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Project Community Connect Lending A Helping Hand

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Many were lending a helping hand today at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato for those in need.

The Blue Earth County Homeless Response Team put on the event today called Project Community Connect.

"It stemmed from the Blue Earth County Homeless Response Team.  All counties have this type of team, but every county kind of does different things with theirs.  With ours, we decided that we really wanted to focus on this Project Community Connect because we see a need in our community to end homelessness and poverty" says organizer Jeni Kolstad.

It was tried here in Mankato three years ago as a more all–encompassing event for those in need.  In the three years of the event, it has grown massively.  77 companies and organizations were on hand today to provide their services with over 100 volunteers to assist the over 800 attendees.

"It's unfortunate that there are so many people who need the services that are being offered here today, but yet its good because we are getting the word out, people are accessing resources so that they, and their families, will be more stable in the future" says organizer Kate Hengy-Gretz.

So many services were being offered today.  Once inside the arena, people could file their taxes, learn about child care services, housing and employment opportunities, even see a dentist and other health professionals.

"I think the majority of the people who come really leave the event energized because they've been able to learn about housing and employment resources" says Hengy-Gretz.  Attendees could also enjoy the non–essentials: get a haircut or take a family picture.

"Our first year we had somebody who was so excited that afterwards he was going to send photos to his family in another country and his family had not received a photo of him for 20 years" says Hengy-Gretz.

Both those in need of the services and those volunteering seeing benefits.  "It really connects the community with kind of what's going on in our area" says Kolstad.

Patrons had to take a quick survey before entering so that the Blue Earth County Response Team could understand the needs of those coming in and improve the event for next year.