Wood County Project Connect

Project Connect serves with no strings attached

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   They started lining up in the darkness at 6:45 a.m. – waiting for Project Connect to open Wednesday at 9 a.m. “Before the doors opened we had a line around the building,” said Erin Hachtel, co-chair of the fifth annual Project Connect coordinated by local social services and held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Bowling Green. The one-day event is a one-stop shop for goods and services for people in the Bowling Green area. “It’s to bring together people who have needs with people who can provide for those needs,” Hachtel said. The needs were varied. People came for a warm meal and bags of food to take home, for dental exams and vision checkups, for flu shots and birth certificates, and for winter coats for entire families. They went home with all that and more at no cost to them. As always, those seeking help were not called patients, consumers or clients. They were called “guests.” “Project Connect is a hospitality event where everyone is welcome,” Hachtel said. Help is offered with no strings attached. “We don’t ask at the door for them to prove they are in need.” Each guest was assigned to a volunteer, who helped them navigate through the sea of services offered. Barbara Ramsay, of Bowling Green, had come to the program before – but this year she was using a wheelchair. Her goal was to get food, a winter coat for her “grandbaby,” some leads on rental housing that is handicapped accessible, and a copy of her birth certificate. The Wood County Health District printed off the certificates for 110 people, with a donor paying the costs. “I think it’s awesome,” Ramsay said, holding her certificate. Further down the hall, Danielle Lashaway, of Rudolph, was getting her hair cut for the first time in more than a year. “I always wear my hair up. It’s time for a change,” she said, smiling. Lashaway also had plans to pick up some food and winter clothing for her seven children. She was hoping to find winter coats…


Project Connect takes people-to-people approach to helping those in need

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Project Connect employs a personal touch to link up those in need with those who can help. People coming to seek services are guests, and the volunteers who help them one-on-one are hosts. Project Connect was started four years ago to address the problem of homelessness. It serves both those who are now homeless, and those in danger of becoming homeless. On Oct. 19 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., those in need will show up at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 315 S. College St., Bowling Green, where volunteers will help them find the services they need from among the about 50 represented. Those can range from legal help to a haircut. Each of these guests will be paired with a host who will help guide them to find the help to make their lives easier. That could be education, employment, food and counseling for the ills that hold so many back. It could be a massage for the body, or counseling for themind. Last year more than 300 people representing 312 households attended. Those households included 782 adults and children. Jamie Brubaker, of United Way in Wood County, said of those guests, 30 percent had been homeless sometime in the last three years. Esther Nagel, who chairs the event’s publicity committee, said that homelessness is invisible. You may see people, but you don’t know they are homeless. They may be living in their cars, or sleeping on a couch at a friend’s or relative’s home. The federal government, she noted, does not consider those people homeless. The Department of Housing and Urban Development only considers those living in a situation unsuitable for human habitation to be homeless. Though the event starts at 9 a.m., people will start lining up to get in at 7 a.m., Nagel said. They’ll be able to have a cup of coffee, and hot meals will also be available throughout the day. The guests will be greeted, and then paired up with a host. Each guest will then list three or so of the needs they most want to…