Founded in 1978, Community Connection serves 13 counties in Northeast Georgia, and its mission is to “strengthen the individuals and organizations of our region to ensure that no need goes unmet”. This last week, the Spencer Frye Legislative Fellows had the opportunity to meet with Julie Farmer, the Referral Manager for Community Connection. During our meeting, we learned how this organization assists our community by operating an information hotline, maintaining an online directory of essential services, and partnering with other area non-profits.
Athens-Clarke County has a poverty rate of 26.9%, almost double that of the state and national rates of 13.2% and 14.7%. One of the unfortunate consequences of such poverty is a lack of access to important information. In response to this information shortage, Community Connection operates a 211 hotline that educates community members about essential services. Based on individual needs, Community Connection operators refer callers to relevant agencies or organizations that can assist them. While providing this assistance, operators also gather demographic data from callers in order to better understand how Community Connection can serve its clients.
In addition to its hotline service, Community Connection maintains an online directory that individuals can use to find organizations that can help them. Among the organizations listed in this directory are ones that deal with legal assistance, healthcare, pregnancies, family/sexual assaults, senior resources, financial assistance, counseling, education, employment, and basic needs. By maintaining such an extensive directory, Community Connection hopes to decrease the amount of time that its clients spend looking for information.
Besides providing essential information, Community Connection also looks for other ways it can serve the community. For example, Julie Farmer and other Community Connection employees regularly attend meetings of local and regional non-profits. One non-profit they work with is Project Safe, an Athens-based group that was founded in response to a lack of safe places for victims of domestic violence. Originally just a network of safe houses, Project Safe has grown into an organization that works to end domestic violence through educational programs and supportive services for victims and their children.
Community Connection is more than a hotline service. It is an organization dedicated to narrowing the information gap, advocating for local and regional clients, gathering important demographic data, and finding better ways to serve the residents of Northeast Georgia. Though most of us fellows had not heard of Community Connection before visiting it, many of us expressed the desire to volunteer in order to help this organization and the greater Athens community. It is my hope that this organization will continue to help the community for years to come.