Kitsap opens its heart to those in need | Kitsap Week

Individuals and families lined up outside the Sheridan Park Community Center over two hours before Project Connect took place. - Dave Foote
Individuals and families lined up outside the Sheridan Park Community Center over two hours before Project Connect took place.
— image credit: Dave Foote

They planned for 500 guests and more than 1,000 arrived.

Luckily, they also planned on 72 volunteers and more than 140 came to help.

For Project Connect coordinator Beverly Kincaid, the event "worked magically...I was blessed that there were so many community members who wanted to help."

Project Connect, a one-day event to help those struggling with homelessness, took place on Jan. 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. At Project Connect, people were connected with service providers and received goods to help smooth out the rough edges of their lives, if only temporarily.

Two hours before the doors opened, folks were lined up around the building.

Waiting inside were doctors, dental hygienists, veterinarians, vision screeners and hair stylists. Social service providers from various agencies were also on hand to provide support and guidance.

Clothing, food and children's books were free to those in need. At the end of the day, the once overflowing pile of clothing was diminished to few remaining items. The greatest demand had been for infant and children’s clothes.

More than 600 emergency food supply bags were handed out and the food supply was depleted by noon.

The free children's books were a hot item. Kincaid was thrilled that the books were a success. "It's critical to child-development to nurture the parent-child bond through reading and holding the child in your lap," Kincaid said.

The event wasn't just meaningful for attendees. Volunteers and service providers were touched by the people they encountered.

A hairstylist from a salon on Bainbridge told a story that made the stylist's heart swell. She was cutting a man's hair who was going into an interview the next day. He was thrilled to be receiving a haircut so he would look professional. When the haircut was finished, the stylist asked, "What do you think? Is it good enough to get the job tomorrow?" The man replied with a hearty "Yes!" The stylist said it made her tear-up to think about how much hope people still have when they may have very little else.

The volunteers made the mood very upbeat. Kincaid said it seemed as if all the volunteers had "gotten up on the right side of the bed." Volunteers came from across the county to be involved. Kincaid said it was refreshing to see the community-wide outpouring of support.

After the event, a volunteer sent Kincaid a note. It read:

"Although I saw people of all ages, I was surprised by how many people were my age (47). To look into the faces of many who are struggling to live day to day at an age that many of us are planning for retirement and looking forward to enjoying life with our families, was humbling."

Another volunteer who worked in the pet area told of her experience: A young man, very poorly dressed and who had lost his front teeth, arrived with his elderly dachshund. He filled out the required registration form, but left the address blank. When the volunteer asked him for his address, the young man responded that he didn't have one. "I live where I can," he said.

The volunteer offered to watch his dog for him if he wanted to visit the other services providers. The man replied that he just needed vet care and others were in more need of help than he was. When asked if he would like some food for his dog, he said he still had some and to save it for others. The volunteer referred to the actions of this man as "meaningful charity."

Kincaid said the state is cutting a lot of benefits and that social service needs are going to increase dramatically. "I don't know how the needs will be filled. I don't look for things to get much better anytime soon," she said.

If you are interested in helping those in need in Kitsap, Kincaid suggests volunteering at local social service providers. They are always in need of manpower, she said. And of course, monetary donations are always appreciated.

Kincaid had this to say about the current state of affairs: "What we are doing at this point is providing bandages while there is a hemorrhage going on."

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