This Christmas season, many wish for a better world and a community with less violence, need and poverty.
Mary Canada of Farmington decided why wait to find solutions to serve the needy.
Commuting each day to downtown Minneapolis, Canada saw the homeless and this bothered her and made her worry and her heart ache. Homeless, hungry men were daily asking for food or money.
She decided she could make a difference. Even if it was a small gesture. She decided she would bring an extra orange to work. Canada passed an orange out her car window to a hungry homeless man in need.
"He was so grateful," Canada said.
That was two months ago. Now Canada has formed a soup kitchen on wheels and a mobile action network of loyal volunteers from her community and church at Farmington Lutheran Church.
"It is about the emergency when you are catching people that are falling through the cracks, like the moms who are sitting at home with no food for their babies and they had a crisis and now they cannot afford Christmas," Canada said.
"I have a great team of women and I am an action person and I wanted to get out there and do," she added. More than 30 volunteers donate and answer requests for needed items from families across the Twin Cities. Canada began engaging fellow colleagues from work to give donations.
Since October she has engaged hundreds to give generously.
After the orange, Canada began giving out care bags on her commute. The bags were filled with hats, mittens, toiletries, food, sandwiches or pizza slices. Canada has given out 70 plus care bags to the needy and homeless people all over the Twin Cities.
"I don't want to get all religious but I really wanted to help people be like the hands and feet of Christ, so I prayed and asked God how I could help?" Canada said.
As a full-time, working mother, she said she is filled with energy when she gives back. She spends most of her free time collecting clothing and desired donations and then swiftly organizes and stores them all in her garage.
The Facebook site of Caring Hearts in Action Minnesota has engaged hundreds in the community to donate. Each anonymous need is messaged. In just a few weeks, dozens and perhaps even hundreds of requests have been filled.
Mostly, the need is from women with children who are in need of food, clothing, diapers, formula, Christmas presents and even Christmas trees for their families this holiday season. After the donation needs are met, Canada shows donors with photos of live Facebook videos of how their generous donations are being put into action and given to needy families.
Many days after work, Canada arrives home from work to find the needs are awaiting in bags on her front doorstep.
"If somebody cannot afford a tree, these women have delivered many trees and presents and Thanksgiving meals to families," Canada said, referring to sisters, Lana and Lisa, who alone have sponsored 10 families and given and delivered gifts to make sure families have bright Christmases this week.
"It feels so empowering and amazing and that you know someone is listening," Canada said.
Receiving cautionary warnings from family and friends who worry about her safety, Canada said she is not worried.
Volunteers have driven a packed truck and trailer as far as 145 miles away to deliver household items to a woman who moved out of an abusive relationship to start a new life. The woman had nothing, but thanks to the women on wheels, this single mother had what she needed for her children and could being a new life.
Receiving full support from her children and her husband, Rick, Canada is beaming when talking about making a difference in the lives of family around the holidays.
As the daughter of a single mother, Canada recalls watching her mother struggle. She wants to make life easier for other moms who may not qualify for the food shelf or are too proud to inquire if a food need can be met.
"Many do not have cars or gas money or are homebound, and these are the people who are not getting the community support or may be afraid to ask," Canada said.
One woman with five children showed up to pick up groceries. She was shy because she had never needed assistance before. When she arrived at Canada's home with her child who was hungry, the boy broke open a loaf of bread and began eating a slice. That type of hunger really bothers this mother.
In the next week, Canada is looking forward to opening her nonprofit in downtown Farmington at 403 Third St. The small space is being donated by Eric and Becky Ruud, owners of Top Notch Realty. Soon people can make appointments to come in and look over the clothing and household items.
"Our nonprofit has seven board members and we are looking for a corporate or business sponsor to be able to continue meeting the community's needs," Canada said who plans to keep working her full-time job. She is looking into grant funding, too.
Caring Hearts in Action Minnesota is also looking for donated storage space to store furniture that can be given to families or refugees who may need everything to start up a new home and a new life.
Canada said "These are the people we are reaching and they are still showing us kindness, love and generosity and they give us the best hugs."
Caring Hearts in Action Minnesota
What: New nonprofit opens next week in downtown Farmington – Caring Hearts in Action Minnesota.
Where: 403 Third St., downtown Farmington in space donated by Top Notch Realty owners Becky and Eric Ruud.
How: Spaghetti dinner and silent auction fundraiser for seed money to form 501C3 nonprofit
When: 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28, at Rosemount American Legion
Donate: The nonprofit group welcomes silent auction items, gift baskets, hotel stays, gift cards or donated business services.
Connect: Volunteers and donors can connect on Facebook.