Various agencies and orga­ni­za­tions from the com­munity gathered for Project Connect in Hillsdale. Julia Mullins | COLLEGIAN

Project Connect brought together 27 local agencies and 208 com­munity members at Hillsdale Free Methodist Church on Feb. 21.

Project Connect is a project of the Hillsdale County Con­tinuum of Care that con­nects indi­viduals and fam­ilies with the care and ser­vices they need.

Clint Brugger, who serves as the chair of Hillsdale County Housing Con­tinuum of Care and the county manager at the Com­munity Action Agency said all of the agencies come together to serve the com­munity.
“The thing that sparks me the most is the attention our com­munity is giving to pro­viding for those in need,” Brugger said.
Kerri Parker and Todd Barrus of the Hillsdale County Department of Health and Human Ser­vices said Project Connect is a great way to get all of the agencies and all of the resources for the com­munity in one area.

“It’s that one-stop shop for people to come out and see all the agencies,” Barrus said. “I can tell you from a provider’s stand­point, it’s really good for us to be able to network with other agencies.”

Barrus said the Hillsdale County DHHS helps with the general assis­tance, which includes food assis­tance, Med­icaid, emer­gency relief, cash assis­tance, daycare, home repair, auto repairs, and other resources.

“We are kind of the center point for most agencies,” Barrus said. “When somebody con­tacts Com­munity Action Agency or Sal­vation Army, usually they’re always sent to us first. And then depending on what we can do dic­tates what those other agencies can do.”

Project Connect allows local agencies to learn more about the ser­vices pro­vided by other agencies.

“Events like this allow us to meet with some of them and maybe set up a time down the road that we can sit down and really get a better under­standing of what each other does,” Barrus said.

He added that having a better under­standing of other agencies allows the Hillsdale County DHHS to provide better assis­tance for their clients.

“Everything’s in the best interest of our clients,” Barrus said. “If we can’t help, we know where to send them, that’s the most important thing.”

Barrus also added that the Hillsdale County DHHS has undergone many changes over the last few years that has reduced face-to-face inter­ac­tions with clients, but Project Connect gives his agency the oppor­tunity to make con­nec­tions with com­munity members.

“It’s important for com­munity members to see that we are people,” Barrus said. “We are human beings, and we’re here to help other human beings the best that we can.”

Rev. Jessica Hahn of Trinity Lutheran Church also said Project Connect pro­vides a good platform for engaging with current clients and also meeting new clients.

“I see a lot of people that are coming through that I know, and I make con­nec­tions with the clients that come through,” Hahn said. “We’re also able to provide infor­mation about our food pantry to make sure that we’re serving as many people as we can.”

Hahn said Trinity Lutheran Church’s has a min­istry, King’s Kup­board Food Pantry, which is open three days a week all year long.

“We don’t have any kind of restric­tions on who can come,” Hahn said. “They can come as often as they need.”

Each year, Trinity Lutheran Church pro­vides com­munity members at Project Connect with laundry soap. She said the Church receives dona­tions to pur­chase the laundry soap. This year, they also gave out toilet paper and paper towels, which had been donated by the Hillsdale Senior Center.

Director of Vet­erans Affairs Renae Shir­cliff was at People Connect to rep­resent the Hillsdale County Veteran Affairs Office. She said the Hillsdale County Office serves upwards of 5,000 vet­erans and widows of vet­erans annually.

“We file for health ben­efits, we file com­pen­sation, and we provide during short-term financial crises for propane, car repairs, stuff like that,” Shir­cliff said.

The Hillsdale County Veteran Affairs also assists vet­erans with housing.

“We provide housing for homeless vet­erans and vet­erans on the verge of being homeless,” Shir­cliff said. “If they’re behind on their rent, we can we help with that too.”

Pittsford seniors Ashley Taylor and Abby Pidd, who were both vol­un­teering at the event, said Project Connect helps bring more awareness to the issue of home­lessness.

“It’s about making sure everyone gets what they need and everyone gets taken care of in our com­munity,” Pidd said.