It’s not a one woman show.”

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