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Spokane Valley Connect draws record number for services

Maurice Smith

By Maurice Smith - Rising River Media

The Spokane Valley Connect, which took place on May 18 at Opportunity Presbyterian Church, served 384 guests, exceeding previous attendance records of 250 in 2019 and 324 in 2018. The event also set a record for the number of vendors at 70 this year, which exceeded the previous number of 64, said Aileen Luppert, chair of the Spokane Valley Connect Organizing Committee.

"It's heartwarming to be a part of something in which the sole focus is service to anyone who seeks it," said Aileen. "Every volunteer and provider treated our attendees like honored guests—not as a homeless person, addict or struggling single parent, but as a sincerely welcomed guest."

The afternoon event was filled with stories of individuals and families finding the help they needed.

"My favorite story involved a young man who came to the clothing bank in search of boots to start working, but couldn't find any," Aileen said. "One of our committee members chatted with him and learned that he was a recent veteran with a medical discharge. He didn't know where to turn for help. She escorted him upstairs and talked with all the veteran service providers until she found the right one to help him. He'll have boots within a week and now has access to a provider to help him even more."

Additional services that were popular with guests included 66 haircuts.

"At one point there was a solid line of people getting haircuts—20 at once." said Aileen. "Kevin Lind, senior pastor at Opportunity Presbyterian Church, said his office had received 10 phone calls ahead of time, all asking about haircuts. The Spokane Community College students were professional and kind."

The City of Spokane Valley distributed 50 free swim passes for kids.

The Spokane Valley Connect is a free community event dedicated to making the community a better place by serving at-risk populations, Aileen said.

"Homelessness can be less obvious in Spokane Valley than in downtown Spokane. People and families are often doubled up or couch surfing, going unseen," she said. In the 2022-23 school year, the City of Spokane Valley has 764 homeless students in its schools, so the Valley Connect typically draws more families and individuals struggling with housing than people who are living outside or in shelters.

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June 2023