MANKATO — Wrapping paper, bows and holiday gifts scattered the community room at Primrose Retirement Communities on Wednesday afternoon.
About 10 residents wrapped gifts for Partners for Affordable Housing, which operates two homeless shelters, a transitional housing program and affordable housing properties in Mankato.
The gifts will go to families in the shelters and the transitional housing program. They were donated by the community through the organization’s adopt-a-family program.
All of the organization’s families have been adopted, said Onnie Brodkorb, the organization’s director of volunteer services. The organization is still taking gifts at its free store, she said.
The event was one of two wrapping parties the organization is holding this week. A second party is Friday at Old Main Village.
Partners for Affordable Housing’s two shelters can house up to 11 families, but 55 families call the organization for help each month, CEO Carrol Meyers-Dobler said.
Statistics show that Blue Earth County renters have limited choices and that incomes have fallen as rents have risen. Real renter incomes have fallen by 24 percent since 2000 in the county, while rents have risen by 7 percent, according to the Minnesota Housing Partnership.
Blue Earth County ranks 83rd out of Minnesota’s 87 counties in available and affordable units for low-income renters, according to the partnership. A modest two-bedroom apartment costs $704 per month in Blue Earth County. That would require a person earning $8 an hour to work 68 hours per week.
Party a first
Wednesday’s wrapping party was the first time Partners for Affordable Housing held such an event outside of its offices.
Christine Nessler, director of business relations for Freedom Care, brought the idea for the event to Partners for Affordable Housing. Nessler heard a former shelter resident speak at the Greater Mankato Area United Way campaign kickoff event in September and said she was moved by the story. It led her to reach out to the organization, which led to the event.
“We’d never thought to go off campus or utilize a different part of the community, so it’s been a blast,” Brodkorb said.
Primrose residents were wrapping for two families in the transitional housing program. They wrapped a variety of gifts, including dress shirts, Barbie dolls and Play-Doh.
“I think it’s just wonderful,” resident Barb Piem said of the event. “You just don’t realize what’s going in our town — how many people are homeless. It’s kind of nice to be able to do this.”
“I think it’s great,” said resident Mary Ann Monk, who wrapped gifts alongside Piem. “I just feel so sorry for what these people must go through.”
Before they started wrapping, former shelter resident Dawn Morales told her story and what the gifts meant to her family.
Morales is in the transitional housing program. She and her two teenagers received gifts last year, including winter coats, tennis shoes and a gift card for household supplies.
“If it wasn’t for Partners, I don’t know where I’d be,” Morales said. “They’ve blessed me with having a life.”