MINNEAPOLIS - In 2011, the People Serving People shelter in downtown Minneapolis has seen its most inhabitants in a decade. Times are tough, in the Twin Cities and beyond.
For former Twin Rod Carew, helping such causes is personal.
"I grew up in Panama," the Hall of Famer noted Monday, "and I grew up a poor kid. I didn't have a lot, and I struggled at times to get food. I wasn't able to have Christmas gifts.
"So I understand what these families are going through."
Carew and Twins staff visited People Serving People on Monday night, passing out warm meals and signing autographs. They hope they helped; the smiles on residents' faces suggest they did.
"I think it's really inspirational for families who may be struggling - especially this time of year - to have someone like Mr. Carew come and spend time at our facility," said Wendy Darst, Grant Writer for People Serving People, a full-time emergency shelter.
Monday's evening at the shelter kicked off the Twins' annual Holiday Week of Giving. And, clearly, facilities like People Serving People can never get enough help, especially during the nation's prolonged economic downturn; Darst said her shelter has seen a steady increase in visitors since 2008.
Carew and company did what they could in one evening Monday. Carew, who produced 2,085 hits while playing in Minnesota from 1967-78, waited on visitors at length before reading to a large gathering of youngsters.
He also tried to send a message: Kids can come from disadvantaged upbringings and still evolve into success stories, just as the former 18-time All-Star did himself.
Carew said he tells those less fortunate to "have faith. And, one day, without you even realizing it, something will change and you might be in a better position."
The Twins' other 2011 Holiday Week of Giving events include:
-- Tuesday's 2:30-3:30 p.m. "Feed My Starving Children" event in Coon Rapids, during which Twins reliever Glen Perkins and others will pack food for those in need in developing nations.
-- Wednesday's 4-6 p.m. Boys & Girls Clubs event, during which Twins staff will visit the Southside Club in Minneapolis and the Lenzmeier West Side Club in St. Paul to assist with daily activities.
-- Thursday's 1-3 p.m. "Visiting Disabled Veterans" event, during which Twins staff and former star Tony Oliva are scheduled to visit the VA Day center.
-- Friday's 1-3 p.m. visit to Centro Community Center, where Twins staff and alums will aid the Minneapolis center with its food shelf, and visit with area youths.