When I used to have preschool aged children, October was “Community Helpers Month,” and the kids loved it. A firetruck would come to the preschool one week, a police car the next, and the kids would learn about the vital role of first responders including EMTs, doctors and dentists in every community. Then along came Halloween when we ask our kids to approach strangers and beg for candy, and all that learning went out the window!
Community Helpers are a win for the neighborhoods they serve. I am privileged and humbled to have a small role assisting my community through a wonderful organization called Urban Ministries of Wake County in the Raleigh/Durham areas of North Carolina.
– FOOD –
Founded by an interdenominational group in 1981, Urban Ministries assists “neighbors in crisis by providing basic needs – food, medicine and shelter.” Their programs included a shelter for the homeless, a food pantry, and a medical clinic for uninsured individuals. In the 42 years since its inception, the Urban Ministries staff and capacity have expanded to include mental health providers, case managers, re-homing programs, a pharmacy, and onsite gardens that provide about 8500 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables annually to the food pantry as of 2021. That’s a major gardening win!
– MEDICINE –
The impact of these programs and the organization’s longstanding involvement in the community can’t be overstated. In the three years I’ve been a volunteer in the medical clinic, I’ve seen expanded access to medical care including eye exams, dental care clinics, and vaccine clinics for CoVid-19 and other common diseases. Their relationships with local and national non-profits and commercial donors such as Walgreens is based on their solid reputation. Expanded funding allowed the medical clinic to open a walk-in patient service, further eliminating scheduling barriers and increasing their reach into the community.
Specialty care is available to clinic patients for otolaryngology, nephrology, podiatry, gynecology, rheumatology and more. Local hospital systems provide laboratory testing services, and the pharmacy fills approximately 40,000 prescriptions a month at no charge to the patients.
Individual patients, their families and the community benefit from this access to care and the “whole patient” philosophy behind it. As a volunteer, I benefit – I love being able to provide a service for my fellow humans. I gain more skills and knowledge as I practice interpreting for Limited English Speaking-patients and I’m exposed to different vocabulary for each specialty. That’s a WIN!
– SHELTER –
Since many patients at the Clinic come from socially and economically vulnerable populations, they are also most at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, mental health, and substance abuse concerns. Urban Ministries addresses many of these problems and provides advocacy and re-homing education for those at the Helen Wright Center for Women. Mental health services are also provided through the medical clinic.