• Event to highlight caring, community strengths and hope
by Debbie Griffin
The people organizing the first-ever Community Connections Expo & Picnic say the goal of the free event is to bring together people of all ages for a fun-themed day that spotlights many resources that provide hope and support.
The expo runs 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 23 at the River of Life, 21695 Elk Lake Road NW, Elk River. Posters for the event invite people to “celebrate as one under the tent.”
Organizers say the expo is not a religious activity but a community event. Expo committee co-leader Victoria Rosenquist said the target audience includes a wide demographic of anyone in need of something. That might be children, adults, young families, the elderly and any others who might need some kind of help, as well as anyone providing some kind of community resource.
The rain-or-shine event happens under a series of tents and includes a pig roast with beans and trimmings, water-balloon tosses, pony rides, buggy trips, demonstrations and educational displays. The Blue Canyon Band, as well as Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Choirs will play and sing live music.
Younger kids can bounce on inflatable play structures, and older kids can work their way through the obstacle course. There will also be volleyball and self-defense lessons.
“We want people to bring their children,” said Rosenquist.
The expo will provide a free shuttle from Lions Park in Elk River to the River of Life campus.
Rosenquist noted that some people experience frustration with transportation and trying to make multiple trips to chase down resources. The expo will bring resources into a common place at one time.
Among the activities will be the chance to win one of 100 backpacks stuffed with school supplies. Rosenquist said the giveaway idea started with deeply discounted backpacks at a local Menard’s and ended with expo organizers buying out all the metro stores’ on-sale backpacks.
The committee recognized back-to-school support as important since that time can be expensive and stressful for families. That’s one reason why at the expo, returning students can get a free hair cut, and incoming high school seniors can have a free portrait-style photo taken.
Overwhelming response netted
Organizers say the response to plans for such an event has been overwhelming, and they hope to continue and grow in future years, possibly rotating the host responsibilities among other churches and organizations. The committee plans to conduct a survey after the expo to assess how it went.
“They’re going to learn about each other as well as be informational to other people,” Rosenquist said about the participating organizations.
The idea for the Community Connections Expo arose after Rosenquist attended a similar event in Ramsey that left a positive impression, just about the time her pastor put out a call for service.
Rosenquist mentioned it during a meeting of River of Life’s newly formed missions board.
A committee formed quickly, eager volunteers from the congregation and community stepped forward, and many people agreed to participate.
The organizers invited area churches, public-service entities, charitable organizations and other helpers. For example, people will find services aimed at teens, young children, people in recovery, the elderly, the hungry, pregnant women in crisis, military veterans, those in need of job training, people needing county public services and more. Other people coming include fire, police and public safety professionals; self-defense experts; fitness fanatics; counselors; and support groups for such things as divorce and grief.
Rosenquist said she thinks people will appreciate learning from the expo participants like she did. A person from Guardian Angels explained how that organization helps senior citizens resolve the issues affecting them, and someone from the Changing Gaits Farm revealed a sober-living ranch where people in recovery can prepare for an improved life.
For more information about the expo, call 763-441-7527 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.