Minneapolis: One Year of Service Down, Two to Go

The following was contributed by The Salvation Army Northern Divisional Headquarters.


It’s been a year since a tornado ripped through North Minneapolis and left hundreds of families homeless. Not only is The Salvation Army still serving tornado survivors, it has a new program to help them two more years into the future.

The new program is called Project Breakthrough. It begins in July and will provide intensive case management for up to 30 families that lost their homes to the tornado. The families will receive all the tools they need to become self-sufficient: one-on-one counseling, budgeting classes, résumé help, job interview coaching and much more. In addition, financial assistance will be available for things like car repairs, college application fees or new clothes to wear for a job interview.  The budget for the first year is $150,000.

“The program’s objective is to get families ‘off the system’ so they are not relying on the government, food shelves and other assistance,” said Major Strickler, Twin Cities Commander. “Many families that lost everything to the tornado need a guiding hand because they are still struggling to reclaim control. Through Project Breakthrough, families will have access to their very own social worker to help them navigate the system and pave a path to success.”

Project Breakthrough is funded by a two-year grant from The Salvation Army Central Territory Headquarters in Chicago. It will employ two staff members – one full-time, one part-time – and be based at the North Minneapolis Salvation Army.
Looking Back:

The tornado struck on May 22, 2011 with almost no warning, annihilating a 3.5-mile swath of what is arguably Minneapolis’ poorest area. The Salvation Army was on the scene immediately, providing food, drinks and emotional care to hundreds of survivors and relief workers distributing nearly $50,000 worth of in-kind gifts including 67,000 pounds of food in the first few weeks.

The Salvation Army would spend the remainder of 2011 providing nearly $230,000 worth of long-term assistance, most of which paid dozens of families’ relocation expenses: first month’s rent, damage deposits and furniture. The rest paid for thing like car repairs, groceries, clothing and transportation. All of these services were provided at the North Minneapolis Salvation Army, located a few blocks south of the destruction.

“We couldn’t have served so many people without the generous donations we received from the Twin Cities community,” said Strickler. “A year after the disaster, we’re seeing how much of a long-term impact those donations have had.”

The Salvation Army is still serving tornado survivors to this day, as many of them didn’t know about everything the North Minneapolis Salvation Army had to offer.

“After the tornado struck, lots of new people came to us for food, clothing, gas vouchers and other assistance,” said Strickler. “A year later, many of those tornado survivors have continued coming to us for help. In a way, the tornado was a blessing because it has allowed us to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ to a whole new group of people in North Minneapolis.”