The Camden Collective Story
The Camden Collective was formed in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic to help Northside youth with distance learning. We opened in October 2020 with an all-volunteer team of tutors and offered free after school homework help. In December 2020, The Camden Collective formed a fiscal sponsorship agreement with The Sanneh Foundation, moved to a new space at Salem Lutheran Church and added a food distribution component in January 2021. In January of 2022, we moved our food distribution to Saturdays from 1-3 pm and expanded our hours of operation. We received our own 501c3 status in September of 2022 and in December of 2022, we signed a lease for inside space in Salem Lutheran church and we now operate our Saturday food program inside. With a $50,000 grant from Link Logistics we were able to build new walls and retrofit the space. We now also offer a Thursday produce distribution from 3-4:30 pm during the summer.
We have not forgotten our commitment to youth development in North Minneapolis. During the 2021-22 school year, Northside kids returned to in person learning. At that time, our organization pivoted to a youth employment program.
We now have six regular youth staff employees ranging from the ages of 14-18 as well as two summer Step Up youth interns.
One exciting thing happening at The Camden Collective is that all of our programming now happens bilingually in Spanish and English. We have two youth employees and three adult staff who are bilingual in Spanish and English and we are able to host volunteers who are not fluent in English. One of our youth employees is an English Learner who does not speak fluent English but this job gives her the opportunity to grow her English language skills. More than half of our clients speak Spanish and we are able to provide volunteers and staff that can meet their needs and communicate with them. We also have staff and volunteers fluent in other languages. Not only does The Camden Collective help people meet their basic food needs, we are also a place where intercultural relationships and understanding can grow.
We are excited to see what the future holds for the Camden community of North Minneapolis!
Thank you to the individuals and sponsors who have supported The Camden Collective from its inception all the way to where we are today. A special thank you to Salem Lutheran Church for letting us create a home away from home in your space. Last, but not least, we are very grateful for the volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to helping us fulfill this mission.
Anna founded The Camden Collective in September 2020. Professionally, she is a licensed K-12 educator (Social Studies and ESL) and has experience in both management and program coordination. Anna’s education includes a BA (History, Global Studies and Spanish) and a Master's of Education from the University of Minnesota and a Master's of Divinity from Harvard University. She is bilingual in Spanish and English.
Anna is passionate about neighborhood collaboration and connections, youth advocacy and food and education policy. She loves living on the Northside and wants to bring attention to its many positive attributes while advocating for cultural and equity-informed change that will benefit North Minneapolis for decades to come. Anna served on the Webber-Camden Board of Directors for two years and currently sits on the City of Minneapolis Public Health Advisory Committee.
Anna has lived in the North Minneapolis neighborhood of Webber-Camden for ten years and has a 13-year-old son named Jacob. Her personal hobbies and interests include: fixing up her 100-year-old craftsman bungalow, everything cats, crossword puzzles and intensely following local and national politics.
Food Share Lead
Sami arrived with his family from Afghanistan in May of 2022 and he started working at The Camden Collective two weeks later. Over the past year he has proven to be a great employee and now he helps to lead the Saturday Food Share program. He also works full time for CAPI during the week helping recent immigrants to find housing.
Sami is fluent in Dari, English, Hindi, Pashto and can speak at least 2-3 additional languages.
Jett is 15 and lives in the Webber-Camden neighborhood. She is a former student of The Camden Collective Learning Center. She has two dogs, chickens, and is a vegan. Jett is on Student Council at her school and loves the arts - especially theater, reading, and writing.
She likes working at The Camden Collective because she gets to help the neighborhood and interact with community members.
Lead Student Employee
Lizbeth lives in the Near North neighborhood with 6 siblings and is in 11th grade at Armstrong High School. She has been working at The Camden Collective since March of 2022 and has been promoted to the registration manager.
She is bilingual and speaks English and Spanish. She plays basketball and soccer and enjoys learning French.
Her favorite things about working at The Camden Collective are the new friends she is making and that she has something to look forward to each week.
Ale is 16 and lives in the Folwell neighborhood. She has been working for The Camden Collective for over 1.5 years. She attends St. Louis Park High School and is bilingual in English and Spanish. She loves music and enjoys Jazz Band. Ale plays the piano, trumpet, guitar and the ukulele. She also likes tennis and rock climbing.
Her favorite thing about working at The Camden Collective is that she gets to help out and not sit around.
Rafi is a commercial real estate finance veteran with over 15 years of experience in CRE structured finance, loan origination and equity investments. Prior to founding PLG, Rafi spent his career on Wall Street where he was a Managing Director at Ladder Capital, a publicly traded REIT. At Ladder, Rafi focused on CMBS origination, balance sheet and mezzanine loans as well as equity investments. Prior to Ladder, Rafi worked at Gramercy Capital conducting asset management and loan workouts. Rafi began his career at Credit Suisse in its large loan commercial real estate group. Throughout his career, Rafi has originated and closed over $2.5 billion of commercial real estate loans throughout the country. Rafi has a BS from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York.
In Memoriam: Erin Russ
First President of
The Camden Collective
Erin Russ was the first formal president of The Camden Collective. While her term was short we will remember her always.
Erin started volunteering with The Camden Collective in the spring of 2021 and joined the board of directors in September of 2021. She became our first president later that fall. Erin helped put on two amazing events that fall and collected hundreds of coats to give out to the community.
Erin lived in the Cleveland neighborhood of North Minneapolis and was also on the Cleveland Neighborhood Association board and she also volunteered with the Backpack project. In her spare time, she was also a full time professional architect and loved bar trivia. She passed away very quickly of cancer in September of 2022.
We remember her for her spirit of giving and for her love for everyone around her.