Stories

Oct 082011
 
Cathy DeSutter

Cathy DeSutter

Cathy DeSutter began displaying her talent as a leader early in her life. Her kindergarten teacher told her mother that Cathy was a born leader. Cathy went on to demonstrate leadership throughout her high-school years, during her career in public accounting with Arthur Andersen, and in a variety of community efforts. Along the way, she participated in the United Way’s Loaned Executive program and completed the Leadership Minneapolis program. She recently retired from her part-time position as assistant controller for Don Stevens, Inc., a distributor of commercial food service and HVAC equipment to the hospitality industry.

“I took the Evolve class because I was ready for my next big step,” says Cathy. “I wanted to zero in on a passion that would keep me active in my community.” The Evolve program helped her achieve that goal. “Our class, which was full of very talented individuals, gained a wealth of knowledge on how to give our talent legs. Many of us—myself included—came into the first class with absolutely no ideas for projects. With the help of classroom materials and great discussions with fellow students, we found our projects!”

As her project, Cathy helped the Lakeville Resource Center, a local food shelf, secure storage units for fresh and perishable food. The food shelf serves over 200 families in Lakeville, Apple Valley, Rosemount, Farmington, and Burnsville.

Cathy’s research revealed that the demand for food assistance had increased by 40 percent in the past year for Second Harvest Heartlands’ service area, which includes over 1,000 agencies in 59 counties throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. Families in Minnesota miss 125 million meals each year, and one in eight children are at risk of hunger every day.

In 2010, the Food Center’s Hunger Impact Study, which analyzed costs and benefits, found that hunger costs Minnesotans between $1.26 billion and $1.62 billion every year in direct and indirect healthcare and educational costs. The most effective antidotes to these costs are the nutrition-rich, fresh foods that are the hardest for at-risk families to afford. Fresh foods equate to better nutrition and a more balanced diet. For food shelves, one of the greatest challenges to offering fresh foods is the lack of storage capacity.

By organizing a collaboration among the Lakeville Resource Center, Eagan Resource Center, Lakeville’s businesses, and Lakeville’s civic organizations, Cathy was able to obtain the resources needed to achieve her goal. A $1,100 grant from the Thrivent Foundation and cash contributions from the community’s banks, businesses, and nonprofits got the fundraising off the ground. Cathy’s past employer, Don Stevens, Inc., agreed to sell the equipment at a discount, and Eagan’s Hardware Hank agreed to install it at no cost.

The refrigerator was delivered and installed at the food shelf on May 26th, and the freezer will follow in June as additional funds are raised. Cathy’s leadership has paid off, and as a result, families who would otherwise have gone without fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy foods, and meats are enjoying them.