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United Way launches new outreach to better connect those in need with services
Compass Center open daily, staffed by volunteers
United Way of Hall County President and Chief Professional Officer Joy Griffin speaks Wednesday morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Compass Center. The center will connect individuals and families in poverty with existing services and providers throughout Gainesville and Hall County.

Compass Center

When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday

Where: Suiite A, 615 Oak St., Gainesville

The United Way of Hall County launched a new community outreach Wednesday with the opening of a program to connect people in need with services.

The Compass Center, at 615 Oak St., will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and be staffed on a rotating schedule by volunteers from Good News Clinics, Goodwill, Action Ministries and Hall County Family Connection, Compass Center manager Joshua Silavent said.

“We’re still building this thing out,” Silavent said to the several dozen civic leaders, representatives of nonprofit organizations and volunteers who attended the opening. “This will continue to evolve and grow with the demand.”

In his opening remarks, Silavent singled out Tom Jones, former managing director of the Habitat for Humanity International office in Washington, D.C., as a guiding force in the development of the Compass Center.

Attending the ribbon-cutting, Jones called Hall County a generous community with hundreds of nonprofit organizations.

“Yet, there are duplications and gaps,” Jones told The Times. “What we’ve been working on is putting this together. What this center will do is help us to know what the needs are … we’re really working hard to make sure that every segment of the community has a voice.”

United Way President and Chief Professional Officer Joy Griffin and Silavent expect the demand to grow over time.

“We’re intentionally doing it by word of mouth and references received from nonprofits,” Griffin said.

Those needing help, whether it’s rent assistance, shelter, food or medical services, will be asked to fill out an intake and assessment form, Silavent said. Then, he added, an onsite volunteer would go over the form with the person, assess the needs and recommend the best resources to meet them.

Volunteers went to work shortly after the center’s door opened to help an individual with multiple needs, Silavent said. After an assessment was completed, the individual got referrals to Good News Clinics for health services and Ninth District Opportunity Inc., a nonprofit that provides emergency financial assistance. The client also met with Goodwill volunteers and got a job on the spot.

“We certainly hope it was a good experience for someone going through a difficult time,” Silavent said.

Organizers of the Compass Center hope the program will help bridge gaps and duplication of  services.

Aside from dedicated agency space, Silavent said the Compass Center will rely “on great volunteers” to have face-to-face conversation with people seeking help.

“Some of our volunteers are retirees who have a professional background and work experience that make them exceptionally qualified to meet with individuals that come in,” Silavent said. “They’ll sit down, develop a relationship, develop trust and provide them with all the information and resources that they’re going need to access the services available in this community.”

Prior to the ribbon-cutting, Griffin said the Compass Center is the culmination of a collective team effort by the United Way of Hall County over the past few years to make a bigger impact in the community.

“We want to truly work together to solve problems larger than any one organization can solve alone …,” Griffin said. “Today is the day. Start sending those with needs to our door.”