180 Degrees employees work in different part of the state from Chanhassen to St. Cloud, back to the Twin Cities, and south to St. Cloud. Gathering as team, even virtually, is one way to strengthen and build culture.
All new employees meet with the CEO and get introduced to their colleagues. In a recent meeting, the 180 Degrees "veterans" shared why they continue to work to "Turn Lives Around." Their words describe a work culture that is mission-driven, embraces diverse life experiences and cultures, and taps deeply into personal values.
Here's what they say....
Amie Kirby, St. Cloud Youth Shelter, grew up in a foster home that was run by her parents. Some mornings she would wake up to find there were new kids at the breakfast table that she had never seen before! She is motivated to serve at 180 Degrees as a tribute to a foster brother who is serving a 20 year prison sentence.
CJ Hallman, Work Readiness, Worked in education for 13+ years after college and working at 180 is “a breath of fresh air.”
Mary McRoy, Safe Harbor, “Every day, I see 180 put it’s values into action in a very real manner .”
Chaz Hooten, ACE, “My passion is working with youth. I love seeing youth develop at all levels and helping clients to achieve their potential. I like to help clients identify barriers to what is holding them back. I’ve never worked with such a diverse group of staff members and it speaks volumes to what we do as an organization.
Michelle Hall, Brittany's Place, “…what we do is important because it changes the world.”
Olivia Menke, Advancement, “I like working at 180 Degrees because we are committed to changing the status quo, finding out what works. Everyone at 180 cares about the mission”
Sara Marquardt, Mobile Case Manager at VonWald, “I started as an intern, then came back as an employee. I feel more at home at 180 Degrees than at other orgs. I am encouraged to share my gifts and abilities at VonWald.”
Alison Westphal, Youth Advocate at VonWald, started as an intern. She likes the relationships she can develop with youth and knowing that she’s making a difference every day, even if that means the simple things like making a meal that the youth enjoy.
Madeleine Munro, Sr. Case Manager with ACE, “I was looking for a way to give back to the community. I enjoy working with families to make youth successful.”
Candi Gibson, Case Manager at Clifton Place, “I enjoy working at 180 because I like helping men transition back into the community after prison.”
I have struggled with the words this year for Black History Month. Not because there is any lack of accomplishment in black history but because history is washed clean by power. It seems like every step forward is met with resistance and this duality that we experience in our society. History is not only a marker of time and past but affects the future. When we hear words like racial justice and equity, we all have a picture in our minds of having the same opportunity as our neighbor regardless of the color of our skin. We tumble around the edges and fight over things like Systemic Racism, Historical Reparations, Critical Race Theory, Voting Rights, Gun Violence. All these concepts are only words unless we understand the relationship between Power, Racism, Dominate Culture, White Privilege, and the ability to distinguish the truth from misinformation that motivates so many on social media.
Five young Black men (teenagers) murdered just in the last two weeks alone from our community. Amir Locke was killed by police as they entered his apartment with a no-knock warrant. On the same day, Jahmari Rice was killed by a classmate in front of his school. Deshaun Hill Jr. was shot on a street corner in North Minneapolis just a few blocks from where I live. Two other young Black men were killed as well. (Malik Travon Carr-Riggins and Case Samuel Ritzman) All have family and did not expect their lives to end this way. What if five young white males were killed in Minnetonka, Rochester, or St. Cloud last week? Would we have a different response?
So, we are faced with another year, another month of black history and we have choices to make about how and where we spend our time and what we advocate for. At 180 Degrees we are making a difference. Our staff at Clifton Place know the plight of black men as they come out of prison and reenter society. Brittany’s Place serves women as they heal from sexual trafficking. Our youth shelters reach out to both urban and rural youth who need safe places in the coldest months of the year. Our strategic plan focuses on equity and Trauma Informed Care. We are committed to serving the community and changing the narrative. This year and moving forward we will double down on our commitment to making racial equality central to our mission.
Is this enough to change every stubborn piece of racial injustice in the land? Not at all.
But we can start with ourselves. Join me, in making a commitment to stand up, be heard, share your fears and success stories. We are better as one voice, as one community fighting for justice
CEO/President, 180 Degrees
minnpost features opinion piece by 180 degrees' ce0 dan pfarr
Community VoicesCommunity Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives.
Exploitation and trafficking happen far too often in Minnesota. The majority of cases happen below the surface of daily life for most of us.
By Dan Pfarr
Sex trafficking is not just something that happens somewhere else or only on a random basis. It is something that happens across our state in almost every community.
We are again learning of details of a person being accused of recruiting and using young teen girls for sex trafficking and exploitation. The recent case involves a person with key political connections and that also potentially involves a college student alleged to have helped him.
While this case has generated more public and media attention, exploitation and trafficking happen far too often in Minnesota. The majority of cases happen below the surface of daily life for most of us.
We sadly see this happen on a regular basis. Our organization, 180 Degrees, runs the largest shelter for sexually exploited girls in the state of Minnesota. Since 2015, we have served more than 600 young teen girls each year who are victims of these horrific crimes and acts. The numbers go up each year.
At Brittany’s Place in St. Paul, we help girls as young as 12 years who have been purchased for sex. These girls who are traumatized by rape, coerced by violence, swindled by the promise of money, abused physically and emotionally, come to us day and night seeking refuge from their traffickers.
Girls as young as 14 are forced to perform sex acts on middle-class white men, in order to stay in a van as their only place of shelter. We see 16-year-old girls whose boyfriend promises them the latest hairstyle, a cellphone, in exchange for having sex with his clients.
Vulnerable because of their age, and often experiencing poverty, family instability, and homelessness, these children are swindled by the promise of safety, love, and emotional connection. Their abuse starts with deliberate emotional manipulation and soon becomes coercion by violence. Introduced to drugs as a means of fostering control, they become drug dependent using drugs to cope with the horrors of sex trafficking.
When specific instances create media attention, people often are shocked, disgusted and think this doesn’t happen in their world. The truth is that 1.4% or at least 5,000 of Minnesota teens reported on their 2019 Student Survey that they have traded sex for something of value. These are real lives, and each individual person becomes a victim.
Last year, 180 Degrees served girls in shelter and outreach programs from all over Minnesota to help them escape tragic abuse. They needed medical services, access to counseling, physical safety, healthy nutrition, reengagement in school and work to provide hope to every girl who crosses our threshold.
Many times, the damage is deep. Severe anxiety, depression, eating disorders and fear have overtaken these girls as their abusers have manipulated them to get access to their bodies. Helping the victims recover is hard and unrelenting because in many cases the victims are children. They often live in a veil of silence in society, are fearful, lonely, and scared for their physical safety.
In a state where for too long we have only focused on the things that make this a special place to live, we cannot afford to not “see” or recognize that for others life is traumatic. Sex trafficking is not just something that happens somewhere else or only on a random basis. It is something that happens across our state in almost every community.
Our challenge is to not just be upset but to recognize and accept the place we love so much has a tragic and horrific challenge to address. It requires us to not step back because of the horrific details of each case but to instead come together to make a real impact.
This is work our staff and volunteers are committed to doing every day. The recent headlines again show us, unfortunately, how much more work there is to do.
Dan Pfarr is the CEO of 180 Degrees. He formerly held significant positions at The Bridge for Youth, Bolder Options, and Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He has an MSW in clinical social work from the University of St. Thomas/College of St. Catherine and a BA in Social Work from the University of St. Thomas. In addition, Dan is chair of the state-wide Mental Health Protocol Team (Safe Harbors), board president for of the Youth Collaboratory (formerly MANY), a national youth advocacy organization, and a member of the National Advisory Council for the Forty to None Project of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund.
We have all been witness to a couple of things in the past 24 hours that I would like to address. This summer there we thousands of protesters arrested over the killing of George Floyd and police brutality in this country towards people of color. Yesterday, only 13 people were arrested when a protest turned violent and illegally broke into the United States Capital.
You could go many directions with the comparisons and different treatment of these incidences. However, I continue to measure the actions in this country against equity, racism, and our response politically, socially and morally. I do not agree with the looting and burning of our cities. I do not agree with protesters storming our capital buildings known as the “People’s House”. What I do agree with is the right to gather and protest whenever an individual has cause and right to gather.
We are a nation of laws—The freedom should be that these laws apply equally no matter your race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or political beliefs. This we have not achieved yet. That has been made obvious again in the last 24 hours.
I made a commitment to myself to be as authentic as I can this year. This means being bold, truthful, aware, and speaking truth to power whenever I can. Please join me in making a commitment to yourself and to your co-workers, family and community that WE as 180 Degrees will continue to protect, encourage and change systems that inherently have been unequal in this country.
If we are not a Nation of laws that encourage fairness and equity we are not thinking big enough about our responsibility as citizens. We need to hold our leaders accountable to equity and fairness—SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER!
After a summer filled with protests and civil unrest, our team recently took the opportunity to get outside and host several informal dialogues with our neighbors and supporters.
These conversations were meant to bring people together to learn about our work at 180 Degrees, and our commitments to improving both our community and the lives of our staff and clients.
At 180 Degrees, we start with the premise that racism exists and has been baked into the policies, procedures, and laws of our country since it was founded. Racism can be as subtle as a person’s individual bias, or as extreme as a police stop that turns deadly. Those who were forced into slavery and brought to America spent 6-8 generations living as captives on plantations before dealing with further economic, educational, and other systemic barriers. These families were stripped of their humanity, religion, language, culture, and familial ties. The beneficiaries of enslavement were the owners of industries, farms, and others who relied on cheap labor to build wealth.
In understanding this historical context and its effects today, we find many indicators of inequity: gross family income, infant health mortality rates, home ownership rates, criminal records, and higher education – to name a few. These measures directly show the impact of systemic racism.
At 180 Degrees, we do not shy away from having these important conversations and moving from words to actions. Equity is a cornerstone of our work. Today, we deliberately seek out vendors of color when doing business. We've improved wages and benefits for our staff who confront systems of injustice every day, while helping our clients improve their lives. We have diverse voices in leadership, helping inform what the challenges are and how to overcome them.
The questions we ask ourselves in the community need to reflect the reality that people of color face on a daily basis. Only by facing these ugly truths, can we move forward as a nation.
Follow us, encourage us, donate to our work, and take action along with us.
At 180 Degrees, part of our strategic plan to address equity is to monitor where we spend our money and how we purchase our goods and services. We recently installed a new air conditioning unit at Clifton Place and used a Black-owned business. We are looking at replacing our carpeting at our 1301 building in St. Paul and have contacted a Black-owned installer for a quote. While these things may seem small, they are important steps to 180 Degrees and the economy of supporting the community.
According to USA Today, Black Americans hold just 2.6% of the nations wealth while constituting 13% of the population (Brookings Institute). White average wealth, which is heavily influenced by the ultra rich, is $800,000 higher than the average Black wealth. Kevin Cohee, CEO of OneUnited Bank and one of only 21 Black-owned banks in the US, implores us to use our power — spending, voting, and vocal — to demand criminal justice reform and to address income inequality through economics.
We all have choices to make about where to spend our money and who to support with our purchasing power — who will you choose?
I'd like to share the message Youth Collaboratory put out recently to fellow, white Executive Directors. Youth Collaboratory "opposes all forms of racism, recognizing that the total power of authentic youth voice cannot fully be harnessed until systems of oppression are completely dismantled."
"It has been a few weeks since the murder of George Floyd. Since that time many of us have been responding with compassion, hope, and advocacy for change. We live in urban, tribal, suburban, and rural communities. We serve youth experiencing and at-risk of homelessness, system-involvement, exploitation, trauma, and death. We are a community and we represent the community in our diversity, locations, religious, and political beliefs. We dare to do our work every day in the midst of the struggle for equity.
Some of us enjoy the very privilege that we are fighting against. The power and privilege that comes with our positions also comes with a responsibility to pull away from moderation at this moment and double down on anti-racism.
For too long, as a sector, we have fueled moderation out of fear. The fear of not having enough resources to sustain our organizations; fear of conflict - especially with funders and board members; and fear of lobbying or anything that could be considered political. This fear often results in moderation and active avoidance of conflict. This moderation perpetuates a culture of white supremacy.
Working towards racial equity and engaging in anti-racism requires some really hard conversations. It's grueling, uncomfortable, and emotionally laborious. It’s also important and needed.
At Youth Collaboratory, our membership serves youth that are predominately Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who come from diverse communities that have and continue to suffer from systems of oppression. From juvenile lockup to broken education systems. From lack of transportation to community violence. From underfunded post-secondary schools to lack of response to trauma. The youth we serve and many of our staff face this oppression every day.
Many of our brothers and sisters are exhausted from this fight and the last few weeks have taken its toll not only on those we serve, but also our staff and the entire community.
Those of us who have had the privilege and power on which to rest all of this time must step up and step in.
Megan Blondin - Executive Director
Daniel Pfarr - Board of Directors, Chairperson"
Today we commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States. While a joyful celebration, the end of slavery has not stopped systemic racism or the oppression of African Americans. From voting rights, civil rights, to George Floyd, we stand in unity at 180 Degrees with all of our brothers and sisters. From justice reform to ending sexual exploitation, we are committed to the cause of freedom.
In honor of this day going forward and as a reminder each year at 180 Degrees, this day shall be added as an official holiday for 2021 and beyond.
Chief Executive Officer
Read more about Juneteenth here...
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Putting diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in place takes strong leadership and commitment. Policies alone won't drive change. It takes a sustained effort across the entire organization to challenge current practices, call out what's not working, and implement new solutions that make our workplace welcoming and equitable for all.
In 2019, employees Akello Alay, Abigail Botten, and Michelle Hall were selected to participate in a nine month Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion cohort sponsored by the University of Minnesota and Amherst Wilder Foundation. Joining other non-profit leaders from across the Twin Cities, they explored a wide-range of actionable ideas and challenges while increasing their personal intercultural awareness and competency.
The team returned to 180 Degrees, presenting recommendations to the agency's Leadership and Management Team. Recommendations addressed race, ethnicity, language, religion, gender, LGBTQ+ communities, and age. Specific tactics included recruiting employees from new sources to build a more diverse workforce, giving all employees the appropriate tools to succeed, intentionally reaching out to communities not represented in our programs, and actively seeking feedback from communities of color about our performance.
One of the recommendations put into practice includes launching a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Governance Committee. The new committee includes representatives from all levels of the organization and will meet monthly, ensuring that diversity, equity, and inclusion work is sustained throughout the year. The committee will review policies and procedures, identify training opportunities to strengthen cultural awareness, and regularly review client surveys about our programs.
It has been a little over a week since the death of George Floyd. Since that time 180 Degrees has been responding with compassion, hope and advocacy for change. We live in urban, suburban and rural communities. We serve homeless, at-risk youth, men exiting prison, and women seeking safety. We are community and we represent community in our diversity, locations, religious and political beliefs. We dare to do our work everyday during this heightened time of unrest.
Making a statement about this incident is not enough. At 180 Degrees our clients are predominately people of color and from diverse communities that have and continue to suffer from systems of oppression. From prison cells to the unemployment line. From lack of transportation to community violence. From underfunded schools to lack of response to trauma. Our clients and many of our staff face this oppression every day.
As a dear friend of mine, an elder in the black community said, “Dan, this is not new to us—I have been going through this shit for 82 years and counting.” This is true, none of this unfortunately is new to 180 Degrees either. In 1971 Robbie Robinson started with a single house and a desire to help men coming out of prison. We wake up everyday and we continue to serve the community as Robbie did 45 years ago. At 180 Degrees we are exhausted from the past few months and the last week has taken its toll not only on our clients but our staff. You see, we are a family—George Floyd was our brother and we are grieving.
This has been a difficult seven days. We all have thoughts feelings, reactions. Some of us are protesting, volunteering, gathering food, writing letters, and doing anything in our power to help. We are a community at 180 Degrees. We live in different neighborhoods, communities, rural and urban. We have different reactions, political and religious beliefs. Be who you are and do that well. Please let me know if you need anything or what kind of support you need. Remember, 180 Degrees got its start by as a grassroots organization, founded by community members working for racial justice. Let's keep that spirit alive. We are community!
I woke this morning with a sinking feeling about the City that I live and work in. Seeing live footage on CNN and the front page of the news is difficult at best. We all have various perspectives and reactions to crisis and change. We all are bombarded with our own emotions and feelings about what has happened over the last 5 days.
I have feelings of helplessness as I figure out how to support our staff, sites and clients we serve in our programs. Racial injustice and a system that promotes this is being challenged. Protesting often comes with unrest. I would not attempt to justify looting and violence but these are complicated topics that have deep emotions that ride a historical path of injustice for people of color.
Sitting in my discomfort is what I must do knowing that this is bigger than one person and one solution. One thing we must do is continue to understand and act upon these issues that have divided this Country. At 180 Degrees, we must find a way to confront the hatred of racism and bias in our communities. I guess today like most days, starts with my own reflections. Now I must challenge myself to back those up with actions.
Our teams at 180 Degrees are working extra-hard during Covid-19.
In our six residential shelters, staff are working 12-hour shifts as a way to limit the number of people entering and exiting our emergency shelters. In addition to welcoming new clients, preparing meals, leading support groups, and handling adminstrative tasks, they're now taking and recording temperatures of all who enter, disinfecting entire facilities, and providing new services. With many community-based programs closed due to shelter-in-place requirements, our dedicated teams are helping youth with on-line learning, leading chemical and mental health support groups for youth and adults, and providing transportation to interviews and jobs.
We salute all of 180 Degrees front-line workers those who work with struggling families, women who experience domestic abuse, and youth who experience neglect, homelessness and sexual exploitation and trafficking. Thank you to our teams who work tirelessly helping men exiting prison find jobs and permanent housing and those who recruit and coach new foster families making a difference for youth.
If you won almost $1,000, what would you do with your windfall?
Ask detectives, deputies, and law enforcement members from Olmsted County, and you'd likely hear this response, "I'd donate it to charity."
That's exactly what happened this week at Willow Creek Golf Course in Rochester. Every year for the past thirty years, members of law enforcement community, along with family, friends, and business leaders gather each fall to raise critical funds for the Von Wald Group Home, a 12-bed facility providing shelter, counseling, and support to two hundred southeast Minnesota teens each year.
Like other golf tournaments, the event includes a raffle, silent auction, and cash prizes for longest drive, best putt, and best team score. What's unusual is the support from Sheriff Kevin Torgerson's team and how many donate their winnings back to the Von Wald Group Home, making the event a highly successful fundraiser.
The generosity doesn't end there. Julie Leisen, of DeWitz Home Builders, has served on the golf committee for over thirty years. Her father, Bob, along with Chuck Von Wald and other community leaders, founded the Group Home in 1989. Julie's daughter Meghan recently began volunteering at the event with her Mom, representing three generations of volunteers.
"I've worked with Sheriffs Chuck Von Wald, Steve Borchardt, Steve Von Wald, Dave Mueller, and now Kevin Torgerson. I have been so honored to work with them on this endeavor," said DeWitz. She added, “there are few places for youth to go when home is not an option and the Von Wald Group Home is a needed alternative in the community to a law enforcement facility”.
The Von Wald family also includes three generations of volunteers. At 90, Chuck Von Wald is the only living founding member of the Group Home. He regretted he couldn't golf this year as the October temperature was a bit chilly. Son Steve and grand-daughters Andrea, Erica, Kendra, Malinda serve on the committee, continuing an impressive family legacy of service and volunteerism.
Long-time presenting sponsor Midwest Specialized Transportation, along with other local businesses, have supported the charity golf event for decades, introducing their employees, vendors, and colleagues to the Von Wald Group Home mission. "Midwest Specialized has always been proud to support the Von Wald Group Home in Rochester", said Vice President and General Manager Sean Claton. "Our sponsorship over the years is a small attempt at reinforcing the mission of providing a safe and nurturing environment for the youth of Rochester."
"We are so grateful to the Rochester community, the volunteers, sponsors, and golfers for their amazing support," said Dan Pfarr, CEO of 180 Degrees. Founded in 1971, 180 Degrees operates the Von Wald Group Home along with eight other social service programs across the state.
Brittany Clardy's vibrant, bright spirit lives on at Brittany's Place. Victimized and manipulated by a sex trafficker, Brittany's life was cut too short when she was murdered by her trafficker. Each year her family, members of the St. Paul community and our shelter clients, volunteers, and staff gather to celebrate her birthday.
This June we had a barbeque feast, a beautiful birthday cake, and purple balloons. Purple is Brittany's color! We celebrate Brittany and all the girls in our shelter. They touch our lives in many extraordinary ways.
There is no substitute for the loss of a daughter, sister, best friend, or rock star co-worker. However, there are bright spots. Out of Brittany's death, a shelter was born that today has provided safe shelter, food, medical care, and emotional support to close to five hundred girls from across Minnesota.
Sex trafficking and exploitation of minors exists in our community. We thank all of you who stand with us to give girls a fighting chance to rebuild their lives while at Brittany's Place.
For over thirty years, CEO Dan Pfarr has been on the front lines of the human services community, working to lift-up youth, adults, and families in crisis. His focus on trauma-informed care helps shape the direction of 180 Degrees and inspire a team of nearly one hundred employees. As a multi-cultural organization with staff and clients who have suffered a life of prejudice and inequality, 180 Degrees continues prioritizing discussion and action against a system of racial injustice.