Project Connect to connect St. Joseph County residents with local services

CENTREVILLE — Residents of St. Joseph County will get connected with a multitude of local agencies and services during its 13th annual Project Connect event, happening Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Henningsen Show Arena at the St. Joseph County Fairgrounds in Centreville.
Over 70 agencies and services will be represented at Project Connect, a community resource fair that reaches out to all St. Joseph County residents in need. The event is held in collaboration with the St. Joseph County Human Services Commission (HSC) and its taskforces, with the support of event sponsors and the many agencies and organizations providing free services on site that day.
HSC Collaborative Coordinator Laura Brott said the event has plenty of importance for residents in need in the county.
“This event gives people a hand up by matching them to services and resources that are available to them,” Brott said.
Agencies that assist with aging adult services, housing & utilities, health services, food & household, education, employment, family services and more will be present. The Mobile Secretary of State Unit, flu shots & vaccines, medical screenings, haircuts, and legal help will also be available. Each household will also receive a non-perishable food box, fresh produce box, laundry detergent, and hygiene kit.
One of the new aspects for this year’s event are that many emergency preparedness agencies will be in attendance, including St. Joseph County 911, Gryphon Place 2-1-1, and the Red Cross. SJC 911 will be promoting its Smart 911 feature and helping attendees fill out forms, the Red Cross will have information about its emergency apps and other services, and Gryphon Place 2-1-1 will be promoting its presence in St. Joseph County.
Brott said it is “fantastic” to have these particular agencies at the event.
“These agencies are spread across the county, some of them come in from out of county, and for the people that are attending the event, it’s like a one-stop shop,” Brott said. “They can visit all these agencies under one roof, where it could take days, even weeks to make their rounds around the county to meet with the people that they might need to meet with.”
Along with these services, there will also be a Veterans Stand Down, where information and assistance for veterans and their families will be available, including healthcare programs for homeless veterans, VA nutrition and food, transitional care management, clothing assistance, substance abuse services, and more. Veterans must bring a photo ID to enter the Stand Down, and veterans not enrolled in the Battle Creek VA Healthcare System should also bring a DD214, VA ID, or Military ID.
“The Stand Down is important to us, because they did serve, and they should be taken care of,” Brott said.
Last year’s Project Connect event, according to the HSC, impacted over 1,000 St. Joseph County residents. 71 percent of the people that came to the event sought food assistance among other services, and 99 percent of those attending on their event exit survey said they were connected that day to a resource to help their needs.
Michelle Williamson, the CEO of the St. Joseph County Community Action Agency, said the event is easier to manage for people than visiting each agency individually throughout the county.
“By meeting agency representatives here and knowing what is offered through these agencies, it isn’t as intimidating for guests to follow up in the future,” Williamson said.
HSC Chair Rebecca Burns said the individuals and families are “made better” because of this event and the services available.
“The living situations of individuals and families are made better by matching them to the agencies serving St. Joseph County at this event,” Burns said. “It is truly about making a positive difference in the lives of others.”
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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