People Incorporated: 2020 September Social Action Highlight


When WBUUC member Kate O’Reilly saw firsthand the devastation of severe and persistent mental illness in a family member, she made a decision to do all she could to help other people and their families dealing with the same issues.  She began volunteering at People Incorporated and continued to do so for 25 years. “The help that People Incorporated gave to people who struggled with mental illness, gave me hope for those suffering from these brain diseases to have an improved quality of life,” said Kate O’Reilly. “When I joined this church and saw our member’s dedication to ‘serve the world’, I knew there was an opportunity to expand my dedication by having WBUUC partner with People Incorporated. We could show people with mental illness that they have not been forgotten.”

People Incorporated operates more than 65 mental health programs in Minnesota. One of those is outreach to the homeless. Kate O’Reilly suggested this outreach program as something our church could support with money and volunteers. Food insecurity is a constant problem for people experiencing homelessness and mental illness. Most live in camps and many have dual diagnoses of mental illness and chemical dependency.

Historically each year, a collection at church supplied the program with money to purchase food. Then, once per month volunteers made and served healthy meals for 35 to 40 people experiencing both homelessness and mental health issues. “It was a great success,” stated O’Reilly. “We had plenty of volunteers who were willing to cook food at the church, serve food at People Incorporated and forge relationships with ‘our friends’ who were living an exceedingly difficult life. They started to recognize us, were happy to see us – and we were happy to see them, too.” Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. It was no longer safe to have volunteers cook together at church nor to interact with the friends that came each month for the healthy meals.

Kate and Pastor Victoria Safford wanted to be able to continue this outreach but knew it had to change. They created a new and safe way to volunteer. Now, instead of gathering to cook, volunteers make 35 bag lunches twice per month in their own homes and deliver them to People Incorporated. The staff there distributes the food to our friends. Some of the volunteers shop for the food and some donate the food. Kate coordinates the program, gives volunteers their assignments, does some of the shopping and reimburses the volunteers for the cost of groceries from the WBUUC People Incorporated fund.

Thanks to all of the volunteers who have kept this program alive and beneficial. Victoria, Kate and the volunteers have truly shown people with mental illness that they have not been forgotten.

What can we do today for our Social Justice partner?

The WBUUC People Incorporated project can use your donations. With these donations, the program can continue to bring joy and a healthy meal to “our friends” experiencing homelessness and mental health issues. You can donate online to WBUUC (indicate People Incorporated) or send a check with People Incorporated on the memo line.

The program can also use volunteers. Contact Kate O’Reilly to volunteer your time and sandwich-making skills.

Read more about People Incorporated: