By Sam Bakkila
Volunteer Connect held the annual Central Oregon Project Connect event at the Deschutes County Expo Center on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. A total of 804 professional and community volunteers provided services to 2,265 guests experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The medical section included 80 licensed health care providers registered with SERV-OR.
This event serves the dual purpose of providing essential care to people in need, while simultaneously improving emergency preparedness by practicing the conversion of the Expo Center into a medical and dental care facility. The SERV-OR program participates in order to exercise the official deployment of large numbers of volunteer health care professionals.
Services provided at Project Connect included a general medical clinic, dental care, vaccinations, behavioral health, veterinary care, haircuts, and assistance with housing, employment, identity cards, and other social services. Overall, 67 community agencies participated in providing direct services at the event, as well as providing referrals and connections to ongoing services.
An AmeriCorps VISTA who volunteered at Project Connect in the dental area noted the great mood of the patients, many of whom had just had multiple teeth extracted. The dentists’ great sense of humor kept the spirits of the patients high. One of the patients wrote a thank you note to her dentist, instructing him to "keep being a goofball."
Project Connect is based on a national model: Project Homeless Connect, which originated in San Francisco in October 2004. Today, Project Connect is emulated in more than 400 cities across the United States as well as Canada, Puerto Rico and Australia.
“If they didn’t hear it enough that day, we really have to say thank you to the many, many volunteers who served,” said Eric Gebbie, the SERV-OR systems coordinator. “The turnout of local volunteers and even volunteers from as far as Jackson County was tremendous — even at 7 a.m.!”
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