Sweeping for a cause

The Minot Young Professionals did their fifth annual Supermarket Sweep to benefit the Minot Area Homeless Coalition Tuesday morning at the Marketplace Foods location next to Dakota Square Mall.

The event was sponsored by the store, the Young Professionals and the Our Family brand of food products.

Five teams comprised of two young professionals each from Ackerman-Estvold Engineering, Hyatt House – Minot, Town & Country Credit Union, Food Management Investors Inc., which owns area restaurants including Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, and First Western Bank & Trust raised a total of $4,240 to buy food and other products needed by area homeless. The five-year total amounts to more than $17,000 raised for the cause.

The Minot Area Homeless Coalition will distribute the food to four other pantries which are The Lord’s Cupboard, Salvation Army, Milton Young Towers and the Velva Food Pantry.

“This is all for charity, it’s all good fun whether you’re first place or last place,” said Gabriel Mejia, director of sales at the Hyatt House, following the event. “At the end of the day the Homeless Coalition will be getting more money for them and to help their cause. They do a lot of good work here in Minot and it’s nice to be able to support small businesses like that.”

Mejia, along with Lorena Starkey, the general manager of the Hyatt House, came in second place in the sweep. It was a first year for both of them.

“We came in at second place thanks to a ham that he carried all the way from the back,” Starkey said of Mejia.

“I learned off of YouTube, definitely when you’re down in the count and you have ten seconds left, go for the ham,” Mejia responded. “Protein always helps people succeed in life. I thought the same thing. Lorena was backing up, I couldn’t find my partner for a while. Luckily I managed to survive and succeed.”

The event was modeled after a television show called Supermarket Sweep, said Lindsay Wagner, the outreach team co-chair for the Minot Young Professionals. She began with asking the teams trivia questions about the store, the Our Family brand and about food products in general.

“What is the only vegetable that is never sold frozen, canned, processed or cooked?” Wagner asked the groups for one of the questions.

The answer is lettuce.

The teams scored points and raised funds in order to buy “whammies,” which are advantages over the other teams including additional time, less time for another team, making other teams shop with children’s carts or even handcuffing teams together.

Then, the teams were off.

They had a special list of items most needed by the coalition this year which included facial tissues, pickles, a hamburger skillet dinner, and cereal bars.

“Your staples are always in need but with the change in the population we have a lot more transient, a lot more homeless, that are needing what we call ‘convenience foods.’ Pop-top, heat meat, just add water type of things,” said Karrie Christensen of the homeless coalition. “So, those were bigger on our list this year than ever before. And some of the little extras that most people when they’re going through a financial crisis can’t afford. You go to the grocery store, a little treat for your children, chocolate milk, you know, most things you can’t afford when you’re really scraping by.”

At the end of it all, store clerks were still scanning products purchased during the spree event and subsequent further shopping. Shopping carts packed by volunteers nearly filled the foyer area of the store before being taken back to homeless coalition offices to be stored in the already cramped offices of Christensen and director Mac McLeod.

Every team member also turned down gift cards to Marketplace Foods, instead gifting them to the coalition. They all seemed excited to help out and to come back again next year.

“Next year we’re going to bring it. We’re going to have a strategy,” Starkey said.