Super Bowl week is already producing a number of memorable “only in Minnesota” moments. Among our favorites: a video depiction of a rabbi throwing a Hail Mary pass into the waiting arms of an imam receiver, for the sake of fundraising to prevent homelessness. (See that Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman to Imam Makram El-Amin toss for yourself at https://youtu.be/kSB8kgVCtms.)
That promotional video helped draw upward of 1,000 people to Westminster Presbyterian Church Sunday afternoon for “Bold Hope in the North,” a fundraiser that tapped the power of faith and football in an effort to meet a $250,000 goal. The 15-member Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness committed all of the event’s proceeds to its year-old Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which provides qualifying low-income renters with one month’s rent, counseling and other services aimed at preventing homelessness. (To donate, go to dceh.org.)
There’s much to commend in this interfaith work, including its proven effectiveness: During its initial phase, 80 percent of the renters it helped with an average $1,000 grant were still securely housed six months later. The personal and public costs of homelessness are much higher.
The tie to the Super Bowl is also a plus — one that could be felt for years to come. Sunday’s event was an example of Minnesotans creatively tapping the civic spirit that a major event generates and channeling it to meet community needs. That amplifies a message local promoters are keen to take to the nation’s major event planners: Come to Minnesota, and we will help you add a public-good component to your celebration. In branding terms, one planner told us, “A values dimension is our signature. It’s how the North gets it done.”
That’s not a new message. The last Minnesota Super Bowl, in 1992, was also the first for Taste of the NFL: Party with a Purpose, an anti-hunger fundraising event that has raised more than $35 million for food banks since its inception. Created in Minnesota, it has become one of Super Bowl weekend’s most popular events. It’s on tap Saturday night at the St. Paul RiverCenter. We trust it will confirm what Sunday’s interfaith event showed: Football and charity are a winning combination.