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United Way gathering works to identify, connect services for those in poverty
Service providers attending a poverty analysis put on by the United Way of Hall County identified services they provide and needs not met in the community, all centered on these five core areas.

The banquet hall at First Baptist Church in Gainesville on Friday turned into a big networking forum for people with a heart to serve those in need.

Beth Oropeza, assistant director of Good News At Noon, a 30-year-old Christ-centered community outreach that offers men shelter and a hand-up, said she’s sure some in the room were introduced to her group for the first time, just as she found out about some services she’d not heard about.

“I think some people are learning for the first time of all the services we have here,” Oropeza said.

A group of students pursuing a career as registered dental hygienists at Lanier Technical College got the opportunity to talk about oral care available to the community at a low price through the program.

“We can help people do oral screening,” said Jessie Brown, one of the dental students. “This (event) is allowing us to get the word out.”

That’s exactly what United Way President Joy Griffin had in mind when she helped organize “Filling the Poverty Gap,” a workshop for service providers in Hall County to assess community needs, looking at areas where services are scarce or duplicated.

The event drew some 100 representatives of service providers from government, schools, nonprofit and church-based organizations.

“This is only the beginning,” Griffin told the gathering. “Stay with us. This is just coming together.”

Merrianne Dyer and Karen Tatum of Scholastic Corp. facilitated a comprehensive evaluation of the services each participant provides, who their clients are, what levels of poverty to recognize and whether they serve a “few, some or all.”

Participants noted information on sticky notes they placed on posters along the wall under categories — affordable housing, hunger alleviation, economic possibilities, comprehensive health and wellness and accessible education for various ages.

Everyone in the room got the opportunity to read the sticky notes on all the boards, walk around, meet, greet and share.

The notes would later be collected by Dyer and Tatum to map the needs and gaps. The information gathered is being turned over to the One Hall United Against Poverty initiative under the United Way umbrella.

“We have so many things in Gainesville-Hall County that sometimes we don’t know the opportunity that we might have to work with others,” Dyer, a former Gainesville school superintendent, said.

The event comes as the United Way is poised to open its Compass Center — a one-stop source to connect people with needs to the services available to them in the community.

Manager Joshua Silavent addressed and invited the group to the grand opening 10 a.m. Wednesday at 615 Oak St., Suite A.

“We have a great volunteer base that has been established and I hope to keep growing…,” Silavent told the crowd. “I hope all of you will support all our endeavors as we get established, as we learn our way and build this thing out over time.”