Partner Spotlights

Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA)/ Fitger’s Inn

Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA)

Sara Niemi, Executive Director at PAVSA, says that seeing the strength and perseverance of survivors of sexual assault can be inspiring. “They’ve endured so much and yet they keep going.”

PAVSA is located in the heart of Downtown Duluth. They are a rape crises center that provides an array of services to victims, and education and advocacy to the community at large. Because they must be so many things to so many people depending on a victim’s situation, their list of services is lengthy. More information on these services can be found on the PAVSA website at

Support Services for Victims: They have a crisis line that is staffed 24 hours a day by trained sexual assault advocates. In fact, every one of their staff is a trained advocate and so walk-ins are welcome during business hours, or you can call and schedule an appointment.

Hospital Advocacy: Hospital advocates meet victims at the hospital. They give support to the individual, families, and friends, answer questions, present options and help guide victims through the process that will follow. They also work closely with the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE): PAVSA has 12 nurses on staff that are specially trained. They help ensure that the medical examination is conducted thoroughly, professionally and with compassion for the victim.  They have experience in collecting evidence, medical and legal interviewing and documentation and more.

Mental Health Treatment: Sexual assault survivors can face many forms of trauma and it’s important to have access to counseling and support. PAVSA provides services at no charge to the victim, from one-on-one sessions and support groups to yoga, to assist with healing trauma.

Law Services: Navigating legal systems can be frustrating and confusing. PAVSA gives victims access to legal assistance. This could include issues with law enforcement, the criminal justice system, child custody, divorce, restraining orders, etc.

Human Trafficking: PAVSA is available 24 hours with a crisis response team for exploited youth. In addition, they also seek to educate the community on signs of trafficking, support groups and more.

Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI): This collaboration with the Duluth Police Department has successfully eliminated the backlog of un-submitted sexual assault kits for Duluth as reported in May of 2018. The new procedures enacted by this collaboration will also assure the expedient processing of kits in the future.

RAIIN StatisticsThe statistics for sexual assaults can be overwhelming. The needs of someone in crisis who has just experienced an assault can be vast and many resources will be needed in the recovery and follow up. Sometimes the most immediate needs can be as simple as clothing and personal care products. PAVSA’s Executive Director, Sara Niemi, says they are grateful for the personal hygiene products that they receive from their Heart of Hospitality Program Partner, Fitger’s Inn. PAVSA provides these items to any clients in need of them. They can easily distribute them when they go to assist a client, and they also provide them for drop-ins and clients that come directly to PAVSA’s office. In the past, they would get donations of these products from the community here and there. Now, thanks to the HOHP they have a steady stream from Fitger’s Inn, who drops them off regularly.

In addition to their use in crisis situations, Sara said they often bring some hygiene products with them when they staff informational booths in the community. “These are Aveda products, which are really nice.” This is a bonus because it can draw people to the booth and open a discussion. Whether it is someone who expresses the need for help or they just get an opportunity to get their message out.

PAVSA relies heavily on volunteers who are thoroughly trained to assist with crisis situations. On top of that, they have 14 full-time and 3 part-time staff. All of their services from advocacy to legal advice to therapy is provided to clients at no cost! Their funding comes from generous donors and special events. In fact, their Autumn Event is coming up on November 9th at the DECC. Doors open at 5:30 pm and the event includes a silent auction, raffle, and great food. For tickets and more information, check out their event site at


Fitger’s Inn

When Kari Friedman, the Assistant Hotel Manager at Fitger’s Inn, learned about the Heart of Hospitality Program, it was an easy decision to join. Donating gently used amenities was an easy way to help the community. Some of Kari’s staff were familiar with PAVSA already and were very glad to know they would be partnered with them.

The change in the housekeeping staff’s routine is barely noticeable. They take any of the gently used bottles and place them in a separate bucket on their cart. At the end of the day, the items are taken down to the office. Once a week Kari sorts through them, counts them and takes them directly to the PAVSA office just a short distance away. They collect 100-200 bottles each month. Fitger’s Inn had never considered donating their gently used amenities before they joined the HOHP, but it certainly is on their minds now. While they don’t go through a lot of towels and bedding like larger hotels do, they will certainly donate them in the future. Fitger’s Inn tries to be as green as possible, which is why providing Aveda products for their guests makes sense. They have signs in the rooms indicating that, unless asked, they won’t replace towels and bedding each day, thus promoting water conservation. They also use the most environmentally friendly cleaning products that they can find. Now, by donating their gently used amenities they are decreasing their waste and their team feels better knowing they are helping out their community.






Myers-Wilkins Community School Collaborative/Econo Lodge

Myers-Wilkins Community School Collaborative

The Myers-Wilkins Community School Collaborative is located inside the school of its namesake. Myers-Wilkins Elementary was recently known as Grant Elementary and received its new designation when the school was renovated in 2011. The name Wilkins-Myers comes from two notable Duluthians:

*Ruth Myers was a longtime Duluth School Board member—the first Native American elected official in Duluth- who was also co-director of the University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth Campus Center of American Indian and Minority Health.

*Marge Wilkins was once president of the Duluth NAACP and was the first African American female graduate of St. Mary’s School of Nursing.

Both women serve as excellent examples of what can be achieved when a student believes in their full potential. Myers-Wilkins CSC aims to do just that. Their goal is “to provide opportunities for youth and families to learn and grow in a safe and welcoming environment. Our programs enhance academic, social, and creative skill which will empower our community through finding strength in our diversity.”

Myers Wilkins InfoMyers-Wilkins Elementary was the first of three Duluth schools to become an adopter of the Duluth Community School Collaborative model. The free after-school programs and summer programs they provide are designed to lessen the impact of poverty on youth and keep them engaged in academics. Learning and their community. The Myers-Wilkins school has about 400-450 students, 80% of which are considered low/moderate income. The program addresses more than just academics but views the students holistically. Myers-Wilkins CSC does this through creative and innovative programs that strengthen the relationships between home, school and the community, keep kids engaged, foster positive experiences and allow them to reach their potential. This may involve providing food, addressing health issues and giving them the skills to deal with the stresses in their lives.

Among the programs they offer are summer enrichment programs that include Theater Camp, Girl Power!, Imagination Station, and COMPASS Summer camp, which teaches science and the arts. After-school programs emphasize things like art, creative writing, soccer, basketball skills, cooking, outdoor adventures, Spanish, Girl Scouts, and robotics.

They also have family events throughout the year that include everything from community meals to wellness, to science and cultural exhibitions. One event is a huge annual Powwow that features a career and higher education fair, feast and Native American singers, dancers, and families from the local community and surrounding areas. Each Powwow participant is thanked and honored with a “migwetch” bag containing useful items. Part of the personal care products that Myers-Wilkins CSC receives from their hotel partner, Econo Lodge, go into these bags.

Happy Camper
Camping can expose youth to new experiences which give them self-confidence and inspire an appreciation for knowledge, learning, and adventure. ( Photo provided by Meyers-Wilkins CSC)

Britt Johnson, the Youth Development Programs Coordinator, emphasized how important local partnerships are to the success of their organization. There is a lengthy list of partners that include schools, youth organizations, and non-profits. It’s this collaboration that strengthens the reach and opportunities for Myers-Wilkins CSC participants. For instance, the YMCA provides their own youth summer camps. For many kids the camp fee would put a camp experience out of their reach, let alone the money it would take to purchase the supplies required for that experience. Myers-Wilkins CSC assists students with paperwork for financial assistance and registration. Then, once a child is accepted to the camp, Myers-Wilkins CSC provides them with all the supplies they need to take with them, from a sleeping bag, sheet and pillow to toiletries. This is another place where items they receive through the Heart of Hospitality Program come in handy. Without Econo-Lodge as a reliable and continuous source, items like toiletries or sheets might have to be purchased with valuable organization funds or gotten through other sources. It’s always better to not have to worry about where or who your sources are. That way a family can send their child to camp without stressing about the cost. And the youth can spend the time learning fishing and archery, expanding their horizons, cultivating self-confidence, and obtaining an appreciation for lifelong learning.

(Photo provided by Meyers-Wilkins CSC)

Myers-Wilkins CSC has many more programs for both youth and families listed on their website.  After all, they have a lot of goals to reach. “We strengthen academic skills, value diversity, teach youth how to get along well with others, set and attain goals, work as a team, develop extra-curricular interests, and increase their sense of belonging.  All of which increase the likelihood that they will stay in school.” The Heart of Hospitality Program and Econo Lodge are proud to be a partner.


Econo Lodge

When Debbie Bachinski, the General Manager of the Econo Lodge, first learned about the Heart of Hospitality Program, it was an easy decision to jump onboard. On their website, they state that “This Duluth hotel cares about the environment and has taken active steps to support green hotel practices.”  Debbie clearly feels it’s the responsible thing to do as a hotel. When she spoke to her staff about implementing the amenity donation program they needed no convincing. Her staff was happy to hear that they would be helping out their community. They developed a simple system to collect and sort the gently used amenities to be delivered to the Myers-Wilkins Community School Collaborative. With 87 rooms they can collect a good-sized file-box in about a month.

Like other hotels, they routinely update their bedding as required by their parent company (Choice Hotels). Whereas they used to toss the old bedding into the dumpster, they were able to pass on some of it to their partner for their latest transition.  In the past, Debbie out of her way to donate used bedding to the Harbor House in Superior, where she grew up and where her heart still lies. Now, with their reliable partnership with Myers-Wilkins CSC, through the HOHP, they have a dedicated source for their donations. Just in case they have more items than can be utilized by their partner, the HOHP has resources to make it easy for Econo Lodge to find them a home.

Econo Lodge’s green practices won’t stop there. They recently phased out styrofoam cups and have a goal to eliminate straws from their food service facility. They are, clearly, always thinking!



Damiano Center/Edgewater Hotel and Waterpark

Damiano Center

img_3830-1.jpgThe Damiano Center has been serving the people of Duluth for 36 years and is the largest community kitchen in northeastern Minnesota. Although feeding the hungry is their primary focus and original mission, just like many organizations that assist people with emergency needs, they offer an array of programs to address the whole of a person or family’s situation. Whether a person or family is in crisis, or in need of long-term assistance, the center offers an array of services and more importantly, hope and respect.

The Community Kitchen serves 200 – 400 people per meal and thirteen meals a week, which comes to about 113,800 trays last year. As they put it “No questions are asked of the people who come for a meal, and everyone is welcome to eat until they are satisfied.”

Their Kids Kitchen is a drop-in, after-school program that welcomes kids, families, and guardians. This program offers meals, snacks, art supplies, physical activities, homework assistance and more.

Donations are always being accepted for their Free Store, which started out as a clothing exchange but has grown to offer household goods, appliances, and furniture. All items in the store are donated and given away free of charge to those in need. Now, many of the items they receive through their HOHP partner, the Edgewater Hotel and Waterpark are distributed through this store.

For those people looking for a job who need more of a professional look, the Clothes that Work program provides business apparel for interviews and those beginning a new job.

The Health Realization program “helps individuals manage stress in a positive way. It is used by those who are looking to recover from addiction as well as other life issues enabling a more positive perspective to move forward.

The Community Services program provides information, referrals, and assistance with emergency needs and resources to overcome the many obstacles that families and individuals might encounter that inhibit recovery from their situation: homelessness, chemical dependency, domestic abuse, unemployment, mental health issues.

1,251 received free hygiene items from Community Services last year. Who they serve: • 33% are supporting children • 9% are veterans • 31% are employed • 57% have physical health issues or a disability • 73% have a mental health issue • 58% are not able to see a dentist regularly • 29% are homeless or are precariously housed • 24% of guests use Clothes That Work to retain their employment

Other organizations that are tenants in the Damiano Center Building, help facilitate them being a “one stop shop”. The center can refer clients to BikePlus, Bois Fort Urban Office, Duluth Community Garden Program, Heart for the People, or Mentor Duluth Praxis International for assistance. They also partner with Duluth Community Garden Program for the Summer Food Corps, which offers youth employment training in gardening, food service, childcare, leadership skills and STEM (science, technology, Engineering, Math) skills.

There are so many things that the average person takes for granted that assist them in their everyday lives: Being able to make a simple phone call, receive mail, keep up your hygiene, fill your car with gas or use the bus to get to appointments, having access to a computer and knowing how to use it. The Damiano Center is prepared to help with all these things, and many of their programs require little or no information from participants. It’s clear that the center wants their clients to feel safe from judgment and empowered to overcome any obstacles to their personal goals.

Of course, the Damiano Center’s success relies heavily on community support, generous donors and lots of volunteers (800!) Products like soap, shampoo, lotion, and toothpaste are more things that the average person takes for granted. It’s difficult to hold a job or even find a job when you don’t have access to these simple items. The Damiano Center was eager to jump onboard with the Heart of Hospitality Program when they heard about it. They had received hospitality items from hotels in the past, but now they have a steady supply from their partner, the Edgewater Hotel and Water Park.

(For more details on the Damiano Center programs, visit their website at

The Edgewater Hotel and Waterpark

When Jason Miller, General Manager at the Edgewater Hotel and Waterpark, heard about the Heart of Hospitality Program, he knew instantly that it would be a good fit for the hotel. They have given away their gently used items in the past, but it took some work calling organizations to see if they could use the available items. Now, there is consistency to their donations to the Damiano Center. They collect a generous amount of blankets, sheets, and towels every couple of weeks and generally, have 3-4 large boxes of amenities each time they deliver to the center.

How difficult would it be to get his staff onboard and ensure that items were collected on a regular basis, Jason wondered. Would it be difficult to make this collecting routine? He had no reason to worry. His staff was happy to know that they would be helping the community and it only took a minor tweak or two to their regular housekeeping routine. Things have been running smoothly since then.

The HOHP obviously has the added benefit of reducing the waste that the hotel generates, helping the community, and making his staff proud, which makes it a no-brainer to join the program. Jason says that they are always trying to make their business more sustainable. They have switched to LED lighting to save energy and are working on a recycling program as well.

One thing he would like a solution to is the bar soap waste that they generate. He estimates that they toss about 500 per week at the Edgewater. While there are organizations that melt-down discarded and gently used bar soaps nationally, shipping the soap is expensive. With all the crafty, talented, artisans in the Duluth area, perhaps there is someone who would like to take that on locally? We’ll just leave that out there…


Two Harbors Area Food Shelf/Canal Park Lodge

The Two Harbors Area Food Shelf (THAFS) was founded over thirty years ago as part of the Minnesota Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Association (AEOA). It has gone through many changes since then, from becoming a separate 501C3 to relocating to a place that has allowed them to expand and ad community gardens to their program. Their mission is to “Reduce hunger and improve the health of people in need by providing food and other resources at no cost”. Michelle Miller, the Executive Director, was the only person on-staff until just recently when she got a grant to allow her to hire a volunteer coordinator. They rely on around 54 volunteers to keep their food shelf up and running.

This is one of two storage rooms at THAFS. Due to limited space, products are stored in two small storage rooms. Each Tuesday a group of volunteers come in and move the food, setting up the shopping area. At the end of the day it’s all put away again. Whew! That’s a lot of work, and it requires a lot of wonderful, dedicated volunteers.

Michelle is trying her best to break down the stereotypes of who typically uses food shelves. As she spreads the world that there is no judgement on those that use their services, and as the stigmas associated with food shelves diminishes, they have seen an uptick in clients. They served about 4,008 individuals/424households last year, and many of those were people who had never used their services before. 85% of those households have one or two incomes. Some of their clients just need THAFS to get through a crisis while others have a long-term need.

Personal Care Products THAFSAs their mission states, they try to assist their clients with more than just food. Since they share a building with the AEOA they can provide people with information, and assist in connecting them to housing and other programs. They also carry basic necessities for personal care and other non-food items. The problem is that their funding is mainly from grants, and the money from those grants can only be used for THAFS to purchase food. They rely on individual donations and for everything else.

It’s for this reason that programs like HOHP can make a big difference to them. THAFS has received 4 bags of linens and a box of shampoos and conditioners from the Canal Park Lodge. That may not seem like much, but to those who have nothing, it makes a huge difference. Michelle marveled at the quality of the items they received. The standard of quality for hotel linens is high and even the discarded ones are very nice. Michelle smiled, commenting that they were better than the ones she uses at home.

The food shelf is always looking for ways to improve their storage capacity (they distributed 111,338 lbs. of food in 2017), which is relegated to a couple of tiny rooms. They’ve gotten a freezer donated from a local restaurant, implemented a garden program that enables them to have fresh food available to clients. It’s important to remember that they don’t receive money from the city or county, but rely on grants and individual donations.

Gardens provide fresh produce for the THAFS

Michelle also believes in the importance of having a strong network of people in the community. Prior to working with HOHP she had never received hospitality items from any hotels. One local hotel did a fundraiser for them where they donated part of the profits from their rooms that were booked during the fundraiser. It brought and awareness to their guests about the needs of the THAFB and guests ended up writing separate checks to contribute to the fundraiser.

While Michelle continues to break down the stigma of food shelves and teach that there is no judgment on the people they welcome to their shelves, she many times gets “goosebumps” when she sees the generosity of the community. She continues to build relationships and find connections in the community and is interested to see where the HOHP network will go, and what it might inspire in the future.

Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse(CASDA)/ Hampton Inn Canal Park

Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse (CASDA)

The Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse is celebrating its 30th year of service in 2018. Their mission is “To provide supportive services to individuals hurt by domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse while advocating for a community effort to end violence.” While their mission statement is simple, there is nothing simple about how the mission is carried out. They are many things to many people. The skills of their staff are as varied as the needs of their clients, and their resourcefulness to meet the needs of the community knows no bounds.

When clients come to them for help, they have a strong network of staff to assist them in any way possible. Their services include a 24-hour help-line, Peer Counseling, Support Groups, Emergency Shelter, Children’s Program, Legal Services, Community education, Volunteer Program and Rural Outreach.

What that means for Joanne Sanders, the Shelter Program Coordinator, is that she could be driving a client to an interview, assisting in their search for housing or just lending a compassionate ear. She is always ready for anything! It is clear that each individual has a unique situation, and CASDA aims to assist the “whole” of the person, from client support groups to legal assistance to child care.

They are great at finding and organizing community resources, working in cooperation with other non-profits to assist their clients, and working with area business for fundraising and in-kind donations. As an emergency shelter, they need lots of supplies and are blessed with a community that holds donation drives for towels, blankets and more. In addition, they hold their own drives several times a year. In the past, they have sent letters out to local hotels during their drives. They once received a generous donation of used towels from the AmericInn. That donation has lasted for quite a while, and they’ve only recently found the need to restock.They were joyful to hear about the HOHP through the Head of the Lakes United Way. It gave them a feeling that their outreach to the hotels had planted a seed that others had finally helped grow.

They were partnered with the Hampton Inn, who they were already familiar with from past donations. In 2017, CASDA’s shelter housed 149 women and 86 children. Each of the shelter’s rooms has at least two beds in it, and the shelter also contains a kitchen and four shared bathrooms, so they have plenty of need for the Hampton Inn’s bedding and towels. In fact, some of their greatest needs are for bedding and household items.

You will never see anyone get as excited about a trash can donation as Jill and Joanne!

Besides bedding basics, the ladies at CASDA were surprisingly excited about the shower curtains and trash cans the Hampton Inn donated. When clients are able to move on from the shelter into a new apartment, they are essentially starting from scratch. With not even a plate to eat on, they must focus more on needs than wants. While shower curtains and trash cans aren’t glamorous, they are very necessary for living, and CASDA is grateful for even such simple things.

A former client shared: “Most people don’t know how hard it is to get your life back after being in an abusive relationship.  The physical pain heals much faster than the emotional and mental pain.  It has taken me years to overcome the situation I was in.  CASDA provided me with the tools I needed right when I needed them.  It wasn’t a ‘one and done’ place.  I still call there when I need advice on something that is a residual effect from the abuse we suffered.  They are always there and always willing to help.”

Shower curtains are almost as exciting as trash cans! These ladies love their jobs!

One of their challenges when it comes to accepting donations is CASDA’s limited storage space. For example, they can’t store large quantities of mattresses for the future. Thankfully, the HOHP has an online community for partners where special offers of furniture can be posted. Hopefully, knowing what will be available and when can help alleviate some of that problem.

Jill Hinners, the Community Engagement Coordinator, says “The more people who understand what we do and its importance, and understand that yes, abuse does happen here and we need to talk about it openly, the more effective we can all be at advocating for a community effort to end violence.”

A 2017 client shared this story: “You guys saved my life. If I hadn’t been able to be here, if you hadn’t helped me, I’d be back to the only person who would have me. I would be hurt, trafficked and pumped full of drugs. Thank you for caring that I live.”

Most people can’t even picture the obstacles that must be overcome to reclaim your life and start over. Simple things, like not having a birth certificate can make a new start seem insurmountable. The future can sure appear brighter when you leave for your new life with a fresh set of bedding, towels and other essentials. CASDA staff are motivated by the thankful stories of their clients, some who even come back to them as volunteers to help others and “pay it forward”.

Hampton Inn Canal Park

CASDA already has lots of amenities to put in the care packages they compile.

The Hampton Inn in Canal Park was a perfect match for CASDA, which needed a good source for bedding and furnishings but didn’t have a desperate need for bottled amenities. That’s because the Hampton Inn belongs to the Hilton hotel chain, which is one of several in the world that participate in the Clean the World program. The Hampton Inn collects all their bar soap, used shampoos and conditioners and sends them to this non-profit organization, which then “delivers these recycled products and donations to domestic homeless shelters and impoverished countries suffering from high death rates due to acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease.” Clean the World places an emphasis on corporate responsibility for their participants as a part of being sustainable. For more information on all that they do, you can check out this link:

Clean The World

As you can imagine, it took no convincing for the Hampton Inn to jump onboard with the HOHP. While they send their personal care amenities to Clean the World, the Hilton company takes a sustainable approach to their business, from waste reduction, responsible sourcing, to water and energy use reduction. As a result, the staff at the Hampton Inn are enthusiastic about repurposing anything they can to keep it out of landfills.

In the past, they had donated various items to their HOHP partner, CASDA, on various occasions. Chelle, the Director of Group Sales lived near them and could drop items off on her way home. Sometimes the hotel would also give furniture to Goodwill. It was difficult when they had used furniture available, to find someone who could accept it. As mentioned above, non-profits, such as CASDA generally don’t have a lot of storage space and so the timing must be just right. The partner online forum will be a great use to them for that reason.

Chelle explained how well hospitality items are repurposed at the Hampton Inn. Some items are very gently used, perhaps a towel has a tiny spot that makes the hotel unable to use it again. These items are designated for CASDA. Chelle will even take the time to put bedding sets together and label them according to size. So each set will have a flat sheet, fitted sheet, and pillowcase to go with it. It takes a little time to get it all together, but she knows it makes it easier for the non-profit. If there are towels that are way too dirtied and stained, the hotel will use those for their own cleaning purposes. There is rarely anything that goes into the waste stream.

The Hampton Inn is excited to be able to give back to the community through the HOHP. Chelle guesses that there were non-profits out there that were not aware of the opportunities for gently used items available through hotels, and believes it’s making a difference for the community.