Solid Ground Lays Stable Foundation for Community

Solid Ground provides a community garden, baked goods and more to sweeten residents’ lives.
Mary Chung in the Solid Ground community garden.

Where do families go in White Bear Lake who are experiencing difficulties taking care of their most basic needs? The answer is Solid Ground, the nonprofit that has been serving families experiencing homelessness since the late 1980s. Located in White Bear Lake, Solid Ground serves clients throughout Ramsey and Washington counties.

Helping families achieve, secure and maintain housing stability is at the heart of Solid Ground. The organization provides safe housing to many types of families, and most are single mothers. There are 34 apartment units on-site with some units open for families to stay up to two years, while others are open for residents to stay as long as they need. Solid Ground also serves 25 to 30 additional families with income-based rental assistance in other service areas away from its building. The nonprofit helps empower families through other means, including transportation, tutoring, parenting classes and goal setting.

Along with offering those services, Solid Ground also provides assistance to residents who may be food-insecure. “Solid Ground really serves families for some of their most basic needs,” says Mary Chung, who serves as director of development and communications for Solid Ground. “Having a safe place to live is one of the most basic needs, as is having food to eat.” And this cannot be done without outside help.

“We have some amazing volunteers,” Chung says, of the nearly 500 people who play a critical role in making sure things run smoothly and people get the food they need. Volunteers drive clients to and from a food shelf or grocery store because they may not have access to cars. Volunteers helped build the on-site community garden, which is maintained by residents. There’s also opportunity for volunteers to cook a group meal for residents once per month, giving parents a night off from meal prepping.

“I’m interested in the [families] having a way of getting food,” Crist Langelett of North St. Paul says. Langelett is a retired North High School science teacher and a long-time Solid Ground volunteer. Langelett and his wife, Norma, have been volunteering at Solid Ground since the organization started over two decades ago.

Every Wednesday at 7 a.m., you’ll find the couple at the Maplewood Cub Foods picking up the store’s selection of baked goods that have a sell-by date for that day. The Langeletts load the food into their car and make their rounds distributing food where needed. They start at the North St. Paul Area Food Shelf, the food shelf Langelett and his late wife, Joanne Langelett, helped start in 1975. Then it’s on to Solid Ground, where they stock the lobby with bags filled with ciabatta, French loaves, buns, cakes, doughnuts and cookies.

“It’s just a way of taking care of people who would be very hungry otherwise,” says Langelett, who has been a volunteer all of his life. “It’s great to receive when you need it, but when you don’t, I think volunteering makes anybody and everybody feel good. Volunteering is just a blessing.”

To learn about all volunteer opportunities, food-related or otherwise, contact Hannah Parish at