Connecting those in need with things they need

DOWAGIAC, Mich. -- An event held in Dowagiac on Wednesday looked to help homeless and struggling Cass County residents find the people and places that can give them a hand.

“The last time we had the event, there were approximately 20 people who attended, and that was three years ago,” said Emily Henry, who organized the event. “And we’ve already surpassed that. We surpassed that before 11 o’clock.”

When you walked into the First United Methodist Church in Dowagiac on Wednesday, you were greeted by table after table of resources, some free lunch, and even free haircuts.

All of it was there to help Cass County’s most vulnerable.

“I would say it’s significant,” Henry said. “Again, you don’t see it because it is a rural area. But there are people who literally live on the streets here [in Cass County]. They just stay out of the public view.”

Henry is a coordinator with the Cass County Continuum of Care.

She put together this event to bring those in need out of the shadows.

“A lot of times what we’ve found is that people in the community, and especially veterans, again don’t know what services are available,” she said.

So several dozen free service agencies came together on Wednesday, under one roof, to form a one-stop shop to answer questions.

Mike Wilson, with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, said events like this are perfect for those who have served.

“They’re actually very helpful because they’re local to veterans,” he said. “Veterans don’t have to travel to the VA or big metropolitan areas to learn stuff. They can learn it locally right in their town.”

Attendees also had access to a free food pantry where they could stock up on some essentials.

“A lot of times what we see is that people are in crisis,” Henry said. “So they’re not necessarily worried about a job. They’re worried about what am I going to eat for dinner? So this is kind of trying to help alleviate a little bit of that ‘crises mode’ that people go into, along with giving them some long term options.”

Henry said the long term goal of Wednesday’s event is to connect people in need with organizations they can keep in touch with to continue getting help.

She also said the agencies that participated in the event are always looking for volunteers, donations, and more.

The list includes:

A.C.T.I.O.N. Ministries

American Red Cross

Berrien RESA

Caring Circle

Cass County Friend of the Court

Cass County Sheriff's Department

Cass County Veteran Affairs

Cassopolis Dental

Cassopolis Family Clinic

Cedar Sands Apartments - KMG Properties

Community Action Agency

Congressman Fred Upton - represented by Mitzi Fitzpatrick and Corey Hansen

Domestic and Sexual Assault Services (DASAS)

Fair Housing Center of Southwest Michigan

First Student

Governor Rick Snyder - represented by Captain Matthew Brolsma, Officer in Charge of the 507th Engineer Battalion

H.E.R.O.E.S. Care/Stephen Ministry

Keystone Place

Legal Aid of Western Michigan

Lewis Cass Intermediate School District

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

Michigan National Guard Family Assistance Center

Michigan Veteran Affairs

Pokagon Band Housing

Region IV Area Agency on Aging

Rock Paper Scissors Styling Salon

Saint Frances Outreach

Salvation Army

Senator Debbie Stabenow representative

Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency

Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health

Tri-County Head Start

United Way of Southwest Michigan

USDA Rural Development

US Department of Veteran Affairs

Woodlands Behavioral Healthcare

United Way provided the mobile food pantry from Feeding America

Panera Bread donated breakfast

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