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

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Annual Meeting

Tri-County Action Program, Inc.
Board of Directors
Annual Meeting
Thursday, May 15, 2014
6:00 PM
Henry’s Catering and Banquet Center
6774 Highway 25 NE, Foley, MN 56329

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MLK Day 2014 marks 60th Anniv. of the end of segregation

King was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. The campaign for a federal holiday in King’s honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later. At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.
At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill, proposed by Representative Katie Hall of Indiana, creating a federal holiday to honor King. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986.
The bill established the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission to oversee observance of the holiday, and Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife, was made a member of this commission for life by President George H. W. Bush in May 1989

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Project Homeless Connect Team

Congratulations to the St. Cloud Area Project Homeless Connect Team who was recently notified that the 2013 Project Homeless Connect was selected as the recipient of this years’ “Spirit of Caring” award through the CentraCare Health Foundation.

CentraCare Health Foundation recognizes the strength and momentum that can grow when individuals come together for the purpose of addressing health issues. It is a community service award that also recognizes group collaboration in improving health through education, intervention or by providing a service. The award carries a $5,000 grant to the project along with a recognition piece of display.

The Project Homeless Connect team includes; Cheri Klassen and Patrick Shepard: Tri-CAP; Christine Midtun: United Way; Erin Foss: Salvation Army; Greg Knoll and Pam Illg: Stearns County; Lea Recknor: RISE; Paul Knutson: Centracare and Tad Hoeschen: St. Cloud Police Department.

Pictured accepting the award for the team is Christine Midtun, Patrick Shepard and Greg Knoll

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Tri-CAP welcomes new Board Member

Joe Gibbons was recently elected to the Tri-CAP Board of Directors representing Benton County low income. Joe has previously owned Marketing Unlimited, a marketing and public relations agency in the twin cities for twenty years. After retiring in 1999 he and his wife Peggy moved to Rice. Joe is the Co-founder and the former Executive Director of Central MN Re-Entry Project, a prisoner re-entry program. He also is a Co-founder of the Community Furniture Program, and served the program as a AmeriCorp VISTA member for nine months. Joe currently serves on the Board of Directors of CNESI, Center for Non-Profit Excellence and Social Innovation.

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Local Events Benefit the Homeless

A recent St. Cloud Times article highlighted the difficulty in determining how many homeless there are in Central Minnesota. Local experts found a January 23, 2013 survey underestimated the prevalence in our area. No matter the exact number of homeless, it’s too many.

Two local events, “Project Homeless Connect” and “Empty Bowls Soup Feed Benefit and Silent Auction,” seek to address some of the needs of those experiencing homelessness.

For a third straight year, Project Homeless Connect will bring together people who are homeless with community agencies that can help them meet their immediate needs and provide them with basic services. On March 20, people who are homeless can go to the St. Cloud Public Library, 1300 W St Germain St., from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and get a free meal, haircut, and basic health screening – no reservations required.

There will be advocates on hand to meet and guide attendees and assist them with filling out an application to better target the services they need. Advocates can also help attendees to get to select booths, if needed.

Tri-CAP’s Family Resources coordinator, Cheri Klassen, directs the annual event. Klassen said the number of people served grew from 72 people the first year to more than 200 last year. Organizers expect around 300 attendees this year. “We’re planning on serving 300 people, but if more show up, we will find a way to make sure they get a meal and services,” said Klassen.

She said the event provides benefits to all who participate, and praised the efforts of this year’s organizers. She said they really stepped up to the plate to help out. “We’re even getting unsolicited donations from people who see the event advertised and just want to help out,” she added.

Klassen said she enjoys working on this event. “My passion is helping people and getting them the services they need,” she said, “this event is needed and provides a real service to the community.”

Last year, the people providing health screenings discovered one of the attendees had diabetes. They were able to him set up with his doctor for treatment. ”They might have saved his life,” said Klassen.

Some of the local agencies involved in the 2013 Project Homeless Connect include:

• Stearns County Human Services
• Benton County Human Services
• Catholic Charities
• Salvation Army
• RISE, Inc.
• St. Cloud State University Social Work Department
• Project Heal
• Tri-County Action Program, Inc. (Tri-CAP)

For those who want to donate to the event, Project Homeless Connect is accepting new items only and cash. Contact Klassen at (320) 257-4533 to donate or for more information about the event.

The other local event scheduled to help those who are homeless, Empty Bowls Soup Feed Benefit and Silent Auction, will be held on March 24. The event will be from noon-4 p.m. at Calvary Community Church, 1200 Roosevelt Road, St. Cloud.

Cost is $10.00 for an individual or $30.00 per family to receive a handmade bowl, soup donated by a St. Cloud restaurant, bread and a beverage. Entertainment also will be provided.

Attendees keep their “benefactor bowls” after the event as a reminder that someone else’s bowl is always empty. Proceeds benefit Place of Hope, which provides food and services for people experiencing homelessness, hunger and despair.

Tickets are available at the door, Calvary Community Church, Place of Hope, and Christian Book Store. For more information, call (320) 203-7881.

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New Executive Director at Tri-CAP

Lori Raiber has been named Executive Director of Tri-CAP. She has a wide range of experience in the non-profit and government sectors of Human Services. Most recently, Lori served as the Human Services Supervisor for Stearns County in the Gateway Services Division. Prior to the working for Stearns County, Lori served as the Housing and Planning Director for Heartland Community Action Agency, Inc. in Willmar, Minnesota. Lori holds a B.S. in Social Work from Saint Cloud State University.picture of Lori Raiber

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Free Assistance for 2012 Tax Season

Just when you thought Tri-CAP’s free tax assistance couldn’t get any better, it does. Not only do eligible, low-income taxpayers get free tax preparation, this year they also have the option of getting a no-fee debit card to use for their tax refunds. The card can be activated (for free) right at the tax sites and the taxpayer’s refund can be deposited directly onto it. The card can then be used just like any other debit card. 


Tri-CAP’s free walk-in tax clinics provide customers help in filling out their tax forms at various sites in the community. (Check out our locations at Our IRS-certified tax preparers are friendly, knowledgeable, and trained to help you take advantage of special tax credits. 


Last year these incredible volunteer tax preparers served a whopping 1,400 households. More than $2.4 million in refunds came back to our community – an average of $1,714 per household! This amazing feat was accomplished by 111 volunteers who put in more than 3,117 hours. And that’s just the time they spent preparing taxes. Add in the training they needed to become IRS-certified and the amount of time they volunteered is even more astonishing.


So who are these unbelievably hard-working volunteers? They’re students, retired folks, professionals (bankers, accountants, etc.), and others who are interested in helping out people in our community. These generous volunteers provide our community a great service.


So, are you ready to check out Tri-CAP’s free tax clinics and meet one of these amazing volunteers? Then go to to find out about walk-in clinic locations, hours, eligibility, and the information you need to bring with you.  And don’t forget to take advantage of the free debit card you can get for your refunds.


If you feel comfortable completing your taxes on your own, you can also do your taxes for free at this site: You need to be an individual or family with a combined income under $57,000 in 2012.


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Hunger Heroes

Hunger Heroes During the month of June, 15 Bremer St. Cloud employees are serving at Catholic Charities Food shelf and Salvation Army. Bremer is partnering with Second Harvest Heartland for the seventh year to raise awareness and funds to assist food shelves across Minnesota. Bremer will match dollar-for-dollar up to $50,000 for donations to Second Harvest Heartland that are made at any Bremer Bank location or online at Additionally, if you view the “Step Up!” video, an additional donation will be made up to $15,000. This video was created with the help of Rhythmic Circus and it is excellent. Check it out at: Last year, Second Harvest Heartland collected, warehoused and distributed more than 70 million pounds of food and is a member of Feeding America which is a national network of food banks. Locally, this impacts organizations such as Catholic Charities, St. Cloud Diocese, Salvation Army, Boys & Girls Club of Central Minnesota and others.

(Originally written by Bremer Bank Representative)

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Is Honesty the Best Policy?

By Greg Koenigs, HR Director

This is a question I am often asked when giving presentations regarding the job search process. I also know it is a frequently asked question in many of our other programs such as “Renting 101” or “Financial Fitness”. Whenever you are in an interview – for a job, apartment, loan, etc., you naturally want to present yourself in the most positive light possible. If the interviewer knows you were fired from your last job, had a felony conviction, were evicted from your last apartment or any of another number of “less than shining star” situations, chances are you believe you are not going to get what you want. Chances are the interviewer will discover these things when conducting their appropriate background checks. The result being you will not get the job, the loan, the apartment, etc. because you were not honest on your application.

My recommendation is to be honest. Tell the interviewer that yes you have a felony conviction, were evicted, or whatever, but shed some positive light on the negative fact. Let the interviewer know that the felony conviction was 9 years ago and you were with some friends and made a stupid teenage mistake. You have learned from your situation, have gone through counseling or whatever you have done to make sure this will never happen again. The same type of response could be used for an eviction. It is now up to the interviewer to conduct an appropriate background check and determine if you were being honest in what you told them. I know some employers/companies still will not care. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has provided guidelines to employers that discourage absolute use of exclusion of candidates who have been convicted of crimes if it is not related to the essential functions of the job.

I have faith in people but, I know that not everyone does. I also know that many companies have a mission statement and a list of values that their company and employees are to live by. One of the values most employers tend to list is integrity. With this being said, if we can be honest during whatever interview process we are going through and the interviewer also uses integrity in dealing with you and your situation, the chances of you getting what you want will only improve. If nothing else, you are being honest with yourself and others, which can only build your personal integrity.

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