Annual event provides services to those in need

August 25, 2018

Noah Ellifritt, 10, gets a back to school haircut Friday from volunteer Priscilla Palm during the Project Homeless Connect at Skagit Valley College.

MOUNT VERNON — Valerie McCormack marked her 10th year of being sober on Friday.

The day also marked her serving as a volunteer for the ninth annual Project Homeless Connect, the program that helped her get back on her feet.

“This was to give back, because I was so thankful for the help I got,” said McCormack, a third-year volunteer. “It makes people feel like they matter.”

Project Homeless Connect is an initiative of the Coalition to End Homelessness, said Elizabeth Jennings, community engagement manager at Community Action of Skagit County.

Low-income families or those facing or experiencing homelessness attended the daylong event and were connected with resources such as dental work, haircuts, legal advice and clothing.

The event served about 450, with about 400 volunteering or providing services.

After facing homelessness, losing her daughter to cancer and losing her son to sudden infant death syndrome, McCormack said Community Action helped get her family affordable housing and her life back on track.

It was a dark time in her life, McCormack said, but things are different now. She recently received her high school diploma and is studying human resources at Skagit Valley College.

Melissa Self, division director at Community Action, said programs such as these help provide services for those with stretched budgets.

Dental appointments at the event were filled within the first two hours. The demand is high, Self said.

“We’ve seen some people coming in that haven’t seen a dentist in almost 20 years,” she said.

Twelve dentists, five hygienists, eight dental assistants and two registered nurses helped with the dental services.

“The dental professionals get excited for this and they understand the need,” Self said.

Cisco Molina, a fourth-year volunteer, said he attended Project Homeless Connect in 2009. Because of the resources he received, Molina said he was able to turn his life around.

“That’s what I love about Project Homeless: no matter how low you are, they’re going to help you,” Molina said.

Four-legged friends also got some love and attention at the event. The Humane Society of Skagit County and Banfield Pet Hospital provided checkups, vaccines and grooming.

Molly and Puppy, two golden retrievers, have been Aaron Eckmann’s best friends for 10 years. They received checkups and their rabies vaccines.

“They’re the only thing I got in my life,” Eckmann said. “It’s a godsend for people who don’t have much.”

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