Driven by helping Shakopee families in need, two local organizations are now in need themselves: Shakopee Community Assistance and Loaves and Fishes have learned their building may not be a safe location for them to continue operating.
Both organizations operate out of 350 Atwood St. S. in the old St. Mark’s Catholic School building. SCA provides diapers, personal hygiene products, household essentials, and fresh produce to local families; Loaves and Fishes provides free community meals three times a week.
According to SCA Director of Operations Keith Chellsen, SCA served 280 families with 360 children in 2019. Just two weeks ago, the Shakopee Police Department donated 25,749 diapers to SCA for its annual diaper drive.
Chellsen said he received word late last week that the fire marshal is going to inspect the building this Wednesday. There have been several maintenance issues in recent years, including when the DMT Dance Studio, housed in the same building, flooded with two feet of water. The building safety concerns could range from mildew and water leakage to electric and gas problems, he said.
While there’s a chance the fire marshal could OK the building for operation, Chellsen believes that’s a highly unlikely outcome.
“It’s a drain on the budget just to maintain it,” he said. “I can’t imagine any way they’ll want to dump money in this building.”
Loaves and Fishes Executive Director Cathy Maes posted on Facebook Saturday saying the organization received notification it can no longer serve meals due to building safety concerns.
“We are looking for a partner that has a kitchen and the ability to seat 100-150 people,” Maes wrote. “We do all the work — we need a space so our guests can continue to get warm nutritious meals.”
While the two organizations operate separately, Chellsen said it would be ideal for them to stay together when they relocate. Being that Loaves and Fishes needs a commercial kitchen and space to feed up to 150 people, he’s not sure staying together will be so easy.
“I’d love to find a church that would like to take this on as their mission. We need space for what we’re doing and an opportunity to be open two or three nights a week to service our clients. Loaves and Fishes is at the same place we are, and it’s an important part of what we do,” he said.
The Knights of Columbus Event Center at 1760 Fourth Ave. E. would be perfect for both, Chellsen said, but as of December, Shakopee Valley News reported the Knights entered into a land use agreement with Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative.
The project is in its very early stages, but Beacon hopes to eventually build a 50-unit supportive housing complex that charges 30 percent of a family’s income and provides on-site resources for residents. It would be subsidized by federal and state aid.
SCA’s space at St. Mark’s is donated, so they don’t have to pay rent. Chellsen hopes to find a church willing to donate space enough for them to store supplies and meet with clients.
“We are going on our sixth year, and we’ve got a lot of credibility in the community. We’re all volunteer, and we run real smoothly, we just need a space,” Chellsen said.
For now, both SCA and Loaves and Fishes are closed until they know the outcome of Wednesday’s fire marshal inspection. If they must remain closed indefinitely, Chellsen said SCA hopes to hold a diaper distribution out of a trailer in a few weeks.
The organization recently invested in the trailer so they can set up mobile sites. While more than half of their clients are in Shakopee, some are from other areas of Scott County and western Carver County, and they want to be as accessible as possible.
Chellsen asks clients to keep an eye on the SCA Facebook page for updates about the upcoming diaper distribution and their future hours.
To find various channels to contact SCA (especially if you’d like to donate space), visit http://sca-mn.org/contact-us/ .
To contact Loaves and Fishes, call 612-377-9810 or visit https://www.loavesandfishesmn.org/contact/.
This story was updated at 8:28 a.m. Feb. 24 to include information about the Knights of Columbus Event Center.