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Brighter days for in-need county citizens

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by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette


Clallam County Project Homeless Connect brought a number of needed everyday services to the people on March 17 at Vern Burton Center in Port Angeles.

 

Jill Dole, co-chairman of the event, said there were 318 homeless or at-risk guests with 38 children under the age of 18, 42 service providers and 225 volunteers. Last year, the event had about 350 homeless or at-risk guests attend. Dole feels the numbers might have been higher in 2010 because it was the same Thursday as the annual Point-In-Time homeless count.

 

Cindy Burdine, co-chairman of the event, said when the doors opened there was a rush of about 100 people waiting. She and other organizers made sure to add more resources this year. Some of the most popular areas were hair stylists and massage therapists, with at least five on hand at a time.

 

“Some of the comments people made said they appreciated haircuts. It’s something you can feel instantly good about it,” Burdine said.

 

 

Service providers’ response

Feedback from providers was positive.

 

“A lot of agencies said they met with people who might not have sought them out in the community,” Burdine said.

 

Despite no dentist or optometrist on-site, dental and health screenings were provided by volunteers like Betsy Simpson, a hygienist from Dr. Richard Zbaraschuk’s Sequim office.

 

She examined guests and if their situations were bad, she'd refer them to one of five dentists.

Sequim dentist Dr. Nathan Gelder and four other dentists in Port Angeles took on nearly 20 patients from the event in the coming weeks for fillings and extractions who couldn’t afford the care.

 

Joseph Bridge, a Sequim massage therapist with Vital Ground Massage Therapy, volunteered a few hours helping people with shoulder, back and hip pain.

 

“It’s a real pleasure to be here,” Bridge said. “This is the first time many of them have received their first professional massage. They discover their bodies and gain self-knowledge.”

 

Bridge said a few of the guests had chronic conditions, for which he gave advice on basic stretches to help with pain.

 

Gelder used to help with OlyCAP’s dental program, which he feels was a huge asset to the county before it shut down. He continues to help a few patients each month from Dungeness Valley Health & Wellness Clinic.

Service totals

Here are some of the service providers’ numbers:
• Department of Social and Health Services van arranged for about 20 people to receive medical benefits and food cards, formerly known as food stamps.
• Clallam and Jefferson Transit systems provided free travel to the event with Jefferson Transit offering the service free to event organizers. Clallam Transit provided rides for 10 people from
Sequim, 13 in Forks and 14 in Port Angeles.
• Olympic Peninsula Humane Society provided 10 free vaccinations for dogs.
• The Department of Licensing helped 50 people receive I.D. cards or driver’s licenses
• Goodwill Work Opportunity Services donated $500 in Goodwill clothes vouchers.
• Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics screened 50 people. Volunteers said common concerns were about blood pressure, blood sugar and vision.
• Legal services helped with a number of topics from Social Security to legal custody of children to benefits.
• Puget Sound Health Care System helped 10 veterans become aware of job and health care services.

Dole said a number of sponsors helped with finances, as volunteers, and in-kind donations, including the City of Sequim, Clallam County homeless fund, 7 Cedars Casino, North Peninsula Building Association, Serenity House of Clallam County, and several countywide agencies and groups.

 

Fundraising efforts continue to pay for services such as transportation, for reimbursing
certain services and to reduce impact on agencies. To donate, contact Jill Dole at 565-2608 or jdole@co.clallam.wa.us.

 

 

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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