Volunteers, donations, service providers needed for Project Community Connect

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Hoping to build on the success of the inaugural Project Community Connect, organizers are seeking volunteers, donors and service providers to get involved with this year’s event.

Providing a variety of on-site services and resources, Project Community Connect is slated for noon to 4 p.m. on Oct. 2 at the Mecosta-Osceola Career Center’s Miller Wing. The Mecosta-Osceola Transit Authority will provide free transportation to the event, where a free lunch will be served while people visit different “neighborhoods” of services and information on available assistance programs.

“Our goal with Project Community Connect is to have as many services as possible for families who are homeless or having difficulty with self sufficiency,” said Chastity Eads, co-chair of the event. “A lot of families have transportation barriers, so Project Connect is putting all the services in one place.”

Service neighborhoods include: basic needs; children and parenting; health awareness; education and employment; seniors and veterans; and financial advice. An on-site food bank also will provide attendees with food, personal hygiene products and household items. Fifty families also will receive gas cards, based on need.

“With our food bank, we’re focusing on more hygiene and household items because there’s a lot of other agencies that provide food assistance,” Eads said.

Last year, about 140 families attended Project Connect, with 38 agencies, organizations and local businesses providing services at the event. Organizers hope to see 300 families attend this year. Twenty-one groups have committed to providing services so far, and Eads is planning on more getting involved. The event is funded by numerous local donors and grants.

In addition to the service and information tables, Project Community Connect also requires about 60 volunteers to greet attendees, help them register and complete an exit survey, guide them through the neighborhoods and serve lunch. Diane Long is coordinating volunteers, and anyone interested in getting involved can contact her at Project Starburst at (231) 796-5342 or projectstarburst@sbcglobal.net.

Organizers also are accepting donations of personal hygiene products, household cleaning supplies and non-perishable food items. Contact Eads at Eastwood Early Childhood Center by calling (231) 592-9605 or email her at ceads@moisd.org to arrange to have a donation picked up or dropped off at the MOISD. Eads also is coordinating the service providers, if any agencies or businesses would like to register.

“I consider (the 2012 Project Connect) a success because we reached the families that were our target,” Eads said. “When people came in, they were genuinely happy and thankful to have all the services in one place.”

Project Community Connect attendees are encouraged to bring identification such as a birth certificate, state ID or utility bills, proof of income like a bank statement, Department of Human Services benefit letter or a paycheck stub and other documents like military discharge papers, immunization records, a resume or insurance cards.

To arrange for a free ride to the event, contact MOTA at (231) 796-4896 by Sept. 30 and tell the operator the ride is to Project Community Connect.