Project Connect Sets New Record for Attendance

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Project Connect, Central Oregon’s one-day trade show bringing together agencies and volunteers to meet the needs of the region’s neediest individuals and families, concluded this past weekend with record attendance. Now in its fifth year, Project Connect attracted 3,421 guests and more than 600 volunteers.

An estimated 170 different services were offered through 150 participating agencies, all of whom gathered at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds’ Hooker Creek Arena for the event. Transportation to the event was provided from all major cities of Central Oregon, including Bend, Redmond, Sisters, La Pine, Sunriver, Prineville, Madras and Warm Springs. Cascades East Transit and several local churches helped organize the transportation system. Two hot meals were offered to attendees—a breakfast and a lunch.

Individuals attending the event received medical treatment, mental health and counseling services, addiction counseling, dental care, eye exams and eyeglass prescriptions, pharmaceuticals, immunizations, education, job training and employment counseling, social services referrals, counseling on housing services, a range of financial counseling, assistance in obtaining birth certificates and driver’s licenses, legal aid and veterinary services for companion animals.

Entire sections of the event were dedicated to assisting veterans and to teens. Clothing sections, showers and a section (staffed by Phagan’s beauty college) offering haircuts were very popular. A section of the event focused on teaching outdoor living skills was staffed by the Bureau of Land Management. Nutrition counselors helped teach skills for preparing fresh foods, and the League of Women Voters provided on-site voter registration. Spanish interpreters were on hand throughout the event. Many other providers also offered valuable services.

The success of this year’s Project Connect comes on the heels of the announcement by the U.S. Census Bureau last week that poverty in the United States is on the rise. The number of households living below the official poverty estimate in the United States rose from 1 in 8 households in 2007 to 1 in 6 households in 2010. (Poverty for a household of 4 in the United States is defined as an annual income of $22,314 or less.)

Cindy Pasko, director of community services for the Partnership to End Poverty, the event’s title sponsor, noted, “The up-tick in Central Oregon number reflects the increased poverty we have been hearing about all year. We are seeing more people in need in all of our communities, many of whom have never needed help before.”

This year for the first time Project Connect was supplemented by a series of smaller local events, known as Project Mobile Connects, conducted eight times during the past year throughout Central Oregon. Those events attracted an additional 2500 participants. “Without Project Mobile Connect” we would have seen even more demand for services,” said Pasko.

Project Connect is one of 300 similar events around the country. It is the largest multi-county, rural event of its kind tracked by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and it is one of the few events in the nation run by a non-profit organization rather than a government. The Partnership to End Poverty which sponsors the event is a federally recognized tax exempt organization headquartered in Redmond dedicated to reducing poverty in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson Counties.

For more information, contact

Scott Cooper, 541-420-1998

Preliminary services tally:

150 medical interventions provided

135 vision screens conducted

111 dental patients seen

124 patients referred for dental follow up

51 mental health referrals made

55 disability applications screened

61  birth certificates applied for

40  driver’s licenses applied for

254 haircuts provided plus 60 vouchers for haircuts distributed

371 vaccinations were provided to companion animals

1300 pounds of dog food was distributed

22 dogs and 6 cats were spayed or neutered

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