Blaine-Ham Lake Rotary Club assists the homeless

Staff Writer
I cover the cities of Andover, Blaine and Ramsey. I have worked at ABC Newspapers since August 2007.

The Blaine-Ham Lake Rotary Club is on a mission to help the homeless of Anoka County by donating supplies, food and, most importantly, time and connections that could help land a new job.

The Blaine-Ham Lake Rotary Club on June 21 donated household items to Stepping Stone Emergency Housing. The homeless shelter will give these items to people who are transitioning from the shelter to permanent housing. Submitted photos
The Blaine-Ham Lake Rotary Club on June 21 donated household items to Stepping Stone Emergency Housing. The homeless shelter will give these items to people who are transitioning from the shelter to permanent housing. Submitted photos

This all stems from a rotary club breakfast meeting last November at the Tournament Players Club-Blaine. There was a brainstorming session about ways club members could help the different groups that assist the homeless or lower-income residents.

Chris Tiedeman, a member of the Blaine-Ham Lake Rotary Club, said club members have stopped by Stepping Stone Emergency Housing, a shelter in Anoka with 66 beds for homeless people of any age, once per month to serve home-cooked meals that they prepared.

But while Tiedeman has enjoyed breaking bread, what he and the rotary club members have been most passionate about is being a valuable resource.

A few weeks ago, Tiedeman met a man who has part-time jobs but he ended up at Stepping Stone.

Tiedeman heard there was some trouble between this man and former roommates that led this man to leave his old home.

Tiedeman gave this man information about Anoka Technical College. Although this man said he has a criminal record and was concerned about finding a good full-time job, Tiedeman encouraged him not to give up and gave him his personal contact information if he ever needed someone to talk to.

“I told him there’s so many good employers in Anoka County that are understanding and willing to help him out,” Tiedeman said.

On June 21, rotary club members donated household items to Stepping Stone. The dishes, silverware, laundry baskets, detergent, mops, brooms and various other cleaning supplies will be given to people who are transitioning from Stepping Stone to permanent housing.

Julie Jeppson, a Blaine council member and a member of the rotary club, is Stepping Stone’s full-time development director. She said that while it’s important for Stepping Stone and all organizations that help the homeless to provide services while someone is homeless, it’s equally as important to help them once they find permanent housing.

As anyone who has a home knows, it costs a lot of money to buy cleaning supplies and dishes and silverware.

“They’re so energized to finally have their own place, but when they walk through that door, it’s: ‘Oh, my gosh. Now what?” Jeppson said.

Being able to offer these people in transition some help is very meaningful and important work that needs help from multiple groups, she said. An organization called Bridging supplies furniture, for example.

The Blaine-Ham Lake Rotary Club is one of many groups that volunteers to prepare and serve meals at Stepping Stone, Jeppson said.

Left to right: Bill Milkes, Renae Putnam and Judy Smith volunteering in the Stepping Stone Emergency Housing kitchen. People from the Blaine-Ham Lake Rotary Club have been volunteering once per month with meal preparation at Stepping Stone.
Left to right: Bill Milkes, Renae Putnam and Judy Smith volunteering in the Stepping Stone Emergency Housing kitchen. People from the Blaine-Ham Lake Rotary Club have been volunteering once per month with meal preparation at Stepping Stone.

Steven Helseth, whose term as president of the rotary club expired on June 30, said the club members will soon be coming to Stepping Stone’s game nights to get even more opportunities to talk one-on-one with homeless people to listen to their concerns and learn what services would make the biggest difference for them.

While most of the energy is presently focused on Stepping Stone, Helseth said the Blaine-Ham Lake Rotary Club sent donations to four different groups that help the homeless and lower-income people. This includes HOPE 4 Youth, Family Promise of Anoka County and the Hope for the Community Food Shelf.

At some point, the club could make a financial donation to one or more of these groups. But as discussed last November at that breakfast meeting, the civic-minded club plans to volunteer as much as possible not only to make a difference in many ways but to gain a better understanding of the work each group does and where a donation could be the most beneficial.

“Our goal is to find that thing we can financially contribute to that helps us solve to the best of our ability the homeless problem in Anoka County,” Tiedeman said.

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