Project Homeless Connect: A Lesson in Community

Posted by on March 10, 2014

Volunteering because you care is always a good feeling. But Minnesota School of Business–St. Cloud (MSB) staff and students felt particularly gratified when working recently for Project Homeless Connect at the River’s Edge Convention Center. This unique event provides education and basic services, such as haircuts, transportation and cell phones, to area homeless.

Student volunteers Abrianna Tighe and Brittany Barrett

The MSB “We Care” volunteers came away from the day agreeing something very special had taken place.

“It reminds a person to be thankful, be aware, be compassionate and be involved in more than your own life,” reflects Admissions Representative Ronnie Kankaala.

Veterinary Technology Program Chair Holly Gazett says, “[this experience] brought many of us to realize how lucky we are to have what we do. You feel rewarded that you made a difference, even if it was just for one day.”

Some volunteers felt they learned in unexpected ways from the experience. Accounting program student, Abrianna Tighe, reflects, “Growing up here [in St. Cloud], I never really saw homelessness but assumed in a big city there had to be some. This event really hit home, proving that it is an issue everywhere.”

Admissions Representative Ashley Hahn agrees that the event “puts that human face” on the subject of poverty. “Project Homeless is one of the events in St. Cloud that has such a positive impact,” she explains, “and the impact is something that you can actually witness, which is rare.”

Sponsored by United Way, the City of St. Cloud, CentraCare Health and other organizations and businesses, Project Homeless Connect provided representatives from government, nonprofit and other service agencies for the participants, as well as a free lunch.

Volunteers helped welcome, register and guide the guests to appropriate service areas. They also hosted entertainment for children so that parents could take their time at the resource stations.

Gazett observed that it was “such a collaborative effort by many different people; it was great to have everyone come together to help.”

“We Care” Volunteers (left to right) Wendy Topp, Jessica Ward, Brittany Barrett and Darin Kociemba

Accounting student, Brittany Barrett, agreed. “I like that I got to work alongside some of the staff at MSB. I loved how many community people were there willing and ready to help these people with so much less.”

At the end of the day, perhaps the most telling success showed in the inspiration shared by the volunteers.

Tighe and Barrett both agree that they will return to volunteer again.

“I can give back,” Barrett says. “Even if it’s just my time. That’s more than some people have.”


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