One vote can make a world of difference for the American Indian Family Center (AIFC), a nonprofit supporting the American Indian community in the Twin Cities area by strengthening family bonds through cultural programming and offering employment services to improve lives, among many other things. In an online competition called the Maxwell House Drops of Good Community Project, 10 deserving community centers vie for $50,000 in renovations to improve their facilities—and their ability to effectively serve the needs of the people who come to them for support. The three centers with the most votes by June 8 will win.
Instead of clicking and voting for the next Idol or the next Voice, ordinary people all around Indian Country can support other Natives who depend on the AIFC and the services it provides.
According to Janice LaFloe, director of development and marketing, AIFC “serves a variety of community members and American Indian families that primarily reside in the east metro area—St. Paul and Ramsey County.”
The Family Center staff—from the Lakota, Dakota, Ojibwe and Yupik, among other communities—is equipped with the education credentials, and the cultural knowledge of Native customs and values to connect and help the people they serve.
LaFloe, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota who lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, has been a member of the AIFC staff for 12 years. She says most of the American Indian families that come to AIFC for support are low-income people seeking access to services for prenatal and post-partum support, parenting education, employment counseling, mental health counseling, youth programming and chemical health issues.
AIFC has two programming areas, family support and employment support, but many of the families coming to AIFC require multiple areas of aid. For example, a family in need of prevention and recovery services for its teen daughter might also require assistance with job readiness skills to help the parents find work.
Indian Country Today Media Network interviewed LaFloe about AIFC’s mission and why this community center deserves a moment of your online time to vote for AIFC at MaxwellHouseCoffee.com. After you vote, the AIFC requests you “like” their Facebook page. Voting ends June 8.
You aim for a more holistic approach to wellness. What traditions do you use to provide holistic services to the families you serve?
The teachings of the medicine wheel emphasize balance of emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual aspects of all people, thus all of our programming takes this into account in assessing needs and building solutions. Families have access to culturally based events and activities. A family is loosely defined to understand the individual family relationships.
If you win the Maxwell House contest, you plan to use the $50,000 prize to create a teaching kitchen. What exactly is a teaching kitchen? What would happen in that space, and why is this kitchen important to help support the work you do at AIFC?
Multiple programs address health and wellness including a diabetes prevention program. The current staff lunchroom space would be expanded to install a full teaching kitchen with multiple cooking stations to demonstrate and teach families how to cook nutritious meals. The childhood obesity rate of American Indian children is nearly four times that of their Caucasian counterparts. Health cooking is one aspect of the efforts to address and prevent diabetes.
AIFC has been around since 1996. What impact have you had on local communities during the past 16 years? What are your biggest successes?
One of the most significant outcomes that the AIFC has helped to achieve is the reduction in the infant mortality rate in the American Indian community in Ramsey County. During the past 11 years, the rate has dropped from 18.7 percent to 15.0 percent to under 10.75 percent. There is work yet to be done to eliminate the infant mortality disparity as the Caucasian rate is 6.1. The number of families served over the years has steadily grown with programming opportunities. The number of families has grown from 200 in the early years to over 700 families.
What are your main program goals for the next 16 years? What would you most like to accomplish at AIFC?
To establish multi-year funding for multi-year programming that expands services for healthy lifestyles.
Why should anyone, particularly people who live outside the Twin Cities, vote for you?
As more families and neighborhoods are relying on local community centers for vital support, Drops of Good: The Maxwell House Community Project looks to help raise awareness of their importance, as well as spread the value of volunteerism. The American Indian Family Center provides a wide array of services that are vital to our community, and we hope America sees how important this center is to the Twin Cities and supports us by voting at MaxwellHouse.com.