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.