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Christmas on Memorial combines healthcare with food distribution & holiday fun

By Deneece Ferrales

The Access to Healthcare Working Group wanted one thing: to reach out to folks who may not be able to or know how to access preventative and maintenance health services. The group discussed offering simple health screenings at food distribution events as a way of reaching out and hopefully encouraging folks to not only take advantage of the readily available health screenings, but to also encourage folks to access a physician for regular care.

Heather Travers, of McLennan County Indigent Health and co-chair of the Access to Healthcare Working Group, sits for a photo with Santa at Christmas on Memorial.

To do this, the group partnered with the Family of Faith Worship Center to provide health and behavioral health screenings during their regular Tuesday food distributions. However, Pastor Ruben Andrade decided to offer something more. Pastor Andrade went to his church board and decided to combine “Christmas on Memorial,” an annual celebration the church offers the community to help get more gifts to children and families in need, with the health screenings and food distribution. This made for a large and wonderful event.

The event began at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7, with numerous organizations providing services:

  • Ascension was on hand to conduct blood pressure checks and diabetes management education.

  • Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network (formerly MHMR) offered behavioral health screenings to help with holiday and pandemic stress.

  • McLennan County Indigent Care, along with Baylor Scott & White insurance carriers were available to help folks find health insurance and other ways of paying for ongoing healthcare.

  • Waco-McLennan County Public Health District offered COVID vaccinations to both adults and children.

Besides those organizations providing services, others were available to offer information, appointments for medical services, and a host of helpful healthy items such as health packs, stress balls, lip balm, and socks. These organizations included Life Steps Council, Voices, Nurse Family Partnership Waco, Starry Counseling-Fatherhood Program, UpSkill Waco, Live Well Waco, CASA, AHEC, Waco Family Medicine, and Impact Research Texas. Other members of the Access to Healthcare group volunteered at the event.

In addition to the health screenings and food distribution, families and individuals in attendance were able to register for a raffle. Several toys and bicycles donated to Family of Faith were given away through the raffle. Parents could also purchase Christmas gifts for the children at a reduced price and could wrap the presents at the event. Hot dogs, popcorn, and drinks were available. Children were able to participate in a variety of activities including coloring and enjoying a bounce house. And the icing on the cake — a visit from Santa!

A total of 662 people attended the event, and 41 people volunteered. Many attendees received health and behavioral health screenings and received the COVID vaccine. More than this, the attendees were able to secure future healthcare appointments, health insurance, and a pathway to better healthcare.

Thanks to the organizations who participated in the event and to the Access to Healthcare Working Group for planning the event and helping to make it such a success. A special thank you goes out to Pastor Ruben Andrade and the Family of Faith for not only hosting the event but turning it into something really special for the families in our community.

Deneece Ferrales, Ph.D., is director of health initiatives for Prosper Waco.


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