AmeriCorps Week Recap: #AmeriCorpsWorks with Community HealthCorps to Build Healthier Communities

By Anastasia Sonneman, Program Specialist, NACHC-Community HealthCorps

“AmeriCorps Week embodies the collaborative and ‘getting things done’ spirit of national service, while highlighting the diverse reach and impact of AmeriCorps members in areas of health, education, environment, and so much more.”

Community HealthCorps National Director, Gerrard Jolly, reflects on another successful AmeriCorps Week that brought together all 535 Community HealthCorps members with other AmeriCorps programs and local organizations in an effort to spotlight the collective power of national service. Community HealthCorps teams across the country accepted the call to demonstrate how AmeriCorps Works with a particular focus on building healthier

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A special AmeriCorps Week shirt designed by the Community Health Center, Inc., team

communities. In fact, over half of the thirty-eight Community HealthCorps teams celebrated by planning at least two or more service and/or recruitment events throughout the week.

Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps Week projects ranged from facilitating free blood pressure screenings to providing oral health education to battling food and housing insecurity by partnering with other great AmeriCorps programs like FoodCorps, Civic Works, and Habitat for Humanity. Together, Community HealthCorps teams built and/or repaired seven homes, improved or created five green spaces, and led twelve health fairs. They also collected over a thousand items of clothing, food, and sanitary items, as well as provided free health screenings and health education to over 1,000 individuals – including older adults, youth, veterans, and migrant farmworkers – all while partnering with over forty community-based organizations.

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The Lifelong team in action at their AmeriCorps Week health fair.

Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps members serving with Lifelong Medical Care in Berkeley, California hosted five different AmeriCorps Week events, each directly tied to building healthier communities where they serve. The team kicked off the week by hosting a health fair at a local park, beautifying one of LifeLong’s new Community Health Centers and building a “little free library” at another LifeLong location. They also partnered with Habitat for Humanity to create healthier and safer homes for low-income older adults. Wajihah Bhatti, summed up her team’s week while taking over the national Community HealthCorps Instagram to capture one of their service days in real time:

“To me, being a Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps member means working towards establishing health equity in communities that we care about.”

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The White House team sorting food donations.

Across the country, the White House Clinics team in Richmond, Kentucky also generated tremendous impact throughout AmeriCorps Week. As one of the newest Community HealthCorps teams, their AmeriCorps members accomplished quite the undertaking of hosting four events focusing on physical activity, provider recognition, dental hygiene, national service, and healthy eating throughout four different White House health center locations. The team also addressed food insecurity as a key social determinant of health by partnering with a local food pantry to sort and package food donations benefiting local community members in need. Sarah LeBrun shares a meaningful moment during one of her team’s projects:

“On Thursday, we had patients write a note to their providers, saying “thank you” for all they do for them. It was a slow start to the day; people weren’t used to having strangers ask them to do something extra after their visit at the clinic. But they quickly caught on. As one patient spoke with us, she was brought to tears while talking about how much White House Clinics has helped her and her daughter. She said, ‘They don’t even know how much they have helped me, and they don’t even know what all is going on in my life. But they have helped me so much.’ Although this is a small sample of the impact that Community Health Centers and White House Clinics have on our population, her words show just how much we can help even one person’s life. I feel lucky to be a part of such a great organization through my service with Community HealthCorps.”

This year’s AmeriCorps Week was truly eventful and impactful for Community HealthCorps, allowing the program’s current AmeriCorps members and alumni to benefit their communities, while also spreading the word about national service as an effective solution to the nation’s most critical social issues.

See more AmeriCorps Week action from Community HealthCorps teams across the country by checking out our #AmeriCorpsWorks Storify.

 

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Celebrating Women’s History Month: My Journey to Leadership through Community HealthCorps

By Pamela Ferguson, NACHC-Community HealthCorps Deputy Director & AmeriCorps Alum

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Pamela Ferguson, Community HealthCorps Deputy Director

Throughout the month of March, we celebrate the many trail-blazing women who opened doors for their peers and continue to contribute to the larger conversation about female leadership in both the private and public sectors. As I reflect on my personal journey as a woman in a leadership role, I want to shine a light on how community health centers and national service programs, particularly Community HealthCorps, empower women to take a stand and make an impact in the lives of their patients, their families, their communities, and the public good.

Many of you already know that Community HealthCorps, founded and operated by the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), is the largest health-focused, national AmeriCorps program promoting heath care for America’s underserved, while developing tomorrow’s health care workforce. What you may not know is that over eighty percent of Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps members are women. These women make a commitment to address the needs of medically underserved Americans by increasing their access to healthcare, improving their financial knowledge as it relates to healthy decisions, and empowering older adults, individuals with disabilities, and veterans to maintain their independence. After completing their service, over fifty percent of our AmeriCorps alumni choose to pursue a career dedicated to community health or public service, often as a result of their experience. This statistic rings true for me especially because it is exactly the path that I took.

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Pamela with her Community HealthCorps team in Maine

In 1998, I joined Community HealthCorps and served two terms as a part of rural Maine’s DownEast team. Immediately after completing my second term, I was hired on as the team’s Program Coordinator, successfully recruiting, leading, and graduating four teams of new Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps members. Several years later, I was sought out by NACHC to work on the national Community HealthCorps team. Deciding to continue what had already been a transformative experience, I packed up and moved to Washington, DC to take the job. Eleven years later, I am still with Community HealthCorps as the program’s recently promoted Deputy Director.

“Leadership means the ability to get things done while inspiring others to accomplish their goals.”  -Pamela

My own service experience was life changing, both personally and professionally. Community HealthCorps provided me with a supportive, mentoring environment that, ultimately, led me to the opportunity to be successful while helping others. So, after eighteen years of service and during Women’s History Month, I look back at my own history and the experiences that empowered me to be a leader. Going forward, I hope to not only continue to serve my community and nation, but also to help inspire other women to do so.

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Community HealthCorps Members Give Smiles!

By Anastasia Sonneman, Program Specialist, NACHC-Community HealthCorps®, with stories from Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps Alums, Chelsea Pepe & Jacqueline Baron

The month of February marks National Children’s Dental Health Month, highlighting the importance of preventive oral care, especially when it comes to children. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, “tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children” despite the fact that it’s “almost entirely preventable.” The National Education Association also reports that 51 million hours of class time is missed each year by US students due to poor dental health. Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps members and the Community Health Centers where they serve work tirelessly to provide education on and increase access to oral health services, particularly for families and children who otherwise cannot afford such services. In honor of National Children’s Health Month, we are highlighting two stories from Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps alums about how they helped “give smiles” as a part of their service last year.

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“The American Dental Association began the Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) program in 2002 during the month 1900516_1021437261203777_5943670138897530046_oof February. This initiative offers free dental care for uninsured and underinsured children. As a Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps member, I was beyond excited to support my health center in hosting multiple GKAS events throughout February.

Watching our health center’s Chief Dental Officer welcome the flurry of children and their parents at the GKAS kick-off celebration, I felt honored to support this program. Helping children get over the fear of the dentist and educating them on how to take care of their teeth was especially meaningful for me. Without programs like these, the children we served would not be able to get the oral care that they need, but they also probably wouldn’t be aware of how important it is to seek out that care in the first place.”

-Chelsea Pepe Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps alum
2014-15 Community Health Center, Inc. Team
Middletown, CT

“As the kids trickled out of the bright yellow school buses, holding hands, they marched fearlessly into the church. It was a particularly cold day in February, but instead of the chill, their spirit filled the air, embodying the purpose of Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) Day.

This day is particularly special in my Community HealthCorps® experience because I saw the power of change that was possible in just one seemingly regular day. I did more than invent a catchy flossing mantra at this year’s GKAS Day. Between performing a dental puppet show for three and four year olds to painting my 20th Spider-man face to educating parents on proper brushing, I realized that every little part of service matters.

Together, our health center’s dental professionals who volunteered their time, along with the teachers and care workers helping the children, as well as our Community HealthCorps® team made a difference. Being a change agent, or an ‘upstander’ as I like to say, is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face.

-Jacqueline Baron, Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps alum
2014-15 Zufall Health Center Team
Dover, NJ

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Visit the American Dental Association for more on the importance of oral health and how you can take part in initiatives like Give Kids A Smile Day.

Posted in AmeriCorps, Community Health Center, Inc, community healthcorps, Give Kids A Smile, National Children's Dental Health Month, Zufall Health Center | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment