By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Justin Stricklen was in serious need of a haircut when he showed up at Project Connect on Wednesday. It had been six months since his last trim, and he wasn’t particular about how it was styled.
“Whatever she does, I’ll like it. I’m not picky,” Stricklen said as he sat in a makeshift barber chair as a volunteer stylist used clippers on his hair.
Stricklen was one of about 300 people who showed up at the annual Project Connect Wood County event Wednesday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Bowling Green. He was there for more than a haircut – looking for help with employment and some winter clothes.
Project Connect is an annual event bringing together health, employment, housing, food and other services all in one location on one day. When the doors opened at 9 a.m., people were waiting to get in.
“At 8:30 we had a line around the building,” said Kathy Mull, one of the coordinators of the event.
“The benefit of Project Connect is we can bring 57 providers in one space together,” Mull said. “People can come to one location and go from one to another.”
People attending don’t just get a brochure about services available – they get the services that day, or get help navigating the sometimes complicated path to receiving help.
“Folks aren’t always sure where to start,” Mull said. They may need help with utility bills, or dental care, or food. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. So Project Connect brings all the help to one location.
Jenessa Holtgrieve, of Bowling Green, came to Project Connect for help with food, winter clothes and diapers.
“It helps a lot. They’ve been very generous here,” Holtgrieve said.
Charlie Jones, of Bowling Green, waited in the hallway as his wife got an eye exam. Jones said he came in search of Christmas gifts for their son, employment help, and winter coats for his wife and son.
Brandie Guinn, also of Bowling Green, has been attending Project Connect for the last three years. She came to get flu shots, her blood pressure and vision checked, and to get birth certificates.
“This place is amazing,” Guinn said. “It’s a really great resource.”
Project Connect brings together many governmental, health and educational agencies.
Some agencies offered several services during the day. For example, the Wood County Health Department offered smoking cessation help, WIC assistance, nutrition and budget advice, relaxation skills, and free birth certificates paid for by Zonta and BG Exchange Club.
In the area of medical care, people attending were offered dental screenings, podiatry examinations, PAP screenings and mammograms, blood pressure checks, relation therapy and yoga, eye exams and glasses, blood pressure checks and breast health evaluations.
Aid offered for children and families included help applying for child support, holiday assistance, child care assistance, Headstart enrollment, developmental screenings for children, and WIC cards.
Other benefits offered included legal services advice, referral for health human resources, health care for Medicaid/Medicare recipients, nutrition and wellness assistance.
Personal care assistance included chair massages, haircuts, clothes, and personal hygiene products.
Several agencies offered help with transportation and assistance for senior citizens. There were also library resources and pet food supplies available.
Help with housing and utilities included assistance with home repairs, homeownership and fair housing, energy assistance, housing vouchers, affordable housing help, free efficiency light bulbs and energy efficiency tips, utility and rent assistance, and assessments for home repairs.
Assistance with employment and education included job training and employment referrals, GED and English as a second language help, assistance writing resumes, and tutoring.
Other agencies offered help for those facing domestic and sexual violence, and those needing mental health, alcohol or drug assessments.