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THE JEFFERSON AWARDS: Our March winner helps youth of color overcome challenges

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) – Every month, FOX 47 features someone in our community who is making a difference and we honor them with a Jefferson Award.

Our March winner is helping homeless and troubled youth in the Rochester area get on solid footing.

Karen Edmonds serves as a mother figure to hundreds of children in Rochester.

Ten years ago, she and her husband started the organization Project Legacy, with a goal to help youth of color who are going through tough times.

“I was working in the school district at the time when I started this and I just started noticing the number of young people who were disconnected to the community,” she said.

Today, Project Legacy helps children make those connections, whether it’s taking them on college visits, providing transportation to needed services, or finding housing and food.

The kids all come from a variety of backgrounds.

“Kids who have been living in poverty or parents are incarcerated or perhaps they’re refugees, some of our people come from gang affiliated families,” Karen explained.

“She walks the walk. This woman is just incredible,” said Vicki Friedman, Project Legacy’s Board Secretary.

Friedman nominated Edmonds for the Jefferson Award.

“She is a mother, she is a mentor, she is on call 24/7 much like we are for our own kids,” she said. “If she gets a text or a phone call at 2 o’clock in the morning ‘Karen I need you,’ she’s there.”

The organization continues to move forward with new programs, including one that invites trained therapists to volunteer their time with the kids, and a new housing committee that is looking into building a home to help homeless youth.

Whatever the project, the feeling of making a difference remains the same for Karen.

“Looking at young people who came here with addiction disorders who have been sober for five years, who are employed in careers, who have gone through trade schools, I don’t think there’s anything better than knowing that you’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.”

Karen emphasizes that she can’t–and doesn’t–do this alone.

In addition to the Board of Directors, there are about 200 volunteers who help the organization in a variety of ways.

If you know someone who’s also making a difference, you can nominate them for a Jefferson Award here.

Erin O'Brien

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