Student Group Spotlight: Helping Hands

Helping Hands at the University of Minnesota was established in 2017, and since then has done everything with their mission statement in mind: “Our values aren’t about pointing fingers, they’re about offering a helping hand.” I contacted the president, Marty, and she provided me with a little more information on Helping Hands and what they do as a group:

Q: What are your group’s goals?

A: The goal of this group is to help homeless women and their children get back on their feet through empowerment and compassion. It’s our goal to work with shelters in the community to help supplement their needs when state funding falls short. Right now we’re looking to partner with a business student group to host a resumé and interview workshop for homeless and displaced women to assist them in finding a steady job. Additionally, we’re working on forming a tutoring program for children staying with their mothers in shelters, to ensure that they are getting all the help they need to succeed.

Q: What upcoming activities or events will your group be hosting or a part of?

A: This semester we’re partnering with Period.MN and PHC to host a campus-wide pad and tampon drive to make period packs for women in the area. Due to the incredibly high cost of feminine hygiene products, many homeless women are unable to purchase the products they need every month. It’s our goal to collect as many packs as possible to help our neighbors out!

We’re also working with the Minneapolis Police Department to plan a self-defense workshop specifically designed for women that have to sleep in public areas like parks, streets or in their car, so that they can protect themselves effectively.

Q: How does this group contribute to the community on campus?

A: We believe that when our greater community succeeds, the campus community succeeds as well. We hope that by empowering women that are struggling financially to succeed, our neighborhoods, campuses and cities will succeed as well.

It’s our hope that we can help break the stigma around periods not just for homeless women, but for students on campus as well.

Q: How does one get involved with your organization?

A: This semester we meet every other Wednesday in Folwell 122 at 5:00 p.m. Starting next semester, there will be a $5 membership fee to help cover the cost of registration and ordering supplies for distribution. To learn more, email us at [email protected], or visit our Facebook page or website!

 

A special thank you to Marty McFarland, president of Helping Hands, who talked with me all about the amazing work this student group is doing. Her connection to Helping Hands runs deep, and here’s more detail on exactly how and why she started this group:

I grew up in a city with the fourth highest homeless population in the country. My parents, true Californian hippies, believed in giving anything we didn’t need to our neighbors that needed it most. It was a lesson I carried with me when I moved to Minnesota for college.

 

I started Helping Hands my junior year after watching a documentary about the difficulties of menstruating while living on the streets. I knew I wanted to help make feminine hygiene products available to the people that need them most, but I also knew it wasn’t enough. Distributing a pack of goodies and then going on my merry way wouldn’t fix the root of the problem. So, I gathered some of my brilliant, successful, and amazing friends to start a group that would work to tackle homelessness with a holistic approach.

By partnering with business student groups, we hope to assist homeless women in finding jobs to support themselves, and hopefully move into their very own place. By tutoring children in shelters, we hope to ensure that they receive a strong education, and can maybe become Gophers themselves. By working with various businesses and groups in the community, we hope to break down the barriers that these women face and open doors to their success.

It has been a slow start--it turns out it takes a lot of money to run a non-profit student group--but we are excited and enthusiastic for what the future has in store for our group. We would love to have the opportunity to work with the amazing students on campus, and would encourage anyone interested in participating to shoot us an email!