Most people don’t choose to be homeless or want to be at risk for homelessness, but when it happens, they need their neighbors’ support more than ever.. One major community effort aimed at doing just that is Project Homeless Connect (PHC), an event that United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) and United Way Hands On, the volunteer arm of UWCA, have taken part in for years.
For more than a decade, 100+ service providers and even more volunteers have come together for PHC, which is designed to provide vital information and assistance to those seeking help getting back on their feet. Some of the critical resources available at the event include legal services; medical, dental and vision care; housing assistance; and even free haircuts.
“It’s amazing what a haircut will do for somebody’s self-esteem,” said longtime PHC volunteer Cassidy Bonner. “…something so simple can make a world of difference.”
PHC is happening this year on February 29th at Boutwell Auditorium in downtown Birmingham and United Way Hands On is leading the recruitment and coordination of volunteers. As the big day draws near, Project Homeless Connect is still in need of volunteers to serve as Smiling Face Client Guides. If you’re looking for a meaningful and enriching way to volunteer, please click here to sign up and learn more. Each guide is paired with a client to help with intake, navigate the venue and select services of interest. As a Smiling Face Client Guide, you will serve as a “friend” for the day to help the client feel more at ease. Every Smiling Face Client Guide will go through an orientation, and experienced volunteers, such as Bonner, are on-hand to help with any questions.
“A lot of people, both volunteers and clients, may be kind of nervous,” said Bonner. “You’re out of your everyday environment. So I introduce them to each other and help break the ice.”
While it may not be commonplace for many, this type of work is very familiar to Bonner. The former military man spends his days volunteering with several organizations throughout the area. His dedication has even resulted in his being recognized as the inaugural Volunteer of the Year at the United Way Hands On Ignite Awards . Ignite is an annual event that showcases and honors volunteers who spend countless hours working in our community in service to others.
While Bonner appreciates being honored, he enjoys the Ignite Awards for another reason.
“Of course, it made me feel good to have my work recognized, but what I really enjoyed was seeing so many like-minded people coming together to bring about positive social change,” he said.
The 2020 Ignite Awards will be held at 10:30 a.m. on April 23rd at The Club. The $35 ticket includes a delicious brunch of chicken and waffles, the volunteer awards program and the opportunity to meet amazing selfless individuals from the community.