A Christmas Cause for the Community

Mitten ornaments on a Christmas tree list children's gifts from the wish lists of several Elliot Park families.
Mitten ornaments on a Christmas tree list children's gifts from the wish lists of several Elliot Park families.

MINNEAPOLIS – Just down the street from North Central University's campus sits a small café called Segue Coffee. An NCU-student favorite, Segue exists to serve two passions: good coffee, and good community. So when North Central athletics discovered that the owners of Segue did a yearly Christmas gift tree for the community, it seemed the perfect opportunity to partner to serve residents of Elliot Park.

The "Giving Tree," now in its fifth year, is a collaboration between Segue and Aeon Management, a nonprofit real estate developer that owns affordable apartments and townhomes throughout the Twin Cities, including several in the Elliot Park neighborhood. Through this alliance, Aeon provides Segue with Christmas wish lists for several local families in need of Holiday assistance; Segue then creates a tree ornament for each item on the wish list and asks café patrons to consider taking an ornament and purchasing that item. Participants shop, wrap, and return the gifts to Segue a week before Christmas so that Aeon can deliver them to the families.

This year, North Central athletics partnered with Segue by adopting two local families. One of those families came from the collaboration with Aeon; the other came from a connection with Bethlehem Baptist Church. Both live in Elliot Park, and both—in need of a little extra help this Christmas season—provided gift wish lists for the children in their households. Each of the Rams' varsity teams then worked together to split up the lists and make sure each gift was covered. Student-athletes contributed their own money, shopped together and wrapped together. In all, more than 40 gifts were provided to six children (ages 16, 14, 9, 6, 4, and a newborn), ranging from clothes and baby supplies to toys, an infant swing, a Kindle Fire, high-end art supplies, sports equipment, headphones and gift cards.

The mothers in each family also received gifts such as Tupperware, a pizza pan and gift cards, plus several household items including pillows, blankets, dishes and cutlery and cleaning supplies.

"This was a great opportunity for us to work with Segue to help families in our community," said Stephanie Schmidt, assistant director of athletics for community engagement at North Central. "We have similar missions to serve Elliot Park, and our student-athletes loved shopping for the kids, knowing that they were hopefully helping to make Christmas a little more joyful for a few families."

This project was hopefully the beginning of a larger partnership between NCU and Segue, as the community café does many events in Elliot Park throughout the year, and North Central athletics is committed to helping its student-athletes contribute to the neighborhood surrounding their campus.