St. Olaf student’s work is transformative for Twin Cities food shelf
When the leaders of People Reaching Out to People (PROP) Food Shelf began looking for an intern to support their work, they had a large number of applications to sift through. With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating food insecurity and financial challenges for families across the nation, interest in their work had grown.
They selected Regina Garcia Gomez ’23, the youngest college student that PROP Director of Development Mary Brown had worked with.
By the time her internship ended a few months later, Gomez had helped the organization raise over $25,000 of revenue through her contributions to grant submissions, rekindled donor relationships, and collaborated with the PROP marketing team to create materials raising awareness about the organization’s work.
Gomez “by far has been one of the most productive and transformative young people I have ever met,” Brown says.
PROP is a nonprofit organization located in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. It was founded on the principle of neighbors helping neighbors by donating time, food, and financial support to those in need. Founded over 50 years ago, PROP expanded their services to not only meet the basic needs of the 1,100 families they serve, but also provide skills to set clients on a path toward greater self-sufficiency.
“My position was Development Intern, and I did a wide range of tasks. I started out with grant management, and they had me clean up and organize their database,” says Gomez. “They trusted me to know what to keep and what not to keep.”
Her work organizing these databases and the new organizational system that she created will make it easier for all PROP staff, now and in the future, to access and understand the PROP grant relationships. Gomez collaborated on grant submissions that resulted in significant revenue for PROP over the summer. “I got to work with their grant writer, Andrea Barcenas, who is actually a St. Olaf alum, to write my own grant on behalf of PROP, a grant that came back fully funded,” Gomez says.
Gomez also contributed to donor outreach on behalf of PROP. “With the hope of renewing some of our local business partnerships and food drives that had been put on hold due to remote work during the pandemic, Regina reached out and restarted several relationships with ease because of her strong interpersonal skills,” Brown says. “Though she technically was only half time, Regina’s work ethic and deep passion for PROP delivered positive outcomes and accomplishments that surpassed any full-time worker! Regina jumped right in and quickly learned about our mission so she could make the greatest impact.”
Additionally, Gomez was involved with raising awareness about PROP by working with its director of marketing on direct mail campaigns and other initiatives. “The connections and the people that work there are just wonderful, and I could not have asked for a better team to work with,” Gomez says. “As this was my first internship ever, it was the best experience.”
Gomez was connected to PROP through the St. Olaf Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community. “The Lutheran Center’s mission is to be rooted in Lutheran tradition while actively engaging all other traditions,” says Lutheran Center Director Deanna Thompson ’89. “A really important aspect of Lutheran tradition is the concept of vocation, which is figuring out who you are and what you are called to do in the world. In a Lutheran view, it’s not just about finding something that you love or that you’re good at, but something that also serves the neighbor, also demonstrates care for the neighbor.”
On campus, Gomez, who is majoring in economics, environmental studies, and French, works in the St. Olaf Annual Fund doing fundraising and donor outreach, very similar to the work she did at PROP. “Being able to pull the skills that I’ve learned at the internship into place here has been really interesting,” she says.
Gomez is also the head of marketing for the Women in Business student organization on campus, as well as a Supplemental Instruction leader for French. While she’s still exploring career options, her experiences both on and off campus have piqued her interest in marketing.
And all of these experiences, combined with the incredibly strong skills that she brought to PROP and honed through her work there, will be invaluable assets to whatever career path Gomez chooses after St. Olaf.
“We at PROP Food Shelf extend our deepest gratitude for being selected to participate in this St. Olaf intern opportunity,” Brown says. “It was a pure joy for me personally and a tremendous boost to our entire organization.”
Learn more about Gomez’s internship on the Lutheran Center’s Internship Blog Series.