Yoji Shimizu, professor of lab medicine and pathology
What everybody should do
How the Community Fund Drive led one professor to get involved
By Naomi Scott
Brief, Oct. 11, 2006
Yoji Shimizu looks around the world and can be disheartened by what he sees. Yet he has found a way to offer hope through the Community Fund Drive.
The number of homeless and hungry people is alarming, says Shimizu, a professor in the Medical School's Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. An estimated 20,000 people in Minnesota are homeless or living in temporary housing, according to the Wilder Foundation, and about half of them are children.
And, Shimizu adds, the needs of the hungry and the homeless for services are on the rise. Since 2000, food-shelf use has risen 45 percent among Minnesota residents, according to Hunger Solutions Minnesota.
"I'm shocked," says Shimizu. "The need is really amazing and sobering when you think about it."
Four years ago, Shimizu recognized through the University's annual Community Fund Drive that he could help beyond a financial contribution. He felt an affinity towards Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless, a statewide charitable organization that provides grants to food shelves, shelters and supportive housing programs as well as organizations that support children and families through education.
"There are a lot of really motivated and committed people at these agencies, and they work with limited resources." He also was impressed by Open Your Heart because it was established by state employees in 1986. He decided to volunteer.
Today, Shimizu sits on Open Your Heart's board of directors and participates on its grant review committee.
This year, one large grant went to purchase food for food shelves to distribute to the hungry. Open Your Heart also responded to emergency requests from groups in dire need of a replacement refrigerator or freezer or maintenance on housing units or equipment. And nearly $73,000 was distributed to education programs, from Tubman Family Alliance in the Twin Cities to Houston County Women's Resources and the Evergreen House in Bemidji.
Shimizu says working with various groups at Open Your Heart has been eye-opening.
"There are a lot of really motivated and committed people at these agencies, and they work with limited resources," he says.
Open your Heart for the Hungry and Homeless relies on the success of the University's annual Community Fund Drive, its largest contributor, to maintain its operations. Through the drive, Shimizu found a way to connect with a cause close to his heart.
"Being involved in the community is part of what everybody should do," he says.
Naomi Scott is a senior in journalism and an intern in the Academic Health Center Office of Communications. This year's co-chairs of the Community Fund Drive are Deborah Powell, dean of the Medical School, and Steven Crouch, dean of the Institute of Technology.