Former University of North Dakota men’s basketball standout Geno Crandall grew up in north Minneapolis, roughly six blocks from where some of the violence erupted during the George Floyd protests two weeks ago.
Crandall saw a need to help his community heal.
So he did something about it, helping organize a relief effort that gave roughly 900 families daily essential items that may otherwise not have been available due to the unrest in the Twin Cities.
“A lot of people couldn’t get everyday needs -- food, diapers, baby formula, shampoo, toilet paper, laundry soap, stuff like that,” said Crandall. “We saw an area in which we could help out.”
Originally, a couple of Crandall’s friends raised roughly $4,000 to help relief efforts. They asked him to join the effort. From there, the Essential Needs Give Back and Donation Drive resulted -- a three-day event that raised money to purchase daily essential needs for anyone who needed help.
Through donations, Crandall and other organizers spent hours buying essential items before setting up at 33rd and Lyndale North in Minneapolis for the distribution..
Crandall estimates that $40,000 was raised to help those in need.
“With the protests and riots that went on, it seemed like a good cause to get behind and help people that needed help,” said Crandall of his efforts. “There was a lot of gratitude and appreciation from everyone. You’d have people telling us how happy they were for this. A couple of elderly ladies broke down. It was really humbling to help out a community in need. I’m doing whatever I can to help out.”
The past two weeks have been difficult for Twin Cities residents, with the protests, riots and property destruction after Floyd, an unarmed black man, died while in police custody after a video showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Crandall, who played at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis before coming to UND, now hopes for a positive change.
“Our solution was to help people in need,” he said. “We focused on solutions. You have to have an understanding of the problem, whatever the problem. You need to work toward solutions rather than sitting on the problem.
“Everyone has to be treated fairly. It seems like a simple idea and there is a lot of good going on. But it was disheartening to see people taking advantage of that for personal gain.
“It’s important to keep helping each other and amplifying the good that is out there.”
Crandall said he doesn’t rule out another similar relief effort to help those in need.
But he also will be working out as he plans to continue his pro basketball career.
After helping lead UND to a Big Sky Conference title in 2017, Crandall transferred to Gonzaga for his final year of eligibility. Crandall and the Zags came within one win of reaching the Final Four.
Last season, Crandall played professionally in the Czech Republic.
“I was on a one-year contract,” he said. “It was a ton of fun and I’ve been offered another one-year contract. But everything is still up in the air with COVID-19. That’s thrown a wrench into things. I’m playing it by ear right now but I’d like to climb the ranks and move into better leagues.”