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Empower Yourself: Life-Work Workshops Offered by Nonprofit Celebrating 45 Years

MANKATO — Life-Work Planning Center, the pioneering and longest-running program of its kind in Minnesota, is launching its latest series of self-sufficiency workshops for women in transition on Monday.

With a 45-year legacy in Mankato, the nonprofit organization has been under the leadership of Executive Director Jean Keenan for approximately half of its existence.

Throughout its long history, Keenan emphasized that Life-Work has been instrumental in providing women with opportunities for fresh starts.

“Our primary goal is to enhance self-sufficiency for women and their families,” she explained. “Essentially, we offer services focused on family stabilization using trauma-informed care to support individuals in entering or reentering the workforce.”

Women from diverse backgrounds seek assistance from Life-Work due to various challenges such as domestic violence, the loss of a spouse through death or divorce, or involvement in drug court programs across Region Nine counties.

Keenan noted, “We work with a wide spectrum of women, representing the average demographic in many ways.”

The common thread among these women, she added, is that they fall at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.

Initially established as the displaced homemaker program, Life-Work has evolved over the years to become the Minnesota Family Resiliency Program, funded by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development. This program primarily caters to individuals who have lost a primary wage earner due to death, disability, or divorce.

Recognizing that many individuals do not fit within these criteria, Life-Work introduced a program specifically tailored for women in transition. For example, individuals whose partners have experienced job outsourcing or downsizing may not meet the previous program’s requirements.

Moreover, Life-Work offers SNAP Employment and Training programs through DEED, with additional support from donations to cover expenses not included in state funding.

While the organization primarily relies on internal fundraising efforts, which involve board members reaching out to long-time supporters for renewed backing, Keenan acknowledged that Life-Work’s visibility in the community is limited.

She described Life-Work as Mankato’s “best-kept secret.”

Darla Makela, the board chair and a life coach, discovered Life-Work after a chance meeting with Keenan at a conference. Inspired by the program’s vision and mission, Makela decided to join the board to support women’s empowerment and self-sufficiency.

Despite the program’s relatively low profile, Makela highlighted the continuous enrollment in workshops as evidence that word is spreading to the right audience.

The upcoming quarterly workshop series, commencing in Mankato on Monday, covers a wide range of essential skills, including self-esteem, goal-setting, and stress management. Additionally, Life-Work’s self-sufficiency counselors offer personalized assistance to participants beyond the typical six-week workshops.

Keenan emphasized the importance of skill-building for women transitioning from challenging circumstances. She noted that rebuilding self-worth is essential for successful job interviews and career advancement.

In addition to the workshops starting in Mankato next week, sessions will also be held in Le Center, Fairmont, and virtually, providing women with valuable resources and support in their journey towards self-sufficiency.