The original Pillsbury House offered services that included a day nursery for working families and mothers, a health clinic, industrial training, and sewing classes. Today, "There is so much going on at Pillsbury. Last year we were fortunate to come in contact with roughly 50,000 people through many ways, including our centers, our theater, and the charter schools we authorize," says Adair Mosley, assistant to Pillsbury President and CEO Chanda Smith Baker. Mosley, a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, spoke about the depth and breadth of services offered by the organization. What Mosley finds most rewarding about his position at PUC, "is being able to know that we're creating something that is really supporting families and our youth."
President Chanda Smith Baker became President in May 2011, after working for the organization since 2000, originally as director of one of the neighborhood centers. Says Mosley, "She's been a very staunch advocate and fighter for education reform and what is best for our children." Smith Baker also leads the organization in a focus on equity, diversity and organizational leadership. While the state shutdown of Summer 2011 affected the funding of many PUC projects, the organization was able to keep its doors and services open.
As can be expected of an organization with such a long history, Pillsbury is changing and evolving. In July of 2012, Pillsbury centralized various administrative offices and moved its headquarters from the Camden neighborhood of North Minneapolis to the corner of West Broadway and N 2nd Street. The West Broadway space also hosts the Twin Cities Public Allies program, which places 24 young adults in nonprofit organizations for 10 months in order to advance new leadership.
In North Minneapolis, Pillsbury operates two of its five Neighborhood Centers, the Oak Park Center at 1701 Oak Park Ave N and the Camden Neighborhood Center at 1210 37th Ave N. The Pillsbury United Communities Interpreting Agency, housed at the Oak Park Center, provides interpreter and translation services throughout the city, including at NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center. PUC also played a crucial role in responding to the needs of Northside residents affected by the 2011 tornado.
Mosley, who is a member of PUC's leadership team, explains that there is special attention being paid to the North Minneapolis centers: "We've been having several conversations about how we can have a greater impact in North Minneapolis, and one of the ways is turning the Oak Park Center more into a youth and family engagement center, a collective gathering space where people can come to get information. We're interested in really engaging the community holistically, bringing parents to the table, as well as having a focus on grandparents who are raising children."
At the Camden Neighborhood Center, which is also undergoing a revamp, the focus is on senior services and disability services. "There is an adult daycare, developmental disabilities employment opportunities and resources. We're trying to break down the walls and engage the elderly better with the community because we need them, we need our elders," says Mosley. The Camden Center is notable in part because there are very few other social services providers north of Lowry Avenue.
Other programs throughout the city include the acclaimed Pillsbury House and Theater, Full Cycle Bike Shop and internship program for homeless youth, the Brian Coyle Center in Cedar-Riverside, and more. PUC also authorizes charter schools, currently sponsoring, guiding and encouraging 13 schools that fit the organization's vision. Finally, PUC employs over 250 people throughout the year.
Pillsbury United Communities is truly a remarkable agency, and the West Broadway Coalition is proud to have it as a member organization. Its history and present are an important part of the social fabric of North Minneapolis and Minneapolis in general. In the words of Mosley, "It's exciting to be able to meet many different needs that people have. We look forward to another 100 years,"
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