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Tammy Jensen-Boehne knows what it's like to need a helping hand. So the Woodbury resident is offering a "Place of Hope," a food shelf she hopes to open soon in the Oakdale area.

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Last year the Woodbury wife, mother and grandmother, who works at St. Joseph's Hospital as a nurse's assistant, underwent a surgery that kept her out of work for eight weeks. The loss of income during that time had a financial affect on her household of seven, which, for a short time benefited from assistance with groceries provided by the local Christian Cupboard.

"It's not something we thought we would ever need, but we were very grateful for the assistance," said Jensen-Boehne, who has also volunteered at the Christian Cupboard, which Dick and Sharon Wolfe have been running in Woodbury for 25 years.

"In today's economy there are just so many people you might not think need assistance, but all the sudden they're faced with foreclosure, job loss or an illness," she said."Then they have to make a decision to either pay the rent or mortgage or to buy food for their family. A lot of these people are hardworking and this is America. They shouldn't have to make that decision," Jensen added.

Complementing the need

Jensen-Boehne said her own experience woke her up to the reality that the need for food shelf assistance among many families in the east metro is on the rise. She plans to open A Place of Hope in Oakdale to supplement the assistance that the Christian Cupboard, which is run out of Woodbury Lutheran Church, has already been providing to residents in and around Woodbury.

"We don't want to duplicate the help they're providing, but we know that the need has increased significantly, the last few years," Jensen-Boehne said. "Especially the last year or so."

The Wolfes can attest to that.

Sharon Wolfe said the recent downturn in the economy has driven up the numbers coming to the Christian Cupboard for help on a weekly basis.

"We generally serve between 80 and 100 families, but it's gone up during our peak periods," Sharon Wolfe said.

Dick Wolfe said the increase in need is coming from residents of Woodbury and its neighboring communities including Landfall, south Maplewood and Oakdale.

"Many of the people we serve are not the people who are necessarily at the bottom of the income levels," Dick Wolfe said. "It's people who are basically in the middle class, and then something happens, like a job loss. These are the type of people we are helping more and more in the last few years."

Wolfe said the increase in numbers using the Christian Cupboard is not more than they can handle, but Jensen said she's looked hard at the numbers and knows the area could use another food shelf.

"We're confident we can make an impact on people in need," JJensen-Boehne said.

Laying the foundation

Jensen-Boehne started plans for A Place of Hope earlier this year. She was able to find partners in her project in the Woodbury Women of Today (WWT).

WWT president Tina Altman said her group is excited to get on board to help in the venture.

"Everyone we've been talking to about this project, is a little surprised at first that there is this need right here in the community," Altman said, "But then they get to thinking about people they know, who could really benefit from it."

Altman and Jensen are members of the executive board that has been formed for A Place of Hope. The organization recently submitted its 501c3 forms to file for non-profit status. It has been in talks with donors and organizations willing to collect food on a regular basis.

But before A Place for Hope can open, it needs to find a physical space in Oakdale, Jensen-Boehne said.

"That's our biggest challenge right now," she said. "We're getting willing volunteers, we have a board and some donors established. We just need the space."

The plan is to make A Place of Hope just that, said Altman.

"When we first started meeting as a board, we really talked about the whole concept of it being more than a food shelf," Altman said. "We want it to be a resource center to help people get back on their feet and not feel ashamed about that."

Anyone interested becoming a partner to help establish a Place of Hope can reach Tammy Jensen-Boehne at (651) 702-3910.

For more information, visit www.placeofhopefoodshelf.org

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