Community Connect event looks to link those in need to services

PARTICIPANTS IN THE seventh annual Community Connect event Friday at the Northern Lights YMCA will be able to shop at a free store that offers a large variety of clothing, personal and household items, and nonperishable food. Volunteers are shown here setting up at last year’s event at the YMCA. (Submitted photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — The seventh annual Community Connect event will be 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Northern Lights YMCA, 800 Crystal Lake Blvd. in Iron Mountain.

The free fair — sponsored by Dickinson-Iron Community Services Agency, Great Start, Dickinson Area Community Foundation, The Salvation Army, Thrivent Financial and the YMCA — is an opportunity for families and individuals in need to meet with the proper resources and local service agencies.

“Economic challenges affect happiness and health,” said Barb Reisner, Dickinson-Iron Great Start Collaborative Director and event team leader. “Our goal is to empower participants with valuable information and resources.”

More than 20 booths will be available with information on education, housing, heating, health agencies, immunizations, job opportunities, veterans programs and more.

Those who attend will be able to talk with staff at each of their stations or after the event.

“People with a need of any kind of social services will be able to get it at this time,” said Bonnie Pelto, Community Connect free store leader.

They also will offer giveaways to those stopping by the booths.

Another highlight is the free store, open to all taking advantage of the event.

Winter clothing for all ages — hats, coats, boots, gloves, mittens and scarves — have been collected for the store, Pelto said.

“I’m amazed at the number of coats that I have seen come in,” she said. “We just had someone drop off a box full of brand new hats and mittens.”

The event is timed for this time of year, she added, because of the turn in weather.

The free store also offers other items such as clothing for infants to young adults, blankets, sleeping bags, personal and household items, cleaning supplies, soaps, shampoos, lotions and nonperishable food.

Several clothing racks have been donated to the event from the Friends of the Menominee Range Historical Foundation. “These make it much easier for people to browse through the clothing items,” Pelto said.

Dr. Justin Saigh has donated toothbrushes and toothpaste for a third year.

Community Connect hosted a collection drive before the event to seeking gently used items in good condition for the store.

“We were down to the wire of collection and the stuff was still coming in,” Pelto said. “I’m just amazed at the response. We have one generous community.”

After shopping, attendees will be provided with a free lunch.

Organizers expect 150 to 200 participants, which will require a lot of help. Volunteers must oversee this event, from registration, set up and working in the free store to serving the food.

“Every walk of life is getting involved in some way,” Pelto said. “It’s amazing how it’s all coming together.”

“We are proud to collaborate with local partners to host our annual Community Connect event,” Reisner said.

The Iron County Community Connect event will be 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Windsor Center in Iron River. In addition to offering the same resources and free store, they will have the Feeding America Truck open from 9 a.m. to noon at the Iron County Fairgrounds, 720 W. Franklin St. in Iron River. Participants are asked to bring a box for food items.

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