Rising above: How a Minnesota non-profit is helping people find meaningful work

Twin Cities R!SE has a long partnership with RBC. They work with us to not only provide participants with interview experiences that offer immediate and valuable feedback, but with volunteer grants and gift matching, RBC has donated over $150,000.

Learn more by reading their volunteer spotlight featuring Twin Cities R!SE.

Full Article RBC Wealth Management

While finding a job can be difficult, keeping a job can be even more challenging.

For those trying to accomplish either – while also dealing with a chemical dependency, criminal background, family trauma, mental health issue or homelessness – it’s nearly impossible. And too often, the lives of people facing these common situations become broken by generational cycles of poverty. 

Fortunately, there’s a job training organization dedicated to helping end this cycle in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. And they’re doing it a little differently: with purpose and with dignity. 

By emphasizing and teaching personal empowerment skills – in addition to professional skills – the non-profit Twin Cities R!SE (TCR) is transforming lives through meaningful employment. 

As a current participant, Pam, explains, “To me, meaningful employment means that I’m responsible, skilled and employed in a job I am comfortable with and fully capable of doing. Twin Cities R!SE has given me the skills to be able to do that...it’s been life changing.” 

Doing it with dignity

Through their signature Personal Empowerment program, TCR equips the participants that come through their program with skills for long-term success, including self-confidence and self-reliance. Individuals learn how to identify, regulate and manage their emotions. 

Over the course of eight weeks, they grow to understand that they are loveable, important and valuable – powerful ideas and phrases that they may have never heard before. 

During their time in the program, participants take other classes as well, including career development, structured job search, empowered communication, speech craft, computer courses and workplace collaboration. This is all to develop their 21st century skills. But the Personal Empowerment course has remained the key differentiator for the continued success of TCR. 

For the past 10 years, 82 percent of their program graduates have had a one year employment retention rate, which is double the national average for organizations like them. And they have further proof points as well. 

“The average participant comes to us making less than $5,000 a year and graduates earn over $28,000 a year,” says Brian Herstig, TCR vice president of advancement. “That’s a five- or six-fold increase, and that kind of jump in income is really transformative. 

“It allows people to take off their harnesses, get their families back, contribute to society and take control of their lives again. And it puts them on a path to financial independence.” 

 

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RBC Wealth Management’s Mick Dyer talks to fellow employees and TCR participants at a job interview role-playing session

Finding a connection 

“The outcomes that TCR produces are really phenomenal,” says RBC Wealth Management senior copy writer and long-time TCR volunteer, Mick Dyer. 

“TCR is a nonprofit that’s run like a business and they have measurable results. So you know that the time you put into or the money you donate to it will deliver a return on your investment; it’s very well run and very well managed.” 

Nine years ago, Dyer attended a presentation at RBC that featured TCR, and he left the meeting captivated by their powerful mission, effectiveness and ideas on empowerment. 

At that time Dyer was Chair of the RBC Multicultural Employee Alliance (MEA), an employee resource group that supports diversity and inclusion at the firm, as well as establishing relationships with diverse communities. He recognized right away that TCR was the community organization that his group was looking to volunteer with. So with collaboration from both sides, Dyer helped to establish a job interview role-playing program. 

Through this program, TCR participants have the opportunity to show what they’ve learned in the classroom, and receive verbal and written feedback in a real-life scenario. Afterward, there is often lunch and a networking social hour for everyone to enjoy together. 

Since 2008, RBC has worked with 20 to 30 TCR participants nearly every quarter, and to date, it’s one of TCR’s longest on-going relationships with an employer partner. 

Herstig credits the success and longevity of the program to the partnership between RBC and TCR, which has to do, in part, with Dyer. 

“Every cause needs a champion, and for this cause Mick is that champion,” says Herstig. 

Even with leadership and staff changes within both TCR and RBC, Dyer has been consistent, Herstig said. “He understands that it is really easy to make a difference in someone’s life… and he really understands what it can mean to an individual – and that’s why I think he continues to do it.” 

Additionally, it’s the empowerment aspect that energizes Dyer and keeps him tied to the organization, even completing additional volunteering outside of work, helping TCR with other marketing needs like newsletters and surveys. 

“I think when you’re around empowered people, you see how to be empowered yourself,” says Dyer. “They’re role models.” 

 

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Bill Bridgeman of TCR thanks Mick Dyer at a job interview role-playing session

A new way of life 

TCR participants acknowledge the transformative nature of the program as well. One practice interview participant, Scottie, explained that empowered living has become a way of life. 

“When I first got to Twin Cities R!SE, I was a person that never spoke to anybody, never looked them in the eye, never did anything,” he said. “I was a person that was used to being quiet, basically a really hurt guy. But the empowerment course really brought me out of my shell and prepared me for the real world.” 

As a previous career coach and current business development coordinator at TCR, Tynaia Pittman has witnessed countless individuals like Scottie overcome their challenges and hardships. 

“When they use the tools that were presented to them, little by little you can see them change the way they talk, the way they walk, who they hang around, and how they perceive themselves and other people,” she explained. 

Once the participants have graduated from the program, are working full time and making at least $21,000 a year, TCR holds a ‘ring the bell’ ceremony. Each individual gets to ring the celebratory bell at the TCR offices, and share their story with staff and other participants. 

It’s an inspirational moment, and one that shows – as Dyer likes to say – “empowerment is for everybody.” 

A job after prison: Advocates make the case for an under-used workforce

The formerly incarcerated represent an untapped national workforce of millions.

This recent article in the Star Tribune business section highlights the work of Twin Cities R!SE  in preparing returning citizens for job success through Personal Empowerment and career training.

Full Article  Photos by Shari Gross, Star Tribune

Davis Powell works at Pomp’s Tire Service in Savage where he inspects and repairs tires. “Overall, it’s a good job with good benefits,” said Powell, 33, a two-year employee.

Powell has gone from being a penniless inmate in a Minnesota state prison four years ago to a $14-an-hour employee, plus benefits and ample overtime, a shared apartment, a car and a future.

Powell also represents an untapped national workforce of millions of formerly incarcerated people.

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“My crime came out of pride and low self-esteem,” said Powell, who was released months early in 2013 for good behavior following a robbery conviction. “I’m not going back to prison.”

Powell, while on probation, went through personal-empowerment and job-skills training provided by Twin Cities Rise, the 25-year nonprofit that helps unemployed and underemployed folks boost their technical and personal skills and advance in careers through jobs that range from office work to mechanics and bus drivers. While enrolled at Rise in north Minneapolis, Powell also worked a temp job that required a three-bus commute.

Empowerment training, which Rise teaches to business managers as well as former inmates, involves humility, decisionmaking, communication skills and owning your choices.

“Empowerment motivated me,” Powell said. “I’ve gained the skills. To listen and express myself professionally. I took the classes. I went from a low credit score to high credit [score]. Despite my background, I felt I deserved a second chance. And I know if I do well, maybe other people and employers will see that. And it will help open the door for others.

“One of my goals is to take a vacation. And I want to own a home one day.”

Formerly incarcerated people, disproportionately lower-income people of color, have been a tough group to employ, even in a worker-hungry, low-unemployment rate economy. However, there’s evidence that employers and society are starting to reconsider.

A groundbreaking report this summer by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its Trone Private Sector and Education Advisory Council, provides a road map. Called “Back to Business: How Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Jobseekers Benefits Your Company,” the report has been embraced by the disparate likes of criminal justice reformers, including Google, Total Wine, the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundation, Koch Industries, Walmart and others.

“We have hired individuals with criminal records as employees for decades by getting to know them as candidates first and looking into their background only after they have received a conditional offer,” Mark Holden, general counsel of Koch Industries, said in a prepared statement. “These employees have been humble and diligent contributors, and we encourage other employers to think about hiring differently.”

Seventy million Americans — one in three adults — have a criminal conviction, according to the report authors.

The ACLU report offers practical advice for employers looking to tap into this often overlooked talent pool, providing case studies, compliance recommendations and hiring advice.

The report stresses the importance of not simply creating entry-level positions, but also career pathways that start with prison education and training that continues along the employment ladder.

“Large and small businesses alike can reap dividends by providing second-chance opportunities to returning citizens,” said Janice Davis, vice president and general counsel of eWaste Tech Systems. “Our experience has shown returning citizens to be as reliable, if not more reliable, than citizens without any criminal history.”

CEO Tom Streitz and Jeff Williams, director of the Empowerment Institute at Twin Cities Rise, said the retention rate for their graduates who were formerly incarcerated is higher than average.

“We have 80 percent retention for one year and 70 percent for two years,” Streitz said. “That’s double the national average of retention on a [entry-level] job. We not only provide a great employee, but one who will stick.”

However, Williams said barriers persist, including concern that hiring former inmates will drive up insurance rates.

“It’s a myth that anyone who has committed a crime is a bad person who cannot change,” he said.

CEO Thomas Adams of Better Futures Minnesota runs a social enterprise that has trained and employed 150 former incarcerates over the last three years. Better Futures generated $5 million in revenue from deconstructing houses, recycling and selling 70 tons of building materials that once were landfilled. Yet, the organization has yet to see a significant uptick in the pace of hiring since Minnesota law was changed to no longer require job applicants to check a box if they are a former prison inmate.

Adams said 70 percent of his trainees were in prison because of drug dependency or sales.

“Sixty percent of the men we serve in Hennepin County without intervention go back to prison within six months,” Adams said.

Better Futures employs a two-year model involving training, support and employment, including housing, personal health and mentor coaching.

“When they leave us, in as little as eight months, they have a work history and certifications in forklift operation, construction safety, janitorial-custodial, hazardous-material removal, other certifications,” he said.

Those jobs pay $16 to $18 an hour, but criminal convictions mean they usually have to start out in food service or light manufacturing, where pay is more like $10.50 an hour.

“We try to keep them motivated that the change they recognize in themselves [will eventually be recognized and rewarded by employers]. For us, success is even the guy who gets a full-time job making $11 or $12 an hour and who can pay the rent on time.

“We want to help them not be dependent on somebody else or the correction system, but to be self-sufficient.”

Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at nstanthony@startribune.com.

R!SE Up: Learn New Skills, Become More Marketable!

Evan found out about Twin Cities R!SE when he was at the Minneapolis Workforce Center looking for work.

“A recruiter there gave me the flyer, the brochure, the pamphlet, everything. He told me that TCR could help me get a job and help me develop the skills that I needed. The rest is history. I showed up thinking, I can get a lot out of this place. I am young, my experience level is kind of low. ”

"Here at TCR I am getting help and becoming connected to employers and internships, so that I can gain more experience and become more marketable."

Tell me about the classes at TCR:

“I like the variety. It’s not the same thing every day. It’s always something different. You can do five different things in one field, and it goes on from there. I like that it is not intimidating.

What’s it like having a career coach?

“He’s really cool. Having a coach is almost like having a mentor. It’s someone who can be over your shoulder giving you support and he is always there for you.”

“Twin Cities R!SE is helping me make job connections, network better, and develop my skills.”

Evan is currently working with Twin Cities R!SE as an intern the IT department.

R!SE UP: Ready for a change!

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Sherry came to Twin Cities R!SE because she was ready for a change and wanted to increase her career skills with a new baby on the way!

“Here I’ve learned a lot of stuff that I am capable of doing, things that I didn’t know I was capable of doing before.” “And through Empowerment, I learned how to be more of myself rather than trying to follow someone else’s footsteps.”

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Sherry has a customer service background and would like to start a career in a hospital or clinic. “I like helping, and I want to be out there helping people.”

R!SE UP: It's Never Too Late!

Nunlock B.,  mother of five, sat down to talk to us about her journey at TCR. 

What brought you to Twin Cities R!SE?

I wanted to change my career and be successful for my kids. And to show my kids that it is never too late to follow your dream.

What have you learned while being here at Twin Cities R!SE?

I learned a lot. I learned that I had skills that I never thought I had.  I learned that I am very powerful. I learned that I am an inspiration and motivator to my friends outside of here. I never knew that until I looked at myself. I have made a big impact in everyone’s life that I have come across.

What has kept you from job success?

I think just knowing the right things to say, as far as key words in resumes. And recognizing the skills that I already have. I have a big gap, where I didn’t work. Even though I didn’t work, I still worked and I still had skills even though I wasn’t in the workplace.

What barriers have held you back in the past?

It was being homeless. Not being stable held me back, I think it held my kids back too. In order to be successful, you have to be stable.  I came here as soon as I got housing.

The things that I learn here, I take it back to my kids. It is motivational and empowering here at Twin Cities R!SE.

What do you hope to accomplish when you graduate from Twin Cities R!SE?

I hope to know what my career goal is. I am still going to come back and learn more things.

What would you tell someone about coming to Twin Cities R!SE

I would tell them that it will change your life. It will make you see yourself within.
Twin Cities R!SE is real.
When you walk out of here, you will know what you are worth.

In Remembrance~ Keith Simons

We share the heavy news that our beloved Empowerment Institute Director, Keith Simons, passed away on July 26, 2017.

Please join us in sending your thoughts and prayers to Keith's family. 

We are a strong and empowered group here at TCR in large part because of Keith’s courage , strength, and unshakeable belief in the power of love of self and others. This gift will never leave us.

Obituary Posting

Full Obituary

R!SE UP: Jacqueline's Triumph

You can’t help but smile when you meet Jacqueline. There is a presence about her that is the embodiment of joy.  According to her, this was not the case before she enrolled at Twin Cities R!SE.

How has your Transformation been since coming to Twin Cities R!SE?

“When I started at Twin Cities R!SE, I felt like I wasn’t about nothing. That’s how I felt because I had nothing going for myself. Twin Cities R!SE made me feel important. I had lost my self-esteem when I lost my housing.

Jacqueline heard about TCR when Quinten, a community outreach coordinator, was visiting the shelter that she currently lives in told her everything about the program.

“I am glad that I started it. I really love all of my instructors. I am sad that I won’t be able to attend the second session, but it is for a good reason. I am going to start a new job on Thursday! I haven’t worked since January. I am going to be working at Whole Foods, earning $14 an hour.”

Do you feel like you interviewed better because of Twin Cities R!SE?

“Yes. Yes, my interview was easy and peaceful. When I went in for the interview, the woman said that she liked the way that I came in, that I had a glowing personality. I am going to try to keep that, because she made me feel good.”

“Somebody asked me, is it worth it? Yes it is! I have been out of school since 1974. I never thought that I would go back to school at the age of 60.”

“I am glad that I started at TCR. I feel good about myself. I feel that I have accomplished something.”

LRT Build Graduates!

Graduation day for construction students 

As published in CCX Media Full Story

Light rail expansion is still in the planning stages, but some students are ready to help build it. Sixteen graduated from a construction apprentice program Friday at North Hennepin Community College.

Family and friends packed the Grand Hall to celebrate students who completed the 10 week LRT Build Program. No one was more excited, than graduate, Samona Drink.

"I'm ecstatic, I'm ready," she said. 

The only female in the apprentice prep training curriculum, Samona held her own against her male counterparts, learning the in's and out's of the construction industry.

"I can drive a machine if I wanted to, a power tool if I wanted," said Samona.

She had to bulldoze her way through some of life's hurdles before getting to this point.

With a quivering voice she said "I was homeless for four years, before I came here. Nobody would help us, so we helped ourselves."

Now, Samona is back on track.  She and her fellow graduates have the opportunity to work on the Southwest and Blue Line light rail projects.

"My handprint  is going to be on that, and so are all my brother's too. It's something to be proud of. You come into town and someone's new just visiting, all I can say is, I've done that, I built that," she said.

And although the light rail projects still have funding hurdles to overcome, these graduates look forward to leaving their mark on the projects.

"It will be tedious to know that I won't be on the light rail for long, because of the construction and how their hours are working, but just to know I can put my part into it, makes me happy," said Dionte Javon Henley.


Sonya Goins, reporting
sgoins@ccxmedia.org

June 30, 2017

R!SE UP: A New Beginning

SEE ME RISE- Davis's Journey

Growing up in a single parent home, Davis moved around a lot. His father was not involved in his life, in fact, the first time that he met his father was at the age of 18 in a hospital room as his father was passing away from cancer. Several factors as he grew up contributed to his low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence. “My pride, my self-esteem, and my confidence suffered because of this constant feeling of not measuring up. I was a follower, who wanted to fit in, even if it meant doing the wrong things.”

At a young age, Davis began drinking and doing small crimes. Eventually, these decisions led to a five year jail sentence. In 2013, Davis was released early after serving three years for good behavior.

“When I was released from jail, I had no money, no job, no car, and no where to live. I didn’t realize, all of the problems that I would face now having a record and how much harder putting a life together would be.”

Davis heard about Twin Cities R!SE from a friend and enrolled right away.

“Twin Cities R!SE allowed me to tell my story without being judged. They were there to motivate me and they helped me to know that I could be better, and most importantly, they didn’t give up on me.”

While at TCR, Davis took typing, credit building,and communication classes.

“The classes on how to interview well and and the ones that taught me to bring up my past history in a professional and positive manner were most impactful for me.”

He began working temp jobs while at TCR, but it was nerve wracking not knowing if  he would get a call back the next day, or not. At one point, Davis was working a temporary position that required a daily four hour commute via biking, light rail, and bus.

“It wasn’t easy, but I didn’t quit. My Career Coach at TCR, Tony Blakey, encouraged me, and by the end of the program, I earned a full-time position with benefits, and this September, I will be celebrating two years of employment at the same company. Twin Cities R!SE has renewed my self-confidence  and gave me the skills that I needed to turn my life around.
“At Twin Cities R!SE, I learned that no matter what you have been through, there is always a way to overcome. Look at where you are, learn from it, and do better.”

Davis is currently working towards buying a home and getting his CDL license to become a truck driver.

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“Challenges come and go, but because of Twin Cities R!SE, I am able to think clearer, and make better decisions that are in my own positive self-interest.”  

Donate to TCR and give more people like Davis a new beginning.

To hear more about how people are transforming their lives with TCR, sign up for email updates.

Jobs training program starts for Bottineau light rail!

Full Story (CCX Media)

If you want to work on future light rail construction projects in the Twin Cities, there are some potential opportunities.

An orientation program started Monday in Minneapolis for unemployed or underemployed residents. There were 40 people at the inaugural seminar, which is part of a 10-week program that began at Twin Cites Rise in north Minneapolis.

In four weeks, the orientation moves to North Hennepin Community College, where individuals will learn construction basics, OSHA training and how to read blueprints.

The goal is to prepare them so they can possibly be hired to work on light rail projects and eventually get a career in construction.

"It's a fantastic opportunity," said Gary Courtney who is with the LRT Blue and Green Line project extension. "It's important to the project office and also the community that there is a level of inclusion, meaning that individuals from the community get to build and have the opportunity to participate in this very important rail system. With this program we hope we are delivering that and impacting individuals in the community."

The Bottineau and Southwest Light Rail projects are expected to create more than 14,000 construction jobs. 

There will be a need for workers in all phases of the industry as the Blue and Green Line extensions are completed. Those projects, however, still need funding.

Once the funding issue is resolved and construction can proceed, the Bottineau and Southwest projects will need laborers, carpenters, iron workers, masons, and crane and heavy equipment operators.

The apprentice prep training, which is known as LRT Build, is worth up to $4,000 per person. Those attending the sessions will learn many facets about the construction business.

"Introduction to the industry," said North Hennepin instructor Rich Krohn. "We're going to give them OSHA 10, so they're going to get some basic safety training and then we are going to actually expose them to the different crafts so they can make an informed decision as to what part of the building they want to do on this project."
 

Minnesota Legislature Stepped Up to Address Glaring Disparities

 

If successful, grants should help boost the state's economy and benefit all. 

By Editorial Board Star Tribune

Full Article

JUNE 17, 2016 — 6:05PM

The state Department of Employment and Economic Development has $34 million that it will allocate in grants to more than 30 organizations and nonprofits such as Twin Cities Rise, which operates computer classes as shown here.

Though many Minnesotans are legitimately frustrated about the failure of the Legislature and governor to finish the 2016 session’s work, they should applaud lawmakers for getting this right: They agreed to support efforts to help close glaring economic and other disparities in the state.

Earlier this month, Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a supplementary spending plan that includes $35 million in one-time funding for programs to help reduce racial economic and educational disparities. It’s less than Dayton’s proposed $100 million, but it’s a good start. And understanding the continuing need, lawmakers agreed to $17.5 million per year in ongoing funding.

Now that funding must be carefully monitored to make sure it has the intended impact — improving economic conditions for Minnesotans of color. If successfully managed, the grants should help leverage investment in the state’s most challenged communities and increase workforce participation in the face of a worker shortage.

The majority of the funds — $34 million — will be administered through DEED, Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development. The agency will allocate grants to more than 30 organizations and nonprofits.

They include groups and programs such as Hennepin County’s Career Connections Pathways, White Earth Nation Business Development, the Latino nonprofit CLUES, the African-American organization Ujamaa Place and Twin Cities Rise. The grants will help expand access to nutritious food, neighborhood development, aid to minority-run businesses and moving more women into high-wage, nontraditional jobs. The funds also will support youth employment and adult career training.

As DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy envisions it, state hiring and retention should also benefit from the funding. She said that as a major employer, the state expects to hire some of those who participate in educational and job training efforts. The department also plans to do business with a more diverse group of vendors — some of which may participate in entrepreneur programs assisted by state racial equity grants.

In separate efforts, the Minneapolis and St. Paul city governments are involved in systemwide efforts to evaluate and improve equity in their operations. And officials from 13 Minnesota government agencies, including a few cities and counties, met for the first time earlier this year to discuss systemic inequities.

State lawmakers are still at odds over unfinished business on taxes, bonding and transportation. But despite those continuing disagreements, they did manage to come together to acknowledge that the state has stubbornly entrenched disparities in education, employment, income, health and housing. Their decision to fund racial equity efforts sends a strong signal that state government has a role in expanding access to opportunity and reducing those disparities.

G.E.D. Not Required, College Degrees Accepted!

June 8, 2016 - We are pleased to announce, that as of today, Twin Cities R!SE (TCR) no longer requires a G.E.D. for program participation, nor will individuals be excluded from our program who have already earned a college degree. This change is a part of our three year strategic plan implementation to continue to be innovative and meet the changing needs of participants and community members. 

"Needless barriers to participation in our program should not be in place, that shut out individuals with a low income who need TCR services, regardless of their educational status." ~Tom Streitz CEO & President of Twin Cities R!SE

Twin Cities R!SE now accepts all individuals who have earned less than $25,000 in the past year and otherwise meet ELIGIBILITY, regardless of their educational status.

Stop the Violence, Bring the Unity! 2016 March and Resource Fair

June 4, 2016 -- This year's event kicked off with a Stop the Violence march with friends and family members of murdered victims. It was somber moment, yet we were able to witness many neighbors come together to address the violence plaguing the community on the north side of Minneapolis. There were police officers marching hand in hand with mothers and family members that have lost someone to gun violence. Over 500 community members came out to access community resources at the fair and speak out against violence.

This was by far the largest crowd we’ve seen to date and the rain didn’t stop us!  In addition to the community showing up we had a host of other attendees, including the current and former Minneapolis Mayors, City Council Members, State Representatives, as well as the Chief of Police and other community leaders. 

Thank you to all of our community partners who sponsored this event: 

Cub Foods
Cookie Cart
Blue Cross Blue Shield of MN
Neighborhood HealthSource

Northside Achievement Zone
City of Minneapolis, Public Health
NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center
MadDads of Minneapolis and
A Mother's Love Initiative
Youthlink

Media Coverage:
KSTP- Ch. 5
WCCO-CBS

Stop the Violence, Bring the Unity is a coordinated effort initiated by Shereese Turner, Senior Program Director of Twin Cities R!SE and V.J. Smith of MADDADS in conjunction with Neighborhood Health Source, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cub Foods, Cookie Cart, Northside Achievement Zone and North Point Health and Wellness with other concerned citizen groups to raise awareness of the surprisingly broad array of services that are available in our community to raise awareness of the surprisingly broad array of services that are available in our community.

In Minneapolis we have many good programs run by compassionate people who work hard to address the problems and needs of our community.  Some of these programs are well-known.  Others are small and relatively unknown because they lack the resources for promotion, but they are effective nonetheless. They offer help where help is desperately needed. Connecting people with such resources can be a powerful first step in dealing with the economic disparities which plagues our communities of color.

We believe lasting solutions to our problems can grow from such a holistic and collaborative approach.  Together we can heal ourselves and bring peace and unity to our beloved community.