May 13 Speakers: Jeff Hansen, Community Action Partnership (CAP) and Mary Hernandez of Esperanza

Nate Bostrom introduced Jeff Hansen, the Executive Director of the Scott-Carver-Dakota County Community Action Partnership, a private not-for-profit agency that assists and empowers people to achieve social and economic well-being in partnership with our communities.   Jeff has spent the last 29 years working within the non-profit community.  He has an exceptional record of achievement in leading the government, business, and community relation activities for local, regional and national nonprofits. 

The CAP Agency is governed by a committed, compassionate, and hardworking group of community members with a wide-range of expertise – finance, law, investment, early childhood education, human services, higher education, marketing, philanthropy, human resources, information technology and strategic planning. They represent the community sector, the private sector, and the public sector in equal parts.

The CAP Goals:

  • A strong, healthy, community of connected individuals and families
  • Accessible, high-quality education
  • Safe and stable housing and energy support
  • Fulfilling employment for all

Jeff described the CAP successes in weathering the storm of the pandemic in 2020:

  • 1,500,000 pounds of food distributed to 9,000 families and 35,000 individuals.
  • 20,000 families served at 48 pop-up food distribution events.
  • 138,215 meals delivered to 879 seniors.
  • 119 individuals with housing emergencies supported.
  • 5,700 households received energy assistance.

He pointed out the racial and generational makeup of those who have been helped through CAP programs, one of which is Esperanza.

Founded by Mary Hernandez, Esperanza has joined CAP Agency as a program focusing on serving new immigrants, at risk youth, and undeserved and low-income youth and families. Through weekly fresh food distributions, the Esperanza program helps CAP Agency reach thousands of traditionally underserved people in need. Other services include cultural and community engagement, youth sports and outdoor activities (such as soccer), and other services through school-based partnerships.

Mary was a special guest at our ZOOM meeting, and was noted as being instrumental in the food distribution events since the COVID pandemic started in early 2020.

Early Head Start

Another CAP activity is Early Head Start (EHS), which provides help for children ages 0 – 3 years old.  EHS helps pregnant moms, and parents and caregivers of children ages 0-3. The program consists of weekly visits, group events twice each month (where parents meet and talk with other parents in their community about parenting), and periodic assessments about how the child is developing (things the parent should focus on, look for, etc.) The program has a focus on school readiness for both the child and the parent.

Head Start

Head Start is a family-based program for kids ages 3-5 that gives parents and caregivers confidence by deepening their understanding of who their child is and fostering the ability to be able to articulate that, and to support and share in their child’s experience. A partnership between teaching staff, family service staff, and the parent or caregiver, Head Start helps stabilize the family so they can better support the child. Both the child and caregiver set goals through the program (a child may have a goal of writing their name while their caregiver’s goal is getting their driver’s license), and the child learns in a play-based environment both in the classroom and at home. Head Start focuses on school readiness for both the child and the caregiver. Head Start is an all-day program, and students receive meals in the classroom. Parents or caregivers must provide transportation. Head Start also provides parents and caregivers with health, mental health, and financial support.

Other programs from CAP:

  • Energy Assistance Program – helps eligible households with energy bill payment assistance, home energy crisis intervention, outreach, energy advocacy, information about utility consumer rights, and referrals.
  • Food Shelf – located in in Shakopee it offers people in need an immediate supply of food. The Food Shelf provides fresh produce, dairy items, bakery goods, and meat, as well as nonperishables. Anyone in Scott County is eligible to participate once per month.
  • Senior Nutrition – ensures that individuals age 60+ have access to healthy meals. Meals are served midday at multiple sites throughout Scott, Carver and Dakota counties, or delivered directly to seniors in their homes.
  • Women, Infants and Children – assists caregivers and children ages 0-5 years old. Caregivers receive both an eWIC card with funds to purchase specific food items, and regular counseling sessions that give parents and caregivers the support and goal-setting skills they need to help them learn to use those items to create healthy meals. By encouraging parents and caregivers, they gain the confidence to develop an enriching mealtime structure for their children.
  • CHORE – connects seniors with independent contractors that provide services such as snow removal, lawn mowing, cleaning, and minor home repairs on a sliding scale. Supported by a grant from the Metropolitan Area on Aging (MAAA), CHORE helps seniors maintain their independence, stay in their own homes as long as possible, and enhances their quality of life.
  • Crisis Nursery – can provide temporary emergency care for children whose parents cannot be there.
  • Housing Development – such as the West Creek Housing partnership with the Community Asset Foundation and the Carver County Community Development Agency to provide affordable housing.

Jeff concluded his presentation with requests for funding to renovate the CAP’s new location, provide more crisis shelters for the homeless, support more CHORE services for seniors and to purchase culturally specific food for the Food Shelf.  Volunteer efforts and positions are described within the CAP web page – www.capagency.org

The Scott & Carver County CAP office is located at 712 Canterbury Road South, Shakopee, MN 55379.  Phone (952) 496 – 2125. Email at:  info@capagency.org