OneCommunity Provides Education and Support to Carver County Residents

Local leaders join forces to create OneCommunity.
OneCommunity leaders Scott Knight, Robert Kim, Matt Bersagel and Fernando Ortega

“Strong communities should care for those who are living invisibly or living in the shadows,” Matt Bersagel, pastor at Crown of Glory Lutheran Church, says. “We get stronger when we live that way.” With the strength of area churches, nonprofit groups and governmental organizations, OneCommunity was established to address community problems and concerns faced by underserved groups.

Created almost two years ago, OneCommunity is an outgrowth of the Chaska Human Rights Commission. Its core leadership includes director Robert Kim, chairman of the Chaska Human Rights Commission; Scott Knight, Chief of the Chaska Police Department; the Rev. Fernando Ortega, Guardian Angels Catholic Church and School; and Bersagel. Knight says the group strives to encourage community dialogue and inclusion and facilitate awareness and education. Bersagel explains that members brainstorm about methods to address dysfunction and brokenness in the community.

Kim says that the impetus to create OneCommunity began in 2014 after the city held Freedom and Justice for All, a festival to celebrate cultures and diversity in the area. It featured, among other elements, presentations by a University of Minnesota admissions counselor, who specializes in Latino recruitment; retired U.S. Immigration Court Judge Joseph Dierkes; children’s arts and crafts and music and dance performances.

Due to the success of the event, Kim was asked to plan another similar program. About 23 community members gathered in January 2015 to discuss future programming. “What became apparent to me was that we couldn’t fit in all we wanted in one event,” he says, noting that the desire to include festive and educational programming became the springboard to developing OneCommunity, led by representatives of assorted organizations. “We come from various groups, but we are one community,” Kim says.

In November 2015, one of the group’s first events included Access to Care, which featured information related to the Affordable Care Act. Attendees were given free use of computers for health insurance enrollment and one-on-one assistance navigating the MNsure program. Information resources were also offered by the Carver County Library, Carver County Public Health, Ridgeview Medical Center, River Valley Nursing Center and other groups. “The city was really collaborative with that,” Bersagel says, noting the importance of educating the public about its healthcare options, as too many residents are “one broken arm away from being ruined financially,” he says.

Homelessness in My Hometown, held in March, gathered direct service providers in Carver and Scott counties to educate and engage with residents, business representatives, educators, religious organizations, nonprofit groups and elected officials about issues related to homelessness. The panel included representatives from Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, Bridge for Youth Southwest, Carver County Community Development Agency, Carver County Health and Human Services, Community Action Partnership of Scott Carver and Dakota counties, Heading Home Scott-Carver Counties and Launch Ministry.

Rethinking Immigration Reform is in the planning stages for October. “We wanted to have a framework to discuss immigration and how it affects your personal economy,” Kim says. The proposed panel includes representatives from the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, business leaders and an economist.

“An objective of this town hall-type forum is to inform the residents of Carver and Scott counties [about] the local economic effects of immigration reform,” Kim says. “Another objective of this free and open-to-the-public event is to engage the residents of our community in a meaningful dialogue, taking into consideration residents’ input and questions on the subject.”

Organizers hope to provide three or four programs annually to meet OneCommunity’s mission. The importance of working as a unit is not lost on OneCommunity’s core group leaders. “If you’re not working together, things get missed,” Knight says.

According to Kim, “Even though these individual groups have their own mission and objectives, at the end of the day, what we have in common is to build a strong community.”

Contact OneCommunity director Robert Kim at robertkkim@yahoo.com for information.