Dozens of organizations, government agencies, health care providers and charities gathered Thursday evening at Centralia Middle School to put on a Community Resource Fair, designed as a one-stop connection point for community members with any kind of need.
“It’s great to see the different organizations that are here,” said James Bowers, principal of Futurus High School, which organized the event as a community service project. “We’ve got school district organizations, we’ve got county organizations, we’ve got private individual organizations that are here, and they’re all about helping people. There’s some that I didn’t even know about, and it’s really cool to meet these individuals.”
A listing for the event tallied nearly 40 groups with something to offer, and most were in place at booths throughout the school’s gymnasium by the time the event started at 4 p.m. The wide variety of organizations covered everything from homelessness, housing, mental health, substance use, special needs, education, childcare, employment, food, pregnancy and in-home care.
“We wanted to be involved, because we’re part of this community,” said Josh Gering, director of Bethel Church’s Hub City Mission. “We want people to know that there’s support for them, whatever they need. Bicycle help, food — perishable or a hot meal — shelter during the coldest part of the winter, we’re here.”
Melody Porter, early learning outreach coordinator for Reliable Enterprises, said it was important for community members to be aware of the opportunities available to them. Bringing together so many organizations was an important way to bolster outreach for everyone, she said.
“There’s a lot of resources available out there for families that they don’t know about,” Porter said. “Lewis County has plenty of those resources. A lot of families don’t know they’re out there until somebody tells them they need it. That’s a lot of how we get our families in the door. … (Others) are going to know somebody or have a family member or neighbor that may need the resource that they may not need. There’s always information to give out.”
As children played with Legos at the Timberland Regional Library booth, library associate Meghan Mortensen talked about the role the local libraries can play as a conduit for many other services.
“A lot of people think of the library as just books,” Mortensen said. “They don’t often realize that we are a resource hub in the community. All of these organizations that are here, we have a lot of information within the library already, so we can help connect people at one location to multiple resources.”
Meanwhile, representatives from Centralia College’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program let attendees know that the preschool program has openings and is currently enrolling. The program offers family support and is income-based, and it also serves kids with higher risk factors.
“Outreach is how you get known in the community,” said Cassie Daniels, family support program coordinator. “A lot of people come in through word of mouth. We’re just touching base with the different organizations and being around for the different events.”
The Community Resource Fair was similar to other events hosted in Lewis County, such as Homeless Connect. Many participants said it was important to have an all-encompassing gathering, designed for people with many different kinds of needs.
“Doing (resource events) consistently lets people know we’re still here,” Mortensen said. “It reminds them, they might not be comfortable coming the first time, but maybe they’ll come back again. Maybe they’re not utilizing our services like they should, but the more they’re familiar with it, they’ll know that we’re all in this together and trying to help our community.”