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Gift cards meet families' basic needs
August 6, 2015

By Jacqueline Scott-Hopkins | Last week, I opened the mail and had received six gas cards from Deacon Francis (St. Gabriel the Archangel) donated by an anonymous parishioner.  I raised my hand and gave thanks to the almighty and did my silly happy dance. It gave me such pleasure to be able to relieve at least one of that day’s stressors from a shelter guest.   

I am thankful and grateful for our generous supporters. I appreciate the host coordinators and volunteers who donate time, resources, hugs and their listening ear. And sometimes I need to ask for more.

I teach my daughters that when you ask someone for something, it is important to explain why you need it – so here is why we ask for the following gift cards: 

  • Target/Walmart - Think of your last Target run. You go there for the basics, right? When you’ve been couch-hopping or living in your car, as some of our families have before coming to shelter, it’s easy to misplace socks, shoes, even underwear. These cards are also useful for families moving out into a new home who have little or nothing left for for soap, food, detergent and toiletries after paying a hefty security deposit (sometimes double if they have poor credit).
  • Cub - Many families don’t receive SNAP benefits (food stamps) or lose them as soon as they start working.  It can take time for their budget to align with cash flow. I have heard many a parent say, “We have enough food for this week but I don’t know about next week.”
  • Gas Cards - Transportation is often a big expense. A current shelter guest delivers food for a living, making $9 an hour –and spending  $120 a week on gas.  You might say he should get a better job.  But sometimes you take the job you are able to get.  Another parent works as a traveling CNA and her husband is a contracted carpenter.  She spends $150 a week on transportation and he spends $23 a day ($20 cab /$3 bus) – that adds up to about $715 per month and their combined monthly income is $2,500.
  • Payless -  As back-to-school approaches we all know it's time to get the kids at least one new pair of shoes. Many of our kids attend schools that require a uniform and a standard type of shoe. Payless might not be top of the line but it’s affordable, and children’s growing feet need new shoes often.
  • VISA Gift Cards - These might allow parents to take their loved ones to a movie or the Dairy Queen for a celebration treat, or even buy a birthday gift for their child. We recently had a family that was unable to purchase over the counter medicine for a sick family member. VISA gift cards make this possible.
Jacqueline Scott-Hopkins
Jacqueline Scott-Hopkins is the Families Moving Forward-Hennepin program manager.