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Stacy* has been working with the FAIM program since December 2017. She has completed her Bachelor’s in Psychology and is extremely excited to be able to use the FAIM dollars that she saved towards her Masters! Saving money had been an issue for her in the past, and so being enrolled in the FAIM program has shown Stacy the importance of saving and the benefits of a financial safety net. Stacy recommends this program, not only because of the savings she is able to use for her schooling, but also because of the financial education that she received through her enrollment in FAIM. Stacy was able to save $960 in 2 years, and received a $2,880 match, resulting in $3,840 that she is able to use towards her tuition expenses.


Jeannine has been connected to Tri-CAP for a few years with vehicle safety repairs on her 20-year-old vehicle. Jeannine was stressed about the thought of having to find another vehicle. Being on a mostly fixed income, her ability to save up was difficult when her current vehicle was taking a lot of her money.

Jeannine was then referred to the Family Assets for Independence in Minnesota (FAIM) program. In the FAIM program Jeannine saved $85 each month, and the program matched this savings 3:1. Jeannine saved $2,000, and with the FAIM program she was able to receive a match bringing her vehicle purchasing power to $8,000! She was able to successfully exit early after finding the perfect vehicle for her needs. Jeannine also completed 12 hours of financial educational education and 10 hours of vehicle ownership training to provide her with the tools she needs to budget for her new vehicle needs. When purchasing the vehicle, there were a few repairs the vehicle needed, and Tri-CAP was able to assist in getting these repairs paid for, through another one of our programs, ensuring a safe vehicle for her to get to and from work.

Jeannine stated that this vehicle, and program, helped her as a low-income person attain a dream, and that it can do the same for others who may need it. She loves her new car, and thanks everyone who has been a part of helping her reach her goals!


Sara is a single mom who is working hard toward becoming financially stable. Tri-CAP’s DRIVE program was a natural fit to support her in the pursuit of self-sufficiency. In her own words, “I didn’t have a vehicle of my own and it was so stressful trying to provide transportation. It gave me freedom, independence, and transportation. I’m so thankful!”.

In asking if she would recommend the program to others: “Absolutely! It was such a blessing, and I can’t wait to own the Honda Civic. Thank you so much!”.

A vehicle was needed in order to reclaim Sara’s independence for work, school and appointments. TriCAP was also able to assist with the cost of repairs needed on the vehicle to ensure the vehicle would be a reliable source of transportation for her and her family.

Adam, Tove, & Rita

Adam and Tove donated their vehicle they no longer needed because they wanted to help someone in need in the community. Their vehicle allowed Rita to accept a full time job, and work towards acquiring housing for her family. Without this vehicle Rita would still be a temporary worker at her job, and would have to rely on friends, family, and coworkers to get her to work or her two children where they need to go. Now Rita can focus on her job and finding housing!


Jean donated her 1999 Mercury Cougar with the hopes that someone else could get some use of a vehicle she no longer needed. This mother of two has been very stressed not knowing how she was going to get her family where they needed to go without having any transportation. Having success with her chemical dependency meetings, she is hoping to help others on their sobriety goals by providing others rides to meetings.


Piper, single mother of three teenagers and primary caregiver to two grandchildren, came to Tri-CAP for help after leaving a long-term domestic violence situation. Piper was starting over and needed to rebuild her life, attain the ability to take care of her family, and achieve financial self-sufficiency.

Piper did not have the education, skills, and emotional resources to gain sufficient employment. She was referred to Tri-CAP where our Self-Sufficiency Counselor worked with her to set goals and identify what she needed to achieve her goals. Piper set her goal on becoming a Medical Assistant, a job that will allow her to financially support her family. Among her challenges, Piper did not have the computer equipment needed for the school program. Tri-CAP purchased Piper a laptop computer, the software, and a printer. To further help stabilize Piper’s situation, Tri-CAP provided assistance with fuel cards, interview clothing, car repair, and Energy Assistance.

Today Piper is well on her way to reaching her goals. In addition to working, she continues to take classes and has set a new goal of achieving stable permanent housing for her family. Working with Tri-CAP Piper is saving diligently, putting money into her FAIM account every month as she saves towards the down payment needed to buy a house.

Ari & Jordan

Ari and Jordan are two young parents who were struggling to get to school, medical appointment, and obtaining employment without having their own form of transportation. With their new vehicle, they are able to start looking for employment, and will be able to get to previously missed medical appointments for their child.

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“I live on little to nothing and any extra money I get, like taxes, will help me to get caught up on delinquent medical bills and pharmacy bills that I have accumulated in the past year.”
“Tri-CAP allows me to have transportation to work. I have no vehicle right now, I’d be out of a job if not for Tri-CAP. I really enjoy how the drivers wave when they see me on the sidewalk. That special/personal feeling is awesome! All drivers are amazing! Thank you guys! Special shout out to Jay! Jay always gets me cherry and laughing on my ride to work. I can’t wait to be driving again, but will for sure miss my rides with Jay because he always makes me smile.”
“We have a client who is a single mother of 4 who called & said her furnace was not working we sent a contractor out to look at it & it was determined her furnace would need to be replaced. We replaced the furnace within the week, the same day the furnace was replaced I received a tearful but grateful voice mail thanking me for the new furnace & saying how good the warmth feels.”
“I am a 61 year old black American US Coast Guard veteran that can’t afford a tax preparer so this program is vital to my budget. It’s a good service and I hope it will continue.”

“Our Energy Advisor had meet with a family in Stearns County and referred them to the Weatherization program. The notes that were provided from the Energy Advisor stated that the clients had been experiencing headaches and asked for the Auditor to check the CO levels in the furnace and water heater and in the home. During the audit, the water heater and furnace were tested and both appliances had extremely high CO levels and both had poor working burners that were contributing to the high CO levels. In addition, the water heater was back drafting causing the CO to escape into the home. The ambient air in the main living level of the home during the audit was at 18ppm. Home CO detectors go off at 50ppm. Along with other Weatherization activities done in the home, we were able to remove and install a new power vented water heater and a new high efficiency furnace making their home safe and more energy efficient and give the clients peace of mind knowing their mechanical equipment is now safe.”

“Our Energy Advisor had meet with a family in Stearns County and referred them to the Weatherization program. The notes that were provided from the Energy Advisor stated that the clients had been experiencing headaches and asked for the Auditor to check the CO levels in the furnace and water heater and in the home. During the audit, the water heater and furnace were tested and both appliances had extremely high CO levels and both had poor working burners that were contributing to the high CO levels. In addition, the water heater was back drafting causing the CO to escape into the home. The ambient air in the main living level of the home during the audit was at 18ppm. Home CO detectors go off at 50ppm. Along with other Weatherization activities done in the home, we were able to remove and install a new power vented water heater and a new high efficiency furnace making their home safe and more energy efficient and give the clients peace of mind knowing their mechanical equipment is now safe.”

“A customer came in our office and needed help with her Xcel Energy bill. As she started to tell her story, she was nervous and unsure where to begin, she stated she was in a car accident and had TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and needed a lot of physical therapy, her children had to go into foster care as she had no family here. The apartment she was living at the landlord said she had to move since she was not paying her rent. He said he would put her things in storage in the building, which she agreed. Time went on and the landlord called her and said I sold the building you need to move your things out. She was just getting out of the hospital and getting her life back together. She called the 211 number and then went to Benton County and she got an emergency housing grant found a place to live. When it came time to get electric for her new apartment, it turned out the landlord did not close her account, when he moved her out of the apartment with Xcel Energy and with all the physical therapy she did not think about it either. Which left her a bill of 5000.00 she needed to have before they would turn electric on in her new apartment. I told her I would be able to help you with your bill but I will only be able to paid some of it, but maybe enough to get the lights turned back on for you. If not, I gave her a few other resources that might be able to help a little bit more. She was so happy. I told her I would need this worksheet filled out along with your Energy Assistance Application and you can fill that out in the lobby. As we walked out to the lobby she called a friend to come pick her up at Tri-CAP and told them they can help me they can help me with my bill she was so happy. She finish the phone call and fell to her knees with both hands in her face and cried and said thank you thank you. She was so happy and in tears and shaking. I said fill the worksheet out and give Ruth the application and worksheet and I would call her back. She said I will I will. I went up to check for this application because I wanted to work on it right away. All I saw was the worksheet. I looked at Ruth and said the application is? Ruth at the front desk said she just left and is still in the parking lot. Well Ruth and I made a dash to the front door and waved her down to come back in. She came in and she was so nervous that she put the application back in her bag. I told her I am so happy you were still here and told her I would call her today sometime. I finished the application I had Dona approved it and called her right away and told her she was approved and told her the amounts from Energy Assistance and Crisis. It came up to about 900.00 that I could pay on the bill. She screamed in my ear with such joy again and cried and said thank you thank you. I told her you need to call Xcel Energy and see if that is enough to turn it back on. If not call the other resources I gave you.This all happened at about 4:20p.m towards the end of my day. Not only was this person happy, but I was happy as well. Nothing beats the warm feeling you get when you can help someone out who is truly so thankful for the help. This is one out of many moments I see here Tri-CAP and it is the best feeling EVER!!!”
“Financially – we have great employees at Tri-CAP who all work together to keep us financially sound. Tri-CAP has received the highest audit rating possible for the past 19 years. The years of 1999 – 2017. This is due to the diligence of all Tri-CAP employees and Board members.”
“I received a call on our Self-Sufficiency line from an employee from a CAP agency in northern MN. She had received a call from a woman named Pat who lives in rural Stearns County. Pat is 81 years old and has a mountain of medical debt. Pat visited the Stearns County Human Services office to seek assistance. She didn’t know what type of help might be available. Having never been in this position before, Pat felt very confused by many of things the worker said. When Pat left the Human Services office she didn’t feel that she had received any assistance and many questions remained. Pat was crying and upset when she reached out to the CAP agency on the Iron Range. The employee at that agency called our self-sufficiency line and asked if we had anyone that does SNAP Outreach. She told me about Pat’s call, and I was able to reach Pat right away and offered to meet with her in person. She asked me to meet her at the county Human Service office as Pat planned to be there when the doors opened to take walk-in clients. I asked about her income and expenses, and explained what types of verifications she should bring with her to expedite the process. When I met Pat she was very anxious and upset. She said that she felt some relief knowing that someone was there with her. I accompanied Pat in her meeting with the county worker. When the worker asked about Pat’s needs, Pat became very distressed. She began to cry and raised her voice. She said she needed help and no one was helping her. I was able to assure her that she was going to get assistance, and that I would help explain what was happening as we moved through the process. The county worker provided the Combined Application Form and I was able to very quickly complete the application with Pat. The worker asked for income verifications and medical bills, the documents I had suggested Pat bring with her. Pat’s application was complete, and is in process. I asked the county worker to explain the next steps: the interview, the award or denial letter, and the EBT card. When we left the office, I gave Pat a brochure about how to use the EBT card. I explained that once a person is receiving benefits they are periodically required to complete and submit re-certification paperwork. I let her know that one of the services we provide is assistance with recertification and that all she needs to do is call me. And yes, I can meet her in her home. Pat is receiving energy assistance this year for the first time. I told her that next fall when the season started she would automatically receive an application in the mail. I gave her information about the food shelf in her community, and senior dining options. I told her about Fare for All: what it is, what to expect when she arrives at the site, and that she can pay with her SNAP dollars. I brought her the brochure for NAPS- a senior food program, and gave her the magnet for the Senior Linkage Line. The next morning Pat called me to thank me for helping her. I explained to her that we know it can be very challenging to navigate the system and that’s why SNAP Outreach is so important. I told her that United Way of Central MN helps to pay for us to provide this service. Pat told me she has heard of the United Way, that she remembers a workplace campaign in her past. I told her that this is an example of the work that is done with those funds. A lot of times SNAP outreach is simple. We explain the SNAP program while working to dispel myths and stigma, we screen someone for eligibility, and provide an application or maybe even help filling it out. Some people need a little more assistance, and a lot of times a little help goes a very long way.”
“I thank the volunteers for taking their time out of their day to file my taxes free of charge. I’m glad that this program exists for people who can’t afford to go elsewhere and pay to have their taxes done. Keeping this program going will benefit me going forward when it comes to filing my taxes.”
“My success story is about an audit I did for a single mother with two girls who lived in a mobile home in Cold Spring. It was raining lightly when I got there. I went to the front door to knock when I noticed the condition of the entry door. It had no strike for door latch to catch on to keep the door shut, only the dead bolt which was just a hole gouged into the door jamb. There was no door stop to keep the door in place. She had put about 4 layers of duct tape around the perimeter of the door for an inside stop to keep the door in place and to keep out the elements. She had a couple towels on the backside of the door on the floor to keep the rain and snow was coming in. I think I could have just pushed the door open. She had no security. The rear emergency entry door was no better. As a matter a fact it was in such poor condition it was screwed in place. When I unscrewed it to access it the sides came undone so I carefully put it back the way it was and screwed it in place, basically it was to cover the door opening. Wow no rear door in case of a fire up front I thought. I did the audit finding many things the weatherization program could help her with. I discussed my findings with her and my concerns about her doors. I told her I would model them in our software to be replaced but if the computer program didn’t find a saving in replacing them I would not be able to. I thought on my way back about it, with the conditions of the doors I had a great chance at replacing them. I got back to tri-cap and went to work entering all my findings in the computer. I finally got it entered and pushed “run audit”. I sank back in my chair as it didn’t come back as a measure I could do. After many times trying to tweak and rerun the audit and lots of conversations with the other auditors we decided to e-mail the department of commerce for approval for replacement. This also turned out to be a dead end for weatherization technical reasons I won’t get into. So there I sat at my desk. Strike two. For some reason I looked up at a chart Doris, our Project and Program Administrator had given me recently. It had our Conservation Improvement Program providers on it, or our CIP’s for each of our customers. My client was an Excel Energy customer. I went to discuss this with Doris, we decided I should also e-mail them and ask if the door replacement would fall under there replacement guide lines. Well this time it worked. This did follow there guidelines and was approved and none too soon. Weatherization was done and both doors replaced just before the snow and winter weather hit. I have never been back to see the work done at the homes I weatherize and do work at but fortunately this home was selected for our monitoring visit in May so I will get to see our handy work first hand.”
“I am disabled with very limited income. This tax program is a godsend. I could not afford to pay to have my taxes done. It is Greatly Appreciated!”
“One elderly woman came into the lobby one day, and when she saw the hats being given out, she started to cry. She told me that she had recently been awarded custody of her five grandchildren, and none of them had hats or scarves. She was able to pick out a hat and scarf for each one, and one for herself as well. She was thrilled to tears. Another woman came in with three little girls, all with bare heads. When they were offered hats and scarves, the kids squealed with the joy of being able to pick out their favorite one. We showed them the tag on each hat, which not only gave laundry directions, but showed where the hats came from, and so many of them said that they were so grateful for the gift from the Sartell Senior Collation. Person after person thanked us profusely for the gifts (again, we told them who they were from), and we know that they are much appreciated.”
“Deborah started saving through the FAIM program in November 2016 and successfully received a full payout of $3,840.40 in August 2018. Deb completed a 12-hour financial literacy class offered at Tri-CAP in December 2016 and said it was very helpful in teaching her about her finances and credit. Since taking the class Deb’s credit score has significantly increased. The FAIM program has given Deb the opportunity to start her own small business for professional clothing alterations and sewing. Through meetings with Barry Kirchoff at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and her FAIM coach she completed her business plan for “Made with Love by Deb”. Deb has a traumatic brain injury and she expressed great appreciation for Barry and her coach taking the time to assist her, allowing her time to process the information and get her business up and running. The FAIM program has given her the tools and knowledge needed to be a successful business owner.”
“Tri-CAP first met *Sarah when she was referred to us as part of our transitional housing program. From the beginning she needed assistance for other supportive services and Tri-CAP enrolled her in the Rebuilding Lives program. Sarah had been solely dependent on an ex-partner, and was just trying to start over after graduating from a women’s treatment facility. Because of assistance in the Rebuilding Lives Program, the program staff have been able to help her family with some transportation needs to get to job interviews through gas cards, and help her prepare for her current job with work clothing. Sarah is now successfully employed full time in a local food production facility with full benefits and compensation and has transitioned to being completely self-sufficient in financial terms. She continues to work the Rebuilding Lives staff through case management and developing life skills through Rebuilding Lives coaching in many areas including coping with change, goal setting, healthy communication/relationships, self-acceptance, and stress management. She has developed a healthier relationship with her ex-partner and is now seeing her children on a regular basis with established times for visitation. Sarah continues to build on what Rebuilding Lives has offered her and will successfully complete one year in the program in May of 2019.”
“I am a widowed woman and live alone. I am disabled and can no longer drive. Tri-CAP has given me a measure of independence by providing me with transportation to get out of my house. I use Tri-CAP to go to my hair stylist and go to the grocery store each week. During the past nasty winter, the very thoughtful driver helped me over a slippery snowy spot to get to the street and also helped me transfer my groceries to my little wagon when I returned home. Kudos to the driver – Her bus is always very clean and comfortable. She is always cheerful and helpful! Due to her assistance I am most appreciative of Tri-CAP services! Allowing me to live with my disability. The driver is wonderful!”
“I have been doing my taxes with Tri-CAP and the St. Cloud Salvation Army for many years. The volunteers are so helpful and professional. My family really appreciates this service.”
“Janie* came to Tri-CAP and Rebuilding Lives and the Transitional Housing program in November of 2017. When she came she was homeless and without any support from family and friends. Janie was divorced with two children. Her son is a student at a local junior high and her daughter was just starting her first year of college. Janie was in recovery from a drug addiction. Janie was enrolled in Rebuilding Lives and Tri-CAP’s transitional housing program. Janie received help with a year of rental assistance through transitional housing and additional supports through our Rebuilding Lives program. Services through Rebuilding Lives included assistance for job search skills, transportation assistance, support to provide work clothing, and other life skills building classes. Janie has been able to locate housing, employment, and has stayed clean and sober. Janie has been able to access Energy Assistance to help with utility bills and stabilize her housing. She is currently renting a 3 bedroom house in St. Cloud. Janie has transitioned off of the transitional housing program rental assistance. She is employed full time at a local company in St. Cloud and is making a living wage. Her daughter is currently in her second year of college and her son is going to be entering high school. In slightly over a year, Janie has come a long way and is continuing on a successful path.”
“There was a lady that came to Tri-CAP, she was emotional and crying and said that her lights were going to be shut off and she was unable to pay the required amount. The Receptionist was able to have her meet with an Energy Assistance Intake person. She came out of that meeting relieved and said we were all angels here and she had no idea what she would have done without our help! Just one of the many situations we see at the front desk as our program staff meet with clients and help them navigate through their stressful situations.”
“As a single person, with a part-time job I really appreciate what Tri-CAP does for the community. The tax help really benefits myself and my community members. Also the Financial Fitness classes are great and really helpful!”
“Ted our Energy Advisor had an elderly client call him & said her smoke detector would not stop beeping so he walked her step by step on how to find & replace the battery on her smoke detector”
“Although sometimes we try for fun just by looking at a house, we can never really predict what a weatherization audits finished product will look like until it’s completed, there are always surprises and unknowns we encounter. I was reminded fairly quickly of these “surprises & unknowns” after returning to my current position of Housing rehab Specialist on my first “solo” audit with Kim R along observing. This was a small, one level, rectangle house with no basement. So at first glance you think, piece of cake, but as they say it’s what you can’t see is what you need to be concerned about. Proceeding through the audit, there are definite areas we should be able to address, including water lines freezing due to exterior walls being empty with no insulation, installing smoke & Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors, adding house ventilation and other energy conservation & health & safety measures. When it was time to test the furnace, we fired it up & immediately the CO detector in the room and my personal CO detector began alarming. Very quickly, my digital CO alarm registered 112 ppm in the room, we shut down the furnace opened windows to ventilate and Kim, myself and the homeowner evacuated and remained outside for approximately ½ hour until CO levels inside the house returned to safe levels. (EPA 1 hour CO exposure limit is 35 ppm) The homeowner had said that the furnace was not used since the previous heating season & at that time the CO detectors went off with the homeowner removing the batteries thinking the detectors were defective. We immediately called an HVAC contractor to verify there was a cracked heat exchanger in the furnace and advised the homeowner not to use this furnace and the contractor could provide space heaters as needed. We were able to replace the furnace through weatherization including the other measures mentioned above. I reached out to this homeowner earlier this spring to see if they had any frozen pipe or furnace issues this winter especially with the cold periods we had. They said no and the house “stays much warmer and gas bills were a lot less too”, they were very appreciative of all work completed through weatherization. “
“If I wasn’t able to come to Tri-CAP tax program at evening hours, I would not be able to get my taxes done. I cannot afford to pay someone to do my taxes. Places just charge too much to do taxes. So please keep providing this program it is needed.”
“I work at the Whitney Senior Center. Last week one of our Patrons lost her key to her home or apartment in the Center. We had it at the Front Desk as an instructor had turned it in when she found it. Later, the Patron came back with the KIND driver that day and brought her to the Front Desk to ask for help. She was so happy and relieved to see that we had the key! She remarked how nice the Driver was and said, “We are a good team!” I was moved by his kindness and mild manner that he showed our regular Patron! Wanted to pass on to you how we appreciate people like him who treat our Patrons with kindness! Thank you for the service you provide!”
“Thanks!!! I think the tax preparing service is great both as a service to the tax payer and preparers. As long as funding is there, please don’t stop. Can’t even find forms to do it yourself anymore.”
“My story is one I will never forget! I went to a customer’s home to inspect a furnace and water heater. When I arrived the customer greeted me with a huge smile and tears running down her face. I introduced myself and explained why I was here. She showed me the door to the basement where the appliances were located but replied that she wasn’t able to go down the steps and if I had any question she would be waiting by the kitchen table. I proceeded to set up my testing equipment to run diagnostics on both appliances but first I needed to turn on the furnace. I returned back upstairs to turn up the new programmable thermostat that was also installed. I had a few simple questions to ask her. Again she had this huge smile but tears still running down her face. At this point I am getting a bit concerned so I asked her if she was ok and or if there was anything I could do. She grabbed my hand and gave me the biggest hug ever and her reply back to me was you already did. She said that she is on a very small fixed income and barely makes it from month to month paying her bills and providing food on her table. She also replied that there was no possible way she could have ever afforded this on her own and wasn’t sure what she would have done if it wasn’t for Tri-CAP. As I was leaving out the door she gave me again another huge hug and replied how very grateful she is for Tri-CAP and all they do. She also said that today is her 90th birthday and she will be able to enjoy it in her warm home. After I left I thought to myself, her tears were of happy tears. This is the reason why I enjoy coming to work every single day.”
“This program is SO helpful and the people/workers are friendly and treat me with respect. I can’t afford to pay to have my taxes completed and this is a HUGE savings to me. Thank you for this program.”
“I am very pleased to let you know that I have been dealing with Tri-CAP in one way or another for the last 5 or 6 years and everytime I have asked for help they were there for me. Tax help, rent help, rides to appointments and back home. Just an amazing group of people. Recommend these people to friends, family, etc. Thank you Tri-CAP!”
*some names have been changed for confidentiality