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Batman (left) with Debbie Wilson (right) at Project Connect in Hillsdale Free Methodist Church’s gym­nasium. Eliz­abeth Bachmann | Col­legian

Hillsdale Free Methodist Church in part­nership with the Hillsdale Housing Con­tinuum of Care took one-stop shopping to a whole new level at their Project Connect last week, even flying in the superhero Batman to watch over the event.

Project Connect aims at con­necting homeless and impov­er­ished com­munity members with resources that will help them become self-suf­fi­cient. The event is free and open to the public, pro­viding ser­vices like hair cuts, free hot meals, addiction help, health coun­selling, legal aid, and vac­ci­na­tions. 

In addition, Sal­vation Army, Domestic Harmony, Child Abuse Pre­vention and Awareness, and Dis­ability Con­nec­tions, and other orga­ni­za­tions staffed kiosks laden with infor­ma­tional pam­phlets, free samples, t‑shirts, and staff eager to connect with those who need help. 

And, of course, Batman watched over the whole event, signing auto­graphs and looking out for evil­doers. 

Jen­nifer Rose, a Com­munity Action Agency housing spe­cialist, helped organize the event. 

“Basi­cally it is a one-stop shop, which is good for people who don’t have a car because it is hard to get places,” Rose said. “They can come here and get any kind of service you can think of. If you need it, we have it. It’s really cool to see the com­munity come together for it.” 

Debbie Wilson helped her hearing-impaired friend take advantage of these exact ser­vices after learning about  Project Connect through adver­tising on the radio. 

“She can’t hear, so when I heard it on the radio, I said, ‘That’s where I am going,’” Wilson said,  “because I thought she might be able to get help here because she is homeless.” 

Wilson’s friend met with medical ser­vices and was referred to a Com­munity Action office that will help her with her hearing problems. 

To ensure that each par­tic­ipant max­i­mizes his advantage of the Project, Rose explained, the orga­nizers set up a “passport system.” As par­tic­i­pants visit each station, they got their passport stamped and were auto­mat­i­cally entered into various drawings and raffles for free ser­vices and items. 

Young mother Rachael Forant dis­covered Project Connect for the first time this year. She took advantage of the service to pick up some pajamas for her kids who are staying at their grandmother’s house while Forant fin­ishes recovery. 

“It is nice to know that there is advice and a bunch of help out there. It just lets people know that there are people who care because there are a lot of people who just think there is nobody to help them,” Forant said. “And there truly is  a lot of help.” 

For Forant, Project Connect is espe­cially helpful because it helps break the cycle of addiction. She said just knowing about these resources pre­vents reha­bil­i­tated-sub­stances abusers from falling off the wagon and landing back on the street. 

According to Clint Brugger, who helped organize Project Connect in con­junction with the Com­munity Action Agency and the Hillsdale Housing Con­tinuum of Care, this is the exact purpose of the event. He and fellow orga­nizers aim to assist people in building stable homes and lives. 

“Ulti­mately our goal is to engage people who are expe­ri­encing a housing crisis, or who are homeless, to move them towards housing,” Brugger said. “The intent is to really help people more toward self-suf­fi­ciency, so the more we can do to connect them to resources, the better off they will be in the long run.”