Single mom Yoana Ramos saw a post on social media about Project Connect in St. Cloud. She then heard about it from her son's school. She attended the Tuesday event at River's Edge Convention Center for the free coats, but left with a lot more.
"It's pretty helpful," said Ramos, who moved to Minnesota from New York several years ago. "New York doesn't do this kind of thing. I came for the coats, but I was able to get informed."
Ramos was just one of several hundreds of people who stopped in at the one-day event, which featured 70 vendors offering services, information and assistance with basic necessities, coats shoes, cell phones and haircuts. There were free shoes and legal advice, too.
"We're known for this event," said Tri-County Action Program administrative assistant and event coordinator Laura Hinnenkamp. "Word spreads. The people who come need the basics. Things I don't even think about."
Tri-CAP handed out 200 hygiene kits in less than three hours. Tooth brushes, shampoo, diapers, baby formula and other items were handed out.
Living in a homeless shelter the last two months, Melody Noble of St. Cloud stopped in to find housing resources.
"It's actually pretty neat," Noble said. "It's helping me figure out a way of life. I get overwhelmed easily, but it's okay. They're very supportive here. I'm looking for information on housing and legal services. My son is in CPS."
Whatever attendees needed a vendor was most likely able to supply.
"At Tri-CAP, people come to us needing different things," Hinnenkamp said. "Here, if we can't help them, somebody else can."
Janeen Diming of St. Cloud stopped in to pick up information for a friend.
“I think it’s great,” she said of Project Connect. “I see a lot of happy faces. I even found myself a coat.”