 Any calls for volunteers
 These posts would likely also be tagged Upcoming Events


Adopt-A-Family 600 250 Angelique McDonald

What a month! We cannot thank our supporters enough for making Adopt-A-Family a huge success. From individual families to entire departments at Allina Health, hundreds of community members helped make this season bright. Due to this incredible generosity, this year Way to Grow was able to provide gifts for 60 families!

Way to Grow’s Adopt-A-Family program provides gifts for families in need throughout the holiday season. This year, our families received everything from snow pants and quilts to bikes or a holiday tree. Thousands of packages made their way to Way to Grow, leaving our staff in awe of the generosity of so many. We are so grateful to all of our friends who stepped in to help our families. You definitely made the season bright!

A special thanks to our friends at Allina Health and St. Gerard’s for their amazing selflessness year after year—we are so thankful for your partnership. We also want to give a shoutout to our wonderful volunteers from St. Kate’s who came and wrapped all our gifts from the Adopt-A-Family registry!

Our amazing St. Kate’s volunteers!

Backpacks are back!

Backpacks are back! 960 720 Angelique McDonald

An annual tradition was back again this year. On August 14, Way to Grow staff, in partnership with the Greater Twin Cities United Way and SPS Commerce, packed 1,200 backpacks in 30 minutes! Each backpack was filled with school supplies and distributed to families across the Twin Cities. Thanks to our community partners, we filled our school bus with 350 backpacks that were given out to Way to Grow children just in time for the first day of school!

A huge shoutout to our friends at Greater Twin Cities United Way and SPS Commerce for getting our kids ready for school!

New Place, Old Friends!

New Place, Old Friends! 960 720 Angelique McDonald

Earlier this month, Little & Company came to visit our new Way to Grow office and left quite a mark!

As part of their 40th anniversary celebration, the staff at Little participated in service projects throughout the Twin Cities, including right here at Way to Grow. One of their Give 40 projects was to help to make our new space feel a little more like home. A small team from Little designed and installed an incredible mural in our new play room, celebrating Way to Grow, our partnership, and the wonderful people we serve. We couldn’t be more thrilled to share this space with our families and it really brightens our days whenever we walk by. Check out the photos below to see this amazing team in action and the completed mural!

Thank you Little!

Little team painting a mural

Adopt-A-Family: A Great End to 2018

Adopt-A-Family: A Great End to 2018 2560 1920 Ken Story

Every December, Way to Grow is able to reach even more families and provide basic needs, special treats, and a great start to the new year through our Adopt-A-Family program.

Started through a partnership with Allina Health, Adopt-A-Family allows churches, companies, and individuals to sponsor a Way to Grow family during what many of us celebrate as the holiday season. Families are selected by our Family Educators, and together they compile a wishlist for each family member, as well as the household. From there, our staff works with groups from all over the Twin Cities to purchase, wrap, and deliver the gifts. By the end of December, our office was bursting with deliveries for so many families, all graciously donated by our neighbors.

In the spirit of giving and thanks, we are proud to share with you that at the end of 2018, over 50 families were brought joy and cheer. We could not have done this without the generosity of the hundreds of individuals who simply wanted to bring joy to families during the holiday season. Witnessing this selfless giving was a truly great way to end 2018—we are so inspired by and grateful for this support.

If you want more information or are interested in participating in future Adopt-A-Family campaigns, please contact our Adopt-A-Family Coordinator, Liz Woods, at lwoods@mplswaytogrow.org.

Investing Time and Energy

Investing Time and Energy 2560 2154 Ken Story

Barry Lee always thought his calling was to be a teacher, but life has a way of working in surprising ways. It wasn’t until after a successful 40-year career in the private sector that he finally found himself sitting in a tiny chair, surrounded by children in a classroom.

For the past 10 years since retiring, Barry has volunteered in his community in various ways. Dedicated to education, Barry has spent the last three years as a weekly volunteer in our Preschool P.A.L.S. classroom. When asked why he chooses to spend his free time in the busy environment of a classroom, he replies, “When I retired I asked myself, ‘Who am I to think that I can take the rest of my life off?’”

“Mr. Barry” as he is known in the classroom, dove headfirst into his work with the children. Working off verbal cues from the teachers and incorporating learning opportunities into playtime, he really feels like he is making a difference. “I’ve heard people think that volunteering with children at this age is babysitting. That is definitely not the case. It didn’t take me long to discover that they are really bright young individuals,” Barry explains.

His favorite moments at Way to Grow are the ones when the children have a “big-eyed” moment. “They have that epiphany, that moment of discovery and connection of what they learned and that they can actually use it. That feeling leaves me flying high for four to five days,” he notes.

“Muhammad Ali once said, ‘Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth,’” Barry reflects. “These children count on me. If I can fulfill my soul and improve the future of a child at the same time, I know I will have done my part.”

A Volunteer Program that’s Making a Difference

A Volunteer Program that’s Making a Difference 2560 1707 Lisa Bryant

Pictured: Melody, a Wooddale Church volunteer, mentors Anna (left) and Dalylah (center) as they learn about research and making a prediction by testing an object’s buoyancy.

For three years, Way to Grow has collaborated with volunteers from Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie on a tutoring initiative that’s enhancing children’s learning experience.

Two evenings per week, trained volunteers from Wooddale Church provide after-school tutoring to children, ages 5-8 years, who attend Lucy C. Laney Community School in North Minneapolis, or reside in the community.  The volunteers encourage the young learners to tackle grade-level activities in reading, science and math, and guide them through the activities to help them gain an understanding.

“Our collaboration with Wooddale Church has been critical to our families,” says Ronel Robinson, a Way to Grow program director. “Together, we’re empowering parents by helping them create better home-school connections and a culture of learning to improve children’s educational outcomes.”

Seeking Preschool Literacy Tutors

Seeking Preschool Literacy Tutors 500 334 Ivy Marsnik

If you are passionate about education and early childhood education, join us at Way to Grow! You can make a difference in the lives of young children by becoming a Minnesota Reading Corps Preschool Literacy Tutor. Tutors will work with our students in small groups and one-on-one using specific interventions developed by educational experts to develop early literacy skills. Previous experience working with children is not a requirement – Minnesota Reading Corps and Way to Grow will provide all the training you will need in addition to ongoing coaching support throughout your 11-month term of service.

Way to Grow has three part-time Reading Corps positions open for the 2017-2018 school year including one at our South Minneapolis preschool at Urban Ventures and two at our North Minneapolis preschool at Center for Families. The two positions in North Minneapolis could be combined to make one full-time position for the right candidate.

A Day in the Life

View the Job Description and Apply

Preschool Literacy Tutor – Way to Grow Preschool P.A.L.S. (South)
Preschool Literacy Tutor – Way to Grow Preschool Pals (North)


Craig Allen
Way to Grow Education Coordinator
Minnesota Reading Corps Internal Coach
Cell: 612-267-6283

Meet Mr. Barry

Meet Mr. Barry 2055 1566 Ivy Marsnik

Every Wednesday for the past year, 12-15 Way to Grow preschool children cannot wait to see Mr. Barry’s friendly smile when they arrive at school.

Mr. Barry volunteers as a Preschool Literacy Tutor at the Way to Grow Preschool in South Minneapolis. “I love reading to the kids,” he says, “I get to the preschool before class starts, and before you know it” Barry cheerfully explains, “I’ll have several children crowding around me; excited to read, to learn and to enjoy a story!”

To say Mr. Barry has a passion for teaching would be an understatement. “I always wanted to be a teacher,” Mr. Barry goes on. “But, one thing led to another, and I wound up with a successful career in retail; but I never stopped thinking I would have liked to be a teacher.” So, even while working full time, Mr. Barry started his equally successful volunteer career as K-3 tutor at Emerson Public School where he served for over ten years. Though Mr. Barry enjoyed the one-on-one time, this school enjoyed a large number of volunteers. He credits this experience with inspiring him, and looked for more opportunities where he could make an impact.

“That’s when I saw a call to volunteer with Way to Grow in the newspaper,” Mr. Barry says. “I looked into the program and was very drawn to the idea of working with a population of students [where a large percentage are] assimilating to America, while simultaneously learning to navigate the school system. It’s hard not to tie this work to the achievement gaps everyone is talking about in Minneapolis, and, well, you can’t keep complaining that kids are undereducated, if you’re not going to do anything about it!” And so, Mr. Barry did, and has been with our Preschool P.A.L.S. ever since.

“I know that the families at the preschool are getting a head start, and that’s very profound throughout Way to Grow,” Mr. Barry concludes. “I, myself have learned a lot by watching these children and families progress and learn new skills. We are getting these kids ready to be successful and well educated. Seeing these results – let me tell you, I am so proud of how advanced these children are. It is what keeps me involved and inspired.”

Mr. Barry thinks about the impact his involvement may have in the future, “Someday one of these children might be our mayor, a successful CEO, a noted teacher or anything else they can dream of – even representing us in the White House!”  And Mr. Barry likes to think he is helping them get there; “Even if just a little bit!”

Guest Blog: Books to Grow – My Volunteer Story

Guest Blog: Books to Grow – My Volunteer Story 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

It is easy for all of us to talk about how we love children – those cute little faces are irresistible. But it is also easy to forget that so many children do not live the carefree, happy lives they deserve because their parents are stressed or struggling. I support Way to Grow because it is dedicated to the well being of the entire family, as well as the child. I believe that a supported and educated child grows up to become a productive, self sufficient adult.


My name is Jeanne Ravich and I have been a Way to Grow supporter since my first meeting with Carolyn Smallwood, Executive Director of Way to Grow, several years ago. My husband Paul and I direct our efforts, both financially and as volunteers, to organizations in the education arena. We believe that education begins at birth and that parents are always a child’s most important teachers. The more I learned about Way to Grow and the successful programs it offers to children and their families, the more I committed my wholehearted support.

My relationship with Way To Grow has itself continued to grow over the years as I had a chance to meet the staff and get a closer look at the programs. I am especially impressed with the quality of the home visiting program, tailored to the culture and individuality of each family. I was impressed with the fact that the Family Educators come from the communities they serve, and collectively speak 8 different languages. They visit each family regularly, often beginning prenatally, and in 2014, they completed over 12,000 home visits.

Raising children is challenging for us all, and is especially difficult without a safe environment and when basic needs are not met. Way to Grow Family Educators and Resource Advocates help parents meet those needs, then teach child care and parenting skills. I wish I had that kind of support when I was a young parent!

The support continues through Way to Grow preschools and the Great by Eight program, fostering academic success through the third grade. I loved hearing that the Family Educators are there every step of the way. They often accompany parents to parent/teacher conferences and events, encouraging parents to embrace their role as their child’s number one teacher.

I have heard many personal and inspiring stories about parents and children whose lives changed for the better because of Way to Grow. I see pictures of proud parents and smiling children at preschool graduation. The statistics support the stories – more healthy babies, less teen pregnancy, and most importantly nearly 90% of children enrolled in the program were deemed prepared to succeed in school.

IMG_4291 - CopyInspired by the work the Family Educators do, I asked Carolyn if they had any specific needs. Without hesitation she said, “Books in the home.” It was hard for me to imagine a child without books, so important to verbal and cognitive development. I couldn’t imagine a home with nothing for parents to read to a child in their lap, no sturdy board books with colorful words or pictures, no Dr. Seuss rhymes or Goodnight Moon. I began to collect new books, for distribution through the Family Educators. I am currently working on setting up a network of generous moms who also cannot imagine a child without books. We have a mission. Family Educators on all home visits will give all children a book of their very own. Both inspired by and as a partner to Way to Grow, I call this project Books to Grow.


Now Recruiting Minnesota Reading Corps Literacy Tutors

Now Recruiting Minnesota Reading Corps Literacy Tutors 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Would you love to help children grow their reading skills, succeed in school and get extra support? If your answer is yes, you can be trained to serve as a tutor with Minnesota Reading Corps at Way to Grow. Whether you want to explore an educational career, reenter the workforce, or give back to your community, you can succeed as a tutor. Last year, Minnesota Reading Corps provided direct services to over 30,000 children in more than 700 schools across the state.

As a Literacy Tutor, you’ll use strategies that help students believe in themselves and succeed. Positions available include preschool tutors at Way to Grow Preschool Pals and P.A.L.S. Offered four days per week, Preschool Pals is our NAEYC accredited and MN Parent Aware 4-star rated center-based preschool program designed to complement home visits for Way to Grow families. Preschool P.A.L.S. invites the parent into the preschool classroom for parent-child learning time. Both locations offer part time options, and tutors typically serve most of their hours during the regular school day.

In addition to extensive training, tutors will receive on-site support from specially trained school mentors. Tutors come from many backgrounds and include recent high school and college grads, career changers, stay-at-home parents, and retirees. Tutors may earn a living allowance, educational award, federal student loan forbearance, and other benefits, and have the chance to make a real difference in the life of a child.

To apply or learn more about the research based programs, position qualifications, and benefits, visit MinnesotaReadingCorps.org. Questions? Contact recruitment@servemnaction.org or 866-859-2825.

    Your Name (required)




    Your Email (required)


    Preferred contact method:


    Available days:

    Time of day available:

    Services interested in:
    preschoolspecial projectsteen parentsadministrativeeventsother

    Opportunity interested in:

    Language(s) Spoken besides English:

    Other languages spoken:

    Emergency contact (name, phone, relationship):

    Volunteer agreement (required):

    I understand that during the course of my volunteering at Way to Grow, I may come in contact with information that is deemed confidential. This includes, but is not limited to, personal information about Way to Grow participants. I understand that Way to Grow is required by law to keep this information confidential, and I will treat all information I come across as such unless I am told otherwise.

    I understand and agree that I am volunteering for Way to Grow at my own risk and request. I also give permission for the free use of my name, picture and voice in any broadcast, telecast, print account or any other account in any medium of the event being recorded.

    I Accept

    Additional Message: