July 30, 2017, Dade City, FL – One of the biggest myths or fallacies in today’s society is that everyone has access to quality healthcare and education. The reality is there are many whose economic circumstances, despite the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), still fall through the cracks. In terms of education, while their children attend public schools alongside their more affluent neighbors, they cannot afford to provide them with many of the basics (like pencils, markers, glue, scissors, etc.) let alone items many of couldn’t conceive of; namely calculators and washable markers! Thus, teachers, many of whom are also struggling are forced to make up the difference, oftentimes out of pocket!
Catholic Charities St. Andre Free Medical Clinic came in this year to support those families and children from the Dade City/East Pasco area. St. Andre co-sponsored a one day back to school healthcare fair along with Foundations of Life Pregnancy Center – Pasco and St. Rita’s Catholic Church, which hosted the event in the Church’s parish center located mere blocks from the heart of Dade City. The event was the inspiration of Mrs. Terri Flannery, clinic coordinator. Through Terri’s ferocious determination and dogged perseverance (along with Angie Herrera and Teresa Arriaga of Foundations of Life) an impressive roster of service providers came together on Saturday, July 30th from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm to provide health and dental care screenings, school and sports physicals, and other health-related information.
Nearly 400 people attended the event. Over 150 backpacks were handed out to children and they were tended to by the following providers and agencies to whom we are most grateful:
Premier Community HealthCare
Pasco Public Defender Mobile Medical Unit (MMU)
Moffitt Cancer Center’s ‘Yo me quido’ program
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office
St. Andre Free Medical Clinic
Foundations of Life Pregnancy Center
With the music of a St. Rita-provided DJ playing in the background and livening up their meal, event attendees were able to enjoy a fun lunch provided free by the Knights of Columbus 10671 Fr. Robert Rittmeyer Council (Zephyrhills). Lunch consisted of hotdogs and hamburgers, chips and other snacks, as well as lemonade, tea and fruit punch. Grand Knight Richard Geoffrion speaking on behalf of his brother Knights and Columbiettes (akin to the women’s club of a parish; the female version of the Knights) who assisted stated:
“Our Knights of Columbus Council is honored to be able to be part of such an important event in our community. Part of the Knights’ mission is to be charitable and this event is one of the greatest acts of kindness we as a community can show our children. We look forward to participating in this event for years to come.”
The Pasco Public Defender MMU, with the motto “nourish to flourish” has been in existence since 2012 and offers free, basic medical care for the homeless and uninsured. This care includes: blood pressure, pulse, writing prescriptions (free, $4 and more expensive versions), blood labs (cholesterol, diabetes), and school and sports physicals. The MMU does refer out to specialists when required and its schedule can be found at www.wearthehope.org. Mrs. Elizabeth (Liz) Rhodes, Director of the MMU, echoed similar sentiments to those of Grand Knight Geoffrion:
“The Pasco Public Defender Mobile Medical Unit was pleased to attend the Back to School Bash in Dade City. Terry did an outstanding job coordinating the event. As always, it was a great opportunity to provide school and sports physicals to the community.”
The dental team from Premier Community HealthCare was represented by patient & community service and education specialists as well as dental assistants and one doctor, Dr. Barinas. While Dr. Barinas and his assistants performed dental screenings, checking for cavities and other major problems for referral to the clinic, the community specialists provided dental healthcare information to event attendees. One important factoid, according to Zenaida Amador, is that the mouth is key to our health: “Everything starts with the mouth…if we have bacteria in our mouth, our body will be damaged.” Sadly, it is estimated that over 50% of Pasco county residents do not have dental healthcare!
Father Dan Kayajan, CSC, pastor of St. Rita was hopeful of the results prior to the fair: “We are pleased to host the Catholic Charities St. Andre Free Medical Clinic along with many other service providers as they help local families and children who have fallen through the cracks to prepare for the upcoming school year, and are grateful for all of their support.” The event more than fulfilled his wishes. As she reflected on all the hard work leading up to this day and the results of that work, Terri said:
“As we had hoped, the fair served the community by providing health services and information, backpacks and school supplies, along with family fun in a one-stop location as the children prepare for the upcoming school year. It also increased awareness of the social services available for the needy families in our town and surrounding area. I am so thankful for all those providers who participated. I also wanted to thank Fr. Dan for allowing us to use St. Rita for the event and the Knights of Columbus who came out to support us.”
Now, begins the sourcing of supplies and the planning for next year’s in-need class of children as this years’ class has graduated our event – with all the necessary health checks and school supplies – for the main event, the beginning of the school year!