In 1993, a small group of concerned and committed people came together to examine the barriers faced by families seeking assistance to improve the quality of life for their children. Jeannie Heller Goss noticed that although the community had numerous agencies dealing with poverty, unemployment and other problems, many people were not getting the help they desperately needed and qualified for. People in crises did not know where to turn to get quick, effective help. The multitudinous requirements of each individual agency often discouraged clients from getting the help they needed. Today, Project Unity transcends those barriers and bridges the gap between families and agencies through neighborhood outreach centers.
Project Unity is based on the belief that solutions to community problems must come from the individuals most affected. A key component, therefore, is community input and participation in planning and policy. Neighborhood meetings are held to focus on the needs of the community. Leadership training (Community Voices) is provided to community members who then help to take charge of their neighborhoods and assist families in resolving difficulties. Civic social and business leaders are oriented to the identified needs of the neighborhoods through “Community Plunge.”
Project Unity’s Community Partnership Board consists of 80 local agencies with 300 members, including law enforcement, adult and child social services, workforce, faith groups, private citizens, advocacy groups, city/county government, businesses and corporations collaborating to connect people to the services they need. Increased access to these vital services makes it easier for residents to become self-reliant.
Project Unity was officially started in 1995 with funding from the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. In 1996, Project Unity was one of six national recipients of the “Award for Excellence in Community Collaboration for Children and Youth.” Project Unity has ongoing partnerships with the City of Bryan, the City of College Station, the Brazos Valley Council of Governments, Brazos Valley United Way, and the Children’s Miracle Network to provide continued funding. Bryan Independent School District and the Brazos Food Bank provide in-kind support.
Project Unity staff served 1,746 unduplicated families in 1999-2000 with more than 48,000 contacts. Services provided include case management, food pantry, divorce education seminars, referrals to other agencies that meet families needs for medical care, utility money, rental assistance, social security assistance, clothing, diapers, furniture, job training, childcare, youth programs, Community Voices leadership training, and Town Meetings to address issues of concern. A mobile unit carries representatives from health and human service agencies to neighborhoods throughout the seven county region offering improved access to family services and support.
Project Unity’s success is rooted in the relationships that are built and sustained between agency partners and community leaders. Building a leadership base within neighborhoods to offer suggestions for positive change helps neighborhoods organize to effectively meet their needs. Jeannie Heller Goss, through Project Unity, is focused on building and maintaining winning relationships for families and agencies to foster success in our community.