Volunteer Team Transforms the Center for Social Healing for Southeast Asian Members
Wilder’s Center for Social Healing offers a warm, welcoming environment created through years of shared meals and smiles. Thanks to more than 100 volunteers who work at Target, the transformed therapeutic community center for members of four Southeast Asian cultural groups now looks as welcoming as it feels.
The day after a volunteer-led remodel was completed in June 2019, members of the Vietnamese community gathered at the Center for Social Healing for their regular Thursday activities. Member Mni Tran said she likes the carpet, the new dishes – and everything at the Center. “We like it here a lot,” added member Dhao Thu.
Volunteer Project Brings New Look Inside and Out
Target volunteers planned the project for several months. After a few days of preparing the building and grounds, dozens of volunteers spent a day in June working on the brick building, which is nestled on a hill near Frogtown Farm and the Wilder Child Development Center in Saint Paul.
Workers installed fresh paint and new blue carpet in the entry and main gathering spaces at the Center. They replaced lighting with white open-weave barrel-shaped pendant lights and added a long table with benches so that members can sit together when they eat. New dishes, TV trays, framed string art that showcases member’s countries of origin, and box shelves to display cultural items round out the work inside.
Outside, Target volunteers installed garden boxes, a tool shed with new tools and a conveniently located spigot for members to water plants. They also attached painted bird houses to trees and decorations along the fence.
Intentional Collaboration with Volunteers and Cultural Communities
The project is the creation of multiple internal groups and vendors at Target, including the Target Volunteer Council, which tackles one large volunteer project every year, says Monica Ball, a Target employee who co-led the project. In addition, Target employees’ Asian Business Council offered crucial perspectives on the cultural communities who make up the Center. Target worked closely with members and staff at the Center to make sure that members received a refreshed space that met their needs.
“Members were involved from the beginning of the planning process,” says Sara Ewing, director of the Center for Social Healing. Members were asked for their preferences on wall color, art and décor, and they made specific requests such as tint on high windows to reduce glare from the sun.
Pahoua Yang, vice president of Wilder Community Mental Health and Wellness, says the Target team helped staff and members make the space work for them as their needs evolved, but the project’s impact goes beyond construction.
“The deeper value was in having people who care about the work we do and the members we serve to work together to design and create our new space,” Pahoua says. “While the painting, furniture and artwork is beautiful, this is what brings the ‘heart’ to our new space.”