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The nonprofit Baldwin Center will launch a new program to fight poverty in Oakland County during its annual fundraiser Friday, May 4, at the Lafayette Grande banquet hall in Pontiac.

Organizers at the Pontiac center, which provides food, clothing, education and empowerment to the area’s poor through more than 25 programs that meet basic needs for adults and children, hope to raise $50,000.

During the event, which coincides with the center’s 100th anniversary, organizers will launch a program to help mitigate poverty by linking clients with help from area social services.

The new program, financed with a grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, creates a countywide network to help social services clients navigate assistance available from multiple agencies.

“Our goal at Baldwin moving forward is to diminish the poverty that impacts individuals and families in our community,” Elizabeth Longley, the center’s executive director, said in a statement. “We want to provide more tools that help our clients attain and maintain a standard of living above the poverty line.”

The 6:30 p.m. fundraiser will have a Kentucky Derby party theme, a strolling dinner with live and silent auctions, a live band and dancing.

Money raised during the event will help the center continue to provide a safety net at a facility that serves as many as 3,000 people per year. The center serves more than 50,000 meals a year, runs a holiday store that provides for 250 families and operates a summer camp for 60 kids.

The center collaborates with other area agencies, including Oakland Primary Health Services and Oakland Family Services, to connect people with groups that provide specialized services, Baldwin Center board member Scott Crabill said.

Baldwin Center has a small staff and relies on hundreds of volunteers.

“Anybody who comes to us has a number of needs, from legal problems to educational problems to food problems, substance-abuse problems and immigration problems and we can’t serve all of those so we work better when we connect them with the the right agency,” Crabill said.

General Motors Co., through its Global Propulsion Systems engineering center in Pontiac, also assists by donating school supplies, clothing, money, food and volunteer hours. The GM group will receive the Heart of Baldwin Corporate Service award during the fundraising dinner.

And Michelle Tocco will receive the Heart of Baldwin Individual Service award. Tocco, the center’s retiring food services manager, has worked at the center for almost 24 years, planning and preparing more than 1.3 million meals and working with more than 60 volunteer groups.

Tickets for the gala cost $65. For more information, call the center at (248) 332-6101 or visit www.baldwincenter.org.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2486

Twitter: @snelltweets

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