Hansen, an easy-smiling man who had high praise for the Mankato Salvation Army and for Wal-Mart (“It’s nice they let people stay in the lot overnight. They don’t bother you.”), said he doesn’t dwell on his stretch of misfortune.
“I’m not going to let all this get me down.”
Kate Hengy-Gretz, one of the event organizers, said bringing a host of services to one location for people like Hansen has been a big hit since Community Connect started three years ago.
Shortly after the doors opened, a line of more than 100 people snaked out the door as a team of volunteers took a five-minute intake session with each person to better understand what services they required.
“A lot of people are looking for a job or housing,” Hengy-Gretz said.
One of the most popular booths was for a free haircut, staffed by nine local stylists. By shortly after 11 a.m., they were already booked out to 1:30 p.m. The event goes until 4 p.m.
“We did 75 haircuts last year,” said volunteer Gretchen Rialson. They had so many people they couldn’t get to, in fact, Rialson quickly called area hair salons asking a favor. “We gave out 50 certificates for free haircuts so they could just go to the salons and get them.”
Minnesota Valley Action Council, Greater Mankato Area United Way, Partners for Affordable Housing and others helped organize the event.