Community Connect offers one-stop shop for those in need
The event offers a one-stop shop where community members in need can find resources, food, clothing, and household items. In partnership with Spartan Nash the event was held at the former Albertson’s location on Omaha St.
The Black Hills Regional Homeless Coalition hosts the Community Connect event four times each year and encourages anyone in need to attend.
“It used to be called Homeless Connect, and we changed the name to Community Connect because we really wanted to offer services to anybody in the community,” said Jeanne Burkhard-McKenna, Community Connect Co-Chair. “There are no income requirements. But what we do is we bring agencies together to share any of their resources with potential clients. And then we set up a huge re-gifting store in the back. So everything is free at this event.”
Thirty area community organizations participated to help assist those in crisis. Information was available on housing, child care, medical care, finances, employment, and other community resources. Monument Health offered free STD screenings and lunch was provided by the Salvation Army and Fountain Springs Church.
“If you live in a small community, often there aren’t a lot of resources. Rapid City has an advantage. We’re very community resource-rich and a lot of areas don’t have that. So we do invite Northern Hills folks to come and also any of our reservation folks can come because what we want to do is have this available to anybody who needs it,” said Burkhard-McKenna.
The event started three years ago and started out serving approximately 250 individuals at each event, but the April 2022 event saw a total of 750 people and the November 2021 event saw more than 1,000.
“There’s definitely been a huge increase. I think COVID hurt everybody and I know pay raises have been in place, people are making more money, but unfortunately any of you that do any grocery shopping, paying for rent, any of that kind of thing, everything has gone up. And of course, fuel or gas prices are kind of insane right now. And so even though we might be making a better hourly wage, it’s not going into our pockets,” she said.
Community organizations that have participated in the past say that the event is a great opportunity for their organizations to reach more people.
“At the last event, typically each agency saw about 25 families or individuals just in one day, and they can’t do that even in a week. And the other advantages, and especially with our gas prices being so high, when a family or individual comes in, they can stop and see many different agencies all in one stop,” said Burkhard-McKenna. “They can, you know, get some free clothing, bedding or whatever resources they might need for their household and leave and they don’t have to make ten appointments. They can do it all in one day.”
If you are interested in donating clothes or household items, volunteering to help with the events, or setting up a booth to offer resources at future events please contact Jeanne Burkhard-McKenna at (801) 231-3998. More information about the Black Hills Regional Homeless Coalition can be found on their website or on their Facebook page.