Project Connect is fairly well-known as a one-day event that serves about 3,000 low-income and homeless people. What’s less well-known is that the event also brings together our business community in remarkable ways. For the past seven years, hundreds of businesses have donated money and volunteered countless hours. And they’ll be needed again this year, when the event returns on September 13.
Project Connect is Central Oregon’s largest single-day social services event. Each fall, thousands of low-income and homeless people from across the region head to the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond to receive free services. Clothing, medical care, housing assistance, haircuts, two hot meals — pretty much every service you can imagine is offered.
The 100 or so “vendors” that will deliver those free services are area businesses and nonprofits. The doctors, lawyers, vets, chefs, hairstylists and others who volunteer that day show up not to make money or meet future clients, but — quite simply — to make a difference in our community.
Jaynee Beck, principal broker at Duke Warner Realty, provides a great example. She was president of the Central Oregon Association of Realtors in 2012, when the group was looking for a housing-related volunteer opportunity. Project Connect was the perfect fit, and COAR has been a major donor and volunteer ever since.
To be clear, it’s not just Beck who volunteers – 40 to 60 people from COAR volunteer every year at Project Connect. Their job is to support the 800 or so other volunteers by bringing them drinks and food throughout their long day. If you think it must be hard to convince busy Realtors to spend a weekend day serving food instead of making money selling houses, think again.
“The people who volunteered the first year have been back every year,” Beck said. “If anything, I have too many people who want to be part of the event, because they hear about how life-changing it is.”
Along with COAR, the business donors for this year’s event include SELCO Community Credit Union, Deschutes Brewery, Bank of the Cascades, Brooks Resources, Pacific Source Health Plans, BendBroadband and Wells Fargo.
“A lot of times, it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ when it comes to the low-income people in our community. But as Realtors, we want it known that we don’t just sell houses, this is our community too — all of it — and we care about it,” said Beck. “Whether you’re donating money or volunteering that day, you’re making a difference, and that’s a really powerful thing to be a part of.”
Project Connect is a program of Volunteer Connect, a nonprofit that links community members with rewarding volunteer opportunities to enhance Central Oregon. They partner with nonprofit and public organizations to recruit and connect volunteers, matching volunteer interests and skills with community needs.
Additional donations are needed, and can be made by calling the event’s coordinators at Volunteer Connect 541-385-8977 or email@example.com