Harvest Season

We find ourselves once again in that magical season of fall. What memories of childhood awaken with the first bracing chill of September! The new generation of ducks and geese are able to fly with their family now, and they busy themselves seeking the ripening crop fields. The harvest is on and the wheat and sweet corn await the stewards of the field. The children have returned to school, the Maples and Sumac are dressed in the colors of fall. All creatures large and small are invigorated, compelled to heightened levels of industry. The pace quickens, the pulse quickens, the first grand migration – that of the monarch butterflies – is under way, and the question arises, are WE ready for the change in seasons?
I must admit that I am never totally prepared for late fall and the onset of winter. The extent of my preparation often depended on the choices I made leading up to the emerging season. Did I fix the roof and fill the propane tank? When the first snow falls have I looked back on my choices with regret and apprehension? Some years, my honest answer would be yes.
The bottom line is that we all have choices. We all make short term decisions that have long term consequences. My Grandfather, a budget conscious type from the old country (Sweden), told me when I was eight that just because I have an itch doesn’t mean that I should scratch it. I think that I was close to thirty before the truth of that nugget of wisdom sunk in. His other gem was “It doesn’t matter what you make, it’s what you save that counts.” He distrusted institutions, and he made it through the collapse of Wall Street and the subsequent bank failures relatively unharmed. (He slept on a lumpy mattress stuffed with cash from his masonry and plaster business – and I won’t discuss the bootlegging).
Anyway, if you also made some decisions you regret this past year, don’t take it too hard. Just make the decision with me to try some new strategies for next year. In the meantime, if your propane tank is on empty, or if you need help setting up a household budget, or if your home structure needs weatherization, if you could use a little help with your energy bills, or if there isn’t enough cash at the end of the month for groceries, call Tri-CAP and find out if we can help. We want to see short term decisions that result in long term financial freedom for your family, and we are here to help you get there and achieve your goals.
Energy tip for this month: Fill up your refrigerator and your chest freezer, it takes less energy to keep food fresh when the coolers are full. Buy your groceries in bulk, watch for the specials, make a list when you shop and only buy off the list – pass the rest by. Replace your old freezer and refrigerator with new energy star rated appliances, (some electric utility companies have appliance replacement programs – ask Tri-CAP) and save on next year’s energy bills. Don’t be that guy, like me, that is full of self-reproach when the first snow falls.
Written by: Stephen Bjorklund

Posted in Updates

Freedom of Movement

In America – we can move from city to city and state to state without identity papers. In many other countries, to travel you must have papers. There are border checkpoints with guards and guns and dogs, and don’t think you can pass from one small country to the next without them. All of these requirements and checkpoints can limit the freedom of travel in those areas.
So what limits our freedom of movement in America? MANY THINGS. Some of us don’t have a car, some have limited resources, some have the financial resources but are too busy at work to stop, go home, and ferry the children to their activity. Some are handicapped or have mobility issues (stairs or steps are out).
We have some good news for you! Tri-CAP Transportation is for everyone, regardless of income or mobility. If you have young children that need to ride by themselves, if they can handle the ride solo, there is no age restriction! The driver will see that they get on and off safely. The driver won’t let the child off the bus unless it’s safe and a responsible person is there to receive them. If you have mobility issues, each bus is equipped with a lift for those in a wheel chair or for those who have trouble with steps. (If you need an attendant, call for specifics on policy).
What’s the cost? Community service is $1.25 per boarding or stop. Rural trips are $3.00 per boarding. Just call the dispatch for a ride at (320) 251-1612, or 1-888-765-5597. Check our service areas online at We serve Benton, Morrison, Sherburne and Stearns Counties. Tri-CAP Transit Connection provides curb to curb service, so be sure to call and book your ride, and busy working parents, consider Tri-CAP for your kid’s rides while you are at work.
Chris Heid has worked for Tri-CAP Transportation for 16 years, and she is the Operations Manager. She wants me to pass on a question, “What is it that you need by way of transportation?” Call us at Tri-CAP and let us know and we’ll pass it along to Chris. Freedom of movement is our goal for you, so please, keep in touch.
Mid-summer energy tips: Use fans to move cooled air from your air conditioned spaces to where it’s needed, allowing you to turn down your A/C. Another option: leave the air off entirely and place a fan where the people are. Unoccupied rooms don’t need to be air conditioned. This will save you a bunch – more than enough for you to take the family on a Tri-CAP bus ride for a mid-summer adventure!

Written by: Stephen Bjorklund

Posted in Updates Tagged ,

Good Timing

An introduction to our new Tri-CAP monthly blog
Stephen Bjorklund, Energy Consultant
You have heard that timing is everything. As a young man, husband, father and building contractor, I struggled with the ups and downs of the construction business. Our family income was never the same for any two years in a row – but our bills were the same. With a growing family (2 boys and 2 girls), our bills actually increased month by month. We struggled during those years and I never really knew that there were resources, like the local Community Action Agency, that could help with some of our tough times. Even if I had known about these resources, I may have been “too proud” to ask for assistance. I had this notion that as a “good American”, I should find a way to make it on my own.
I think it says somewhere important, that “pride goes before a fall”. I think I fell a lot in those early family years. Now I’m considerably older and my children have their own families, and I have changed my point of view. If you really consider American history, we as a people are unique in the world because we, without hesitation, will help a neighbor to raise their barn, or if they are incapacitated by the vagaries of life, we’ll help them bring in their harvest. Sure, we’re creative, self-reliant and we embrace the American “can-do” philosophy. But when we are able and we see a need – we extend a helping hand. Our strength as Americans is our strength together.
Here’s the deal: Community Action Agencies exist for people like that proud young man (me), who struggled at times to put food on the table or fuel in the furnace when it was ten below outside. Pride is a poor excuse for a parent with a hungry or cold child.
To get to the heart of the matter, get real with your situation, get the help available, get healthy, get strong – and before you know it, you will be in a position to extend a helping hand to others. Life is a great circle, we’re in it together and we’ll succeed together.
Tri-CAP is starting a monthly blog with stories and helpful hints on a wide range of topics and opportunities. One month we may investigate solar powered yard lighting, or how to raise a vegetable garden on a space as small as your apartment balcony. We may give you tips on how to earn extra income, tips that work! Here’s your tip for today, turn your water heater temperature down to 120 degrees or less, and save up to ten per cent on your energy bills. We’ll keep in touch, so watch for our monthly blog. Timing is everything, maybe it’s time for you to call Tri-CAP and introduce yourself to a whole bunch of good Americans, people just like you.

Posted in Energy, Self Sufficiency, Updates Tagged , ,

May is National Community Action Month

Tri-County Action Program, Inc. (Tri-CAP) is the local Community Action Agency for the counties of Benton, Sherburne, and Stearns. As we celebrate National Community Action Month, we invite you to get to know Community Action, by learning who we are and what we do.

Community Action has been putting a human face on poverty for more than 50 years while advocating for those who don’t have a voice, helping to replace despair with opportunity. Community Action serves 99% of America’s counties in rural, suburban, and urban communities providing much needed services and opportunities to millions of people. Community Action helps to improve lives and communities by providing financial education, pre-employment training, housing assistance, energy assistance, asset development, tax assistance, transportation, home ownership, weatherization and much more.

Community Action Agencies strike poverty at its source by implementing innovative programs created to meet local needs. We assists veterans, senior citizens, families, children, students, and everyone in between and because of this there are people who have not only risen out of poverty, but have been able to purchase homes, get college degrees, and start their own businesses. Lives touched by Community Action go on to contribute to and create new possibilities for those around them.

Community Action past, present, and future is an essential aspect of promoting economic security which in turn enhances stronger communities throughout America. Whether you are interested as a client, employee, or stakeholder, we invite you to learn more about    Tri-CAP and join us in celebrating National Community Action Month.

Posted in Updates Tagged

An invitation to take the DHS survey!

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is conducting a consumer survey. They are asking your help by participating in an online or telephone survey.
It’s easy to participate. You can take the survey:
• On-line – Go to:
• By telephone – Call 1-888-328-2972 at Wilder Research and ask for Gail Campbell.
The survey is confidential. All of your answers will be private. No one will know who took the survey or what was said.

Also, as a thank you for your time, all who complete the survey will be invited to enter a raffle for several $100 gift cards to Target or Walmart.

Please complete the survey by April 30th, 2015.

Posted in Updates

Paying a Penalty for Not Enrolling in Healthcare Coverage in 2014? Special Enrollment Period for 2015 Coverage Began March 1

Special enrollment period allows Minnesotans to reduce tax penalty for 2015
ST. PAUL, Minn.—Minnesotans who must pay the tax penalty for not having 2014 health care coverage, and who did not enroll in 2015 health care coverage during the most recent open enrollment period, can still enroll into coverage for 2015 during MNsure’s recently announced special enrollment period. Getting enrolled during this special enrollment period will substantially decrease the amount of a 2015 tax penalty they may have to pay, depending on when they complete enrollment.
Minnesotans who did not enroll into 2014 health care coverage will still be responsible for the 2014 tax penalty, but this special enrollment period will help minimize 2015 tax penalties for those who enroll.
“We realize that some consumers are subject to a tax penalty due to either a gap in or lack of 2014 coverage,” said CEO Scott Leitz. “The penalty for 2015 is significantly higher, so to help Minnesotans reduce the amount they have to pay for missing the February 15 enrollment deadline, we’ve created this special enrollment period.”
This special enrollment period began on March 1 and ends on April 30, 2015.
To take advantage of this special enrollment period, consumers must complete the online application and enroll at Upon completion, eligible consumers must contact the MNsure Contact Center, where they will need to attest to their eligibility for this special enrollment period. More information about this process is located at under Special Enrollment.
Coverage would begin on April 1 for consumers who are eligible and complete enrollment by March 15. Coverage would begin on May 1 for consumers who complete enrollment by April 15, and coverage would begin on June 1 for consumers who complete enrollment by April 30.
Any consumer with questions should call the MNsure Contact Center. The Contact Center (1-855-366-7873) is now open 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
This special enrollment period does not apply to those consumers who already purchased 2015 coverage.

Posted in Updates Tagged

Let Earned Income Tax Credit Work For You!

Don’t be the one in five that misses the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)! For the last 40 years, EITC has made life better for millions of workers. If you had earned income in 2014, you may have extra money waiting for you.
Tri-CAP offers free Tax Clinics to help lower-income individuals and families prepare their taxes with a focus on helping individuals claim their special tax credit. If you are an individual and earn $30,000 or less or a family making $50,000 or less, Tri-CAP can help you prepare your taxes. Our walk-in sites are staffed by certified volunteers who offer free electronic filing.

Tax Sites open beginning January 27, 2015

Salvation Army: Mondays, Feb 2-April 13, 4-7 pm* and Saturdays, Jan 31-April 11, 8:30 am-3 pm* (Drop-off available)

Catholic Charities- Food Shelf Location: Tuesdays, Jan 27-April 28, 8:30 am-3:30 pm*

Elk River YMCA: Wednesdays, Jan 28-April 15, 4-7 pm*

St. Cloud Technical & Community College: Thursdays, Jan 29-April 9, 5-7:30 pm* Door 6

Cold Spring District Education Facility: Wednesdays in March: March 4–25, 9:00–11:00 am*

*Designates that doors open 30 minutes before start time

For more information contact Tri-CAP at 320-251-1612/ 1-888-765-5597 or visit

Posted in Updates Tagged

Board of Director Opportunity

Tri-CAP currently has vacancies for the Board of Directors including:
• Sherburne County Low-Income Representative
• Stearns County Low-Income Representative
• Community Representative from the Education Field

The Board meets monthly
on the Third Thursday, 7pm at Tri-CAP Office
1210 23rd Ave. S., Waite Park, MN
Mileage reimbursement and stipends are available to Board members
who meet the low-income representative criteria

Applications available on-line:
Or for more information, contact
Lori Schultz, Executive Director
(320) 251-1612

The Board of Directors for Tri-CAP represents private, public and community interests. We seek dedicated volunteers to apply for membership on the Board of Directors. Board members play an important role in guiding the agency and assisting people currently living in poverty.

Posted in Updates

Tri-CAP and DKD Construction Complete New Home in Big Lake!

Tri-County Action Program (Tri-CAP), in partnership with DKD Construction, the City of Big Lake, and Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, announce the completion of the first new home construction of a seven site revitalization project. The full revitalization plan is to build viable and sustainable single family housing on the site of seven foreclosed properties that were determined to be beyond rehabilitation. The first home developed by Tri-CAP was completed in December 2014.

The goal of the Big Lake revitalization project is to replace previously distressed homes with new single family homes for moderate income families. Tri-CAP, a non-profit Community Action Program, was selected as project developer based on construction experience, familiarity with the requirements of Federal and State Funding sources, and extensive background in energy efficiency and sustainability.

Tri-CAP acquired the first lot on September 9, 2014 and construction was completed in December 2014. “Throughout the planning and construction of this home, special attention was given to incorporating energy efficiency, livability, and sustainability,” said Dan Roberts, Community Development Director of Tri-CAP. The completed home was purchased by first time homebuyers in late December. Six additional new single family homes are slated for construction in 2015.

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Letter to the Editor

As Community Action Turns 50, Tri-County Action Program, Inc. (Tri-CAP) I would like to reflect on service to the residents of Stearns, Benton and Sherburne Counties
On August 20, 1964 in Washington, DC, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA). The EOA created a variety of programs – including Community Action Agencies – as part of his War on Poverty. Tri-CAP was one of those agencies established to address local poverty problems in rural, urban, and suburban communities across the country.
Tri-CAP got its start on January 12, 1965 as the first Community Action Agency in a non-metro area in Minnesota. The agency’s creation was due to efforts of then St. Cloud mayor Ed Henry, who called together a group that included representation from all three counties and worked hard to cajole and convince others that having this agency would be beneficial to area residents.
The agency started with no staff and a $10,000 budget to “research problems relevant to the anti-poverty program.” From that point, the agency grew as programs and services developed. By the first year of operation, the organization had total revenues of $16,480.
Forty nine years later, Tri-CAP has grown into an agency that provides over twenty different essential services all geared toward helping people and changing lives. The agency’s most recent fiscal audit showed total revenues of$5,826,069 directly serving over 22,000 people in Central Minnesota.
Our staff prides themselves on providing exceptional customer service through a professional and kind approach as people build their skills and work towards economic and social stability.
The unrelenting duties of volunteers who served the agency over the past year are invaluable. The commitment of the board of directors and the community have kept us on the path toward maintaining family stability, while endeavoring daily to assure that all of our practices are transparent and sound.
Community Action changes lives every day, one person at a time. Thank you Central Minnesota for supporting our endeavors now and into the future.


Lori Schultz, LSW
Executive Director

Posted in Updates