Health care providers and others from the community joined hands Saturday before the start of the Caring Community Nurses free health screenings event at the Greenwood County Library.
Their prayer was simple: Let the services provided be a blessing to the community.
“We wanted to be right here in the heart of Greenwood so we could connect with every ethnic group,” said nurse Gwen Chiles, who started the organization in the mid-1990s.
Saturday’s event provided cholesterol and diabetes screenings, care bags for veterans, the elderly and those in need, a chance to connect with nurses and physicians — and even an opportunity to vote and donate blood, all in a one-stop shop.
“We started out helping teenagers, then the need of the community — chronic illnesses, diabetes, hypertension — was so great now that we just started going into that area,” Chiles said. “We are making the community aware that we have all these things available. Every month we are somewhere. We come to your organization and you tell us what you need, and that’s what we bring.”
Along with nurses who provide screenings, there were doctors on hand to help follow up and steer people in the right direction.
“Unfortunately, all the studies are coming back that the inner cities and low-income areas and minority areas are not represented because, No. 1, they probably don’t have as much insurance, and, No. 2, they don’t have the facilities,” said Dr. Winston Morris. “I hope this will help expand the horizons for all the folks who are here. They can get the help they need and see nurses and doctors. Hopefully, they are going to get help from their facilities.”
Morris, who trained at Self Regional, is a family physician in Columbia who comes back to this area often to volunteer for the nonprofit group.
“It’s a civic duty, and it’s an important duty, especially for the community here in Greenwood where they are underrepresented in health care,” Morris said. “I decided when I got here that, when I got a chance to literally give back, I would give back. I’ve been doing that for a long time.”
Chiles said her event is about more than screenings. It’s also about providing quality health information.
“We have a lot of community members who have diabetes and hypertension,” she said. “They don’t know how to take care of their feet. They don’t know how to take care of their medicines. So, we are here to make sure the community knows there are free items, free meds and free services. We have a lot of professional people who are well-educated about what we are doing here in the community so that we are not giving out wrong information.”
Caring Community Nurses operates solely on donations from churches, physicians and community residents.
Morris said the projections for overall community health do not look good, but events such as this one can make a difference.
“If we can at least get them started on the right track,” Morris said.
Greenwood County Councilwoman Edith Childs said she came to the event because she wants to “support every function in this community.”
“It’s very important because many people don’t have any health care,” Childs said. “For them to come here and get those things done free is so important. I wish more people would just come out and take advantage of what’s available for them here in the community. You can go and get what you can get until you can do better.”
Childs wasn’t just there for the screenings. She took part in a voter registration drive.
“We know that a lot of our people are not registered to vote, so we’ll grab them up while we can,” Childs said.
Certified medical assistant and phlebotomist Kimberly Smith has been working with Caring Community Nurses since 2003. She used to work with Chiles at Self Regional.
“The importance to me is helping the community, helping the elderly and the homeless,” she said.
Byron Smith, with Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., worked with others from his organization to prepare care bags for those in need. The bags included food staples.
“We’re here for the community to help the community,” Smith said. “Omega Psi Phi is a health organization, so we are partnering with the nurses to help the community in whatever way that we can.”
Yvonne Cook, a minister from Beulah Baptist Church, said she wants to let residents know that Greenwood is about much more than crime.
“We wanted to come out and let them know that we want to start out with a great new year and come together and sit down and enjoy one another,” Cook said.
LeShown Goodwin, community relations liaison with Hospice Care of South Carolina, said he participates so he can inform and educate people about health from birth to the end of life.
“At Hospice Care of South Carolina, we just want to be able to provide quality, compassionate care and love,” he said. “We just want to be a vital part, along with Caring Community Nurses.”
Contact staff writer Greg Deal at 864-943-5647 or follow on Twitter @IJDEAL.