District 622’s “Project Family Connect” seeking volunteers, donations

For the third year in a row, struggling families in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District will be able to get help through the district’s “Project Family Connect” event.

This year’s event will be held April 20 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Woodland Hills Community Church, which has again donated the space for the event.

Last year the event directly served 645 people and impacted a total of 798, said Jennifer Terry, a third-grade teacher at Skyview Elementary who coordinates District 622’s Project Family Connect. Terry said she hopes they will directly serve over 700 people this year.

Project Family Connect “fills a huge need” in the community, Terry added.

“We all know someone who is struggling to make it in this economy,” she said. “This event connects those families to the services they need to improve their situation. Each year we hear stories from families who attended and got the help they needed and have been able recover and move forward.”

Vital services

Those who attend the event can be connected with a variety of services. They can sign up for housing assistance, energy assistance, food assistance and all Ramsey County assistance programs.

On-the-spot services for mental health, dental care, legal help, recovery help, domestic violence support and family law, financial literacy, employment, youth shelter, education services for children and adults and library services will be provided.

Also offered will be teeth cleanings, hair care assistance, free phones for qualified families, a food and toiletries shelf and a clothing shelf. Privacy will be assured for those who attend, Terry explained, since everyone participating is required to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Terry notes that the event doesn’t just serve families on welfare. However, to access or receive some resources, attendees may be required to provide a picture ID, proof of residence, and proof of assistance such as TANF, SSI, EBT Card, Medicaid, Section 8, Free School Lunch, Home Energy assistance.

“In this economy, people with full-time jobs still can’t make ends meet, and many don’t know that there is help available to them,” Terry explained.

Registration is not required to attend, but families who need transportation to the event can call 651-748-7541 before April 5 to arrange it. Free breakfast, lunch and on-site childcare will also be available.

How to help

The Project Family Connect event is organized by district employees and Suburban Ramsey Family Collaborative Director Mary Sue Hansen, in cooperation with the local churches, Terry said.

This year’s event will be funded through grants and a donation from Woodland Hills Church; no money from the school district general fund money will be used to fund the event, Terry said.

Project Family Connect will be accepting financial donations, as well as clothing, food and toiletry donations. Those can be dropped off on Friday, April 19, at Woodland Hills Church, 1740 Van Dyke St., in Maplewood, from 1 to 5 p.m.

Volunteers are also needed to help with all aspects of the event -- from food service to serving as guides for families. Last year, more than 200 volunteers helped out at the event, and Terry said at least that many will be needed this year.

Those interested in helping out at the event can sign up directly at http://www.volunteerspot.com/login/entry/1224463854038. For more information on volunteering, contact Terry at jterry@isd622.org.

Terry said there have even been instances in which people who have attended past Project Family Connect events to receive services have asked to come back and help volunteer at the following year’s event.

“To us that means that we are making a difference,” Terry said. “Anyone who volunteers will tell you that they come away with more than they gave.”

Alex Holmquist can be reached at aholmquist@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.

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