When people walked into Phoenix Company Cards & Games Monday night, they encountered a store full of games, crafts, vendor booths and a slice of the Yelm community.

“Friendships, families, fun,” said Christina “Trina” Johnson, owner of Phoenix Company Cards & Games. “That’s what it’s about — getting people out to actually meet each other and not be behind a screen. Let’s actually meet each other in person.”

It was the first of multiple community nights to be put on by NetworkConnect — a business networking group — and hosted by Phoenix Company Cards & Games.

“We set up a couple of vendor tables so some of our business members can interact with the community themselves and the community can interact with the business members,” said Nicole Koch, NetworkConnect lead in the state of Washington. “So it’s kind of bringing everyone together in one location and providing a…family fun night, because it’s hard to find those.”

Johnson said that she didn’t charge anyone anything to participate in the event, adding that there were no vendor fees.

“Some of the businesses we have back there set up — they don’t have bricks and mortars,” Johnson said. “Since our store is about bringing our community together… through game play, this is just another way that we could bring our community together.”

The event boasted food for all attendees, the opportunity — but not obligation — to shop, an open library of games and a snowman-making craft project for the little ones.

In addition, Koch said NetworkConnect is all about networking, and that events like this help businesses connect with the community.

“NetworkConnect is a nonprofit business networking group — it’s under One Generation, which is an international nonprofit — and so our goal, really, is to provide affordable networking, advertising and marketing for small business owners,” Koch said.

There are 773 members of NetworkConnect worldwide and about a dozen — give or take — are in Yelm.

Koch said that on its off time, the organization gives back to the community. It donates time and supplies to Homeless Backpacks and makes food bank deliveries. 

This series of community events is run by NetworkConnect from 5-7 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at Phoenix Company Cards & Games. Business networking is an aspect of these community events, but not the sole focus. 

Visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/NetworkConnectwa/ to join the NetworkConnect group that meets apart from these community event nights. Membership is free.

While networking events can feel like all business, Johnson said she has opened her shop to provide a service to her community. 

“For me, personally, it’s basically just giving back,” Johnson said. “There’s no ulterior motive behind it. I just have a decent space that’s not being used on Mondays.”

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