Opportunity Saint Paul—the Faith Community’s Systemic Response to Poverty


Opportunity Saint Paul volunteers will be placed with a partner organization that matches their particular interests and skills.

By Zac Poxleitner, Director, Opportunity Saint Paul

Interfaith Action is excited to announce the launch of Opportunity Saint Paul. This program is designed to give people of faith the opportunity to address the root causes of economic disparity through active participation in local organizations working to prevent and alleviate poverty in our community.

Here’s the situation

Economic disparity is a major issue facing Saint Paul. Poverty-level incomes, low academic achievement, and racial disparities in income and educational outcomes are destructive to individuals, to families, and to our communities.

72% of students in Saint Paul Public Schools qualify for free and reduced-price lunch (an indicator of low family income). On average, students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch score lower on standardized tests, have lower grades, graduate high school at lower rates, and attend college at lower rates than their counterparts who are economically better off.

Adults without an adequate education have fewer opportunities in the work world, and struggle to find adequate work to support themselves and their families. When families have lower incomes, they purchase fewer things and pay less in taxes, thus affecting the economic health of the entire community. This generational cycle of poverty disproportionally affects communities of color, leading to one in four Minnesotans of color living in poverty.

Here’s how our community is responding

We at Interfaith Action believe our community is in a fantastic position to take steps to break the cycle of poverty. Our communities of faith are banding together in unprecedented ways, and looking for ways to address the issues they see.

Fortunately, throughout Saint Paul a number of phenomenal organizations are doing excellent work aimed at addressing the root causes of economic disparity. They are effectively utilizing volunteers to accomplish their goals, and building a stronger community in the process.

Our goal with Opportunity Saint Paul is to connect faith communities to these phenomenal organizations, and to connect concerned members of various faith communities to each other. We partner with extraordinatory nonprofit organizations which not only offer great volunteer experiences, but also are extremely effective at what they do. No one person or organization knows all the answers, but if we can work together we can make a significant dent in poverty in Saint Paul, and make real improvements in Saint Paul’s infrastructure of opportunity.

Here’s where you come in

Each organization we partner with addresses a key need in the community and utilizes volunteers to carry out its operations. Without volunteers these organizations cannot do the work our community so desperately needs. This is why we’re asking you to get involved by signing up to be a volunteer for Opportunity Saint Paul.

We will place you in an organization that matches your interests and skills, we will provide ongoing support to you as you work to make a difference in our community, and we will include you in our learning community events. These events will provide context for your volunteer role, presentations from national experts, a chance to share about your experiences, and an opportunity to meet other people doing similar work.

In order to become a member of our diverse volunteer corps we ask that you commit to at least one volunteer shift a week for an entire year (excluding holidays and breaks), and that you are able to attend our learning community events every other month.

To learn more about Opportunity Saint Paul, please contact:

Zac Poxleitner
Director, Opportunity Saint Paul