When Tommies come together, big things happen.

This was especially true in early November when St. Thomas alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and supporters came together for a record-breaking Tommie Give Day. The number of donors and dollars raised shattered previous records, and the Tommie Network rallied for a community partner: Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

In 2019, the university and Catholic Charities united to create a Partnership for the Common Good, driven by a shared pursuit of social justice. Since then, the two organizations have collaborated on several areas of emphasis, including volunteerism, student engagement and education.

“When we have a need, we know we can turn to St. Thomas to mobilize quickly, understand the urgency, and unite to make a difference to advance the common good,” said Hayley Mueller, vice president of development at Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

A great need arose for the organization as COVID-19 impacted the Twin Cities community. Providing services to many different communities, including those at risk staying in congregate settings like homeless shelters, was one concern. State and local public health officials rolled out a broad range of new health and safety protocols including a mask mandate that required face coverings inside public spaces, and Catholic Charities quickly realized it had to adapt to make sure it could continue to serve while keeping its clients, staff and volunteers safe and healthy.

“We serve over 23,000 people a year from highly vulnerable communities,” said Mueller. “The need for masks and keeping the communities we serve safe was crucial.”

Meanwhile at St. Thomas, the annual giving team in University Advancement was preparing for the sixth annual Tommie Give Day. The team wanted to find a meaningful giveaway to spread Tommie goodwill to its donors and in the surrounding community. Annual Giving Program Manager Lindsey Donovan reached out to the university’s Center for the Common Good and learned that Catholic Charities had a great need for masks. This gave birth to the get a mask, give a mask promotion. All donors who gave a gift of $60 or more received a St. Thomas-branded mask, and a Tommie-purple mask was donated to Catholic Charities in their name.

“We were excited to launch this initiative as part of our giving day, and really leverage the generosity of our donors to impact the community around them in addition to the university,” said Donovan. “And it was a natural fit to work with Catholic Charities to distribute the masks to those who need them most.”

The Tommie Network did not disappoint, blowing past the initial goal of 300 masks and ending the day with nearly 900 masks to donate to Catholic Charities.

“It was exciting, knowing we needed to order an extra 600 masks, and what those masks mean to the community,” Donovan said.

“Three hundred masks would have been amazing, but 900 is astonishing,” said Mueller. “That’s 900 people we are able to give masks to who otherwise wouldn’t have had them.”

Mueller noted that the masks will quickly get into the hands of the people they serve who need them most. When all 900 masks were received last week at Catholic Charities’ distribution center in St. Paul, they were sorted and sent right back out to sites across the Twin Cities.

“Masks mean security, and help people get services they may have otherwise missed,” Mueller said. “It also helps us to reinforce a community mentality that individuals are not only keeping themselves safe, but others around them.”

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