Day 7. The final stop on my Volunteer Odyssey journey. Founded in 1987 by Dr. Scott Morris, The Church Health Center provides health care for those who are uninsured. Today
it is known as the largest faith-based health center in the country and serves more than 46,000 patients at its clinic annually. Its mission states, “The Church Health Center seeks to reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and our spirits.” Nowhere does it proclaim specifically “in Memphis,” and the CHC serves as a model for other participants in the faith-health movement around the world. It hosts Replication workshops throughout the year for anyone interested in initiating their own faith-based healthcare center as well as hosts the 2014 Westberg Symposium, which will take place at the end of April. In addition to its medical clinic, the CHC provides dental and eye care, social services, counseling, and physical therapy and has trained more than 1,000 congregational health promoters and faith community nurses.
I spoke with Marvin Stockwell, the CHC’s communications director, who explained mankind
holds a responsibility where faith and health link up. While the CHC has a special connection with the Methodist church as Dr. Morris is an ordained United Methodist pastor, it embraces non-denominational Christian values. Marvin believes the CHC acts as the hands and feet of Christ, trying to repair the world. The staff is here to help the community, and there is great need in Memphis, one of the poorest cities in the country. However, the CHC is not just a clinic for the poor. For people to learn how to be and stay healthy, the CHC offers a plethora of programs and opportunities like cooking, exercise, nutrition, and wellness education classes. The CHC magazine, Church Health Reader, has even won multiple “Best of Christian Press” awards and can be found at www.chreader.org.
Marvin also told me the story of how the Perea Preschool came to be. In 1999, the CHC was looking into building a North Memphis satellite office and found that first graders in the area were not as advanced as they should be academically and socially. The CHC created a preschool for 48 3 year-olds to offer an environment where the children could thrive and mature according to schedule. This year, the children from the first Perea class are graduating from high school and have caught up to their peers developmentally. Education is also a healthcare issue because the students usually perform better when they are in good health. Today, the Perea Preschool serves 128 3 and 4 year-olds. What an incredible mission!
One thing I noticed during my visit to the CHC was that everyone was very passionate about their jobs and seemed truly happy there. Marvin asserted, “It’s not a boring place to work at
all. I’m coming up on 10 years in October and I love it.” The staff I assisted, including Jeff Hulett, the communications supervisor, and other members of the team, Alison and Colins, showed camaraderie in their mutual respect for another and lots of laughter, which is critical to a healthy work life. My role amongst the group was to copyedit articles for the newsletter and I had a blast! It reminded me of my teaching days when I used to grade papers and I was so happy to lend a critical eye to help improve the pieces. Jeff was kind enough to print out all of the articles for me because I prefer to read hard copies of materials. I absolutely enjoyed reviewing the stories and interviews as well as conversing with the team. While working there, I even saw three of my friends, one of whom I didn’t previously know worked at the CHC. The other two, Jennie and Carrie, were friends met through the Junior League of Memphis’ LEAD program.
Coming up on April 26th at 2:00 p.m. is the CHC’s “Walking as One,” which will take place at the Church Health Center Wellness on Union Avenue. It’s free, and here is where the plot thickens: An anonymous donor has pledged $20 for every person that participates. What a fantastic and easy way to raise money for a phenomenal organization. To register for the event, sign up at walkingasone.org and to volunteer, contact Jennie Dickerson at 901-701-2097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Church Health Center has plans to move to Sears Crosstown in approximately two
years. Right now, there are currently 13 buildings providing CHC services and a 10-month waiting list to become an established patient at the clinic. By moving into one large space, it will be able to serve a larger amount of people more timely and efficiently. The CHC is privately funded and prides itself on providing consistent care, meaning that patients are examined by the same doctor every visit.
I am excited to witness the progress and expansion of the Church Health Center, and some staff members even asked me to come back to volunteer with the communications team! To learn more about the Church Health Center and all of the programs it offers, visit www.churchhealthcenter.org.
Even though my week of service through Volunteer Odyssey is over, my journey has only begun. Stay tuned for my Epilogue!
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