This past Wednesday, December 12th the Philadelphia Health Corps (PHC) played host to visitors from the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS). CNCS Chief Operating Officer Robert Velasco, Chief Financial Officer David Rebich, Deputy Chief Financial Officer Rocco Gaudio, and Bernard Brown, State Program Director for CNCS’ PA office toured District Health Center #2 in South Philadelphia. This was a great opportunity for the PHC to highlight its successful partnership with the 8 Ambulatory Health Centers run by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health – a major safe net health care provider for uninsured and underinsured Philadelphians. PHC members Jean Lee, Chase Kwon and Maraia Bonsignore spoke about their desire to give back to communities through service and their efforts to help enroll uninsured Philadelphians in health insurance and free medication programs. Dr. Tom Storey, Director of Ambulatory Health Services remarked that the 18 PHC members serving at health centers have not only helped save the city millions of dollars each year on medications for the uninsured, but they have actually expanded patient access to medications that are critical to treating chronic disease. The PHC also highlighted the service of members at other host sites, including members who are providing nutrition and fitness education to youth, coordinating health care for newly arriving refugees and offering case management services to families in Philadelphia.
To help celebrate the great American tradition of Thanksgiving with Philadelphia refugees, the Philadelphia Health Corps served at the Nationalities Service Center on one cold Saturday afternoon. The event was a buffet style dinner, complete with heaps of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and warm gravy to top it all off. Much of the food had been carted over from a local Presbyterian church, where two chefs had been cooking in a basement kitchen like their lives depended on it. The process was rough and hectic, involving boiling water, shouting, and many cups of coffee, but the results were delicious. Several Health Corps volunteers helped prepare and clean, while others struggled food down a busy street back to the Service Center, so that turkey and stuffing were always there for the next hungry mouth.
Back at the Service Center, a crowd of refugees had been forming. The air steamed with all the smells of a Thanksgiving feast mingled with the sounds of languages from around the world. Health Corps volunteers stood behind trays of food, armed with serving spoons, as a column of people readied their plates for a taste of American cuisine. The meat and vegetables disappeared quickly, though the candied yams remained mostly untouched, perhaps an acquired taste for a sweeter tooth. While the adults were still busy eating, the children participated in different activities like a cakewalk – a form of musical chairs played as dessert – and flipped through picture books that volunteers handed out. In the end, everyone left with high spirits, food in their stomachs, and a feeling that right now, giving every thanks to more peace and happiness, was a pretty good place to be. We felt that way too.