The bells of Kyle Rudolph’s ice cream cart rang over a Lake Street parking lot, chimes summoning a south Minneapolis community stripped of many grocery stores and pharmacies following the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody.
Hundreds were served food and essential goods from diapers to dish soap Friday afternoon next to a heavily damaged Target and Cub Foods, where prominent Twin Cities sports figures volunteered to resupply neighborhoods in need as part of a grassroots campaign.
A Vikings virtual meeting on Monday led to a conversation about how to help, according to defensive end Danielle Hunter, who joined five teammates, Wolves guard Josh Okogie and coach Ryan Saunders and Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck, among others, at the pop-up supply station not far from the epicenter of many protests.
“Everyone needs to do their part,” Hunter said. “We were just talking about how this is our community — our backyard. We needed to help.”
Music brought dancing in front of loudspeakers. Nearby residents had medical needs evaluated at a tent with licensed pharmacists and medical professionals. Hunter, Fleck and employees from the Vikings, Wolves and Gophers carried full bags to cars and unloaded donations from others. Vikings center Garrett Bradbury and guard Dakota Dozier spent hours preparing food kits in paper bags.
About “50 to 100” volunteers were organized or simply showed up, according to Justin Hall, who befriended Rudolph through the U’s Masonic Children’s Hospital. Hall and his sister, Kirsten Castillo, organized the event with Rudolph. The supply station became a priority after Rudolph and his teammates drove around south Minneapolis.
They first wanted to help shovel debris and clear sidewalks, but much of that work was underway.
“So, we were out asking what’s the biggest need? How can we help?” Rudolph said. “As we stand here in the Cub parking lot, where this community would come and get its essential goods, it’s under construction. They’re putting it back together. To have a place where they can come get all this stuff was the bigger need.”
Fleck said there was more to be gained for Gophers players and staffers.
“What we need to do right now is listen. Part of this is listening,” Fleck said. “You show up here and see these people, see our community come together from devastation and understand the issues going on with social justice. We all need to be a part of the solution.”
For Aviante Collins, a fourth-year Vikings offensive lineman, Floyd’s death resonated particularly because he, like Floyd, grew up in Houston.
“It hits hard, close to home, because that was his home,” Collins said. “A lot of diversity, especially in Houston. That’s the good thing about that. A lot of times, things you might face somewhere else, you might not face down there, because you might have a Hispanic cop or a black cop that says, ‘You know what, I understand. I grew up in the same neighborhood with him.’ ”
Between songs and ice cream, calls for sustained action and attention came from players and coaches. Wolves coach Ryan Saunders and his wife, Hayley, said they were particularly moved to restock the community’s baby supplies as their son, Lucas, turns 1 year old on Saturday.
“To see some smiling faces today, you feel good,” Saunders said. “But you know change needs to start and be sustained.”
Friday’s giveaway is not a “one-time deal,” Hall said he told volunteers. His friend, Rudolph, said he wants to help organize more efforts. Other philanthropic ideas to rebuild south Minneapolis include a possible grant program for minority-owned small businesses in the area.
“This can’t just be a one-time stop by and we’ll give you some free food and essential goods and you’re on your own,” Rudolph said. “If we’re going to change the community we live in, it can’t be a flash in the pan. It has to be something that’s sustainable and something we do for years to come.”