Back-to-school health fair offers more than physicals

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Back-to-school health fair offers more than physicals

Aug. 31, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0731}

An e-Review Feature
By Steven Skelley**

LARGO — As if school supplies and physicals weren’t enough, there was a medical helicopter, a fire truck, an ambulance, a bloodmobile, a balloon artist, an obstacle course — and people who wanted to show the neighborhood’s families and children they and God care for them.

They were all at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Largo Aug. 4 for the church’s first Health and Ministry Fair.

Michelle Robinson’s boys were happy to get the school supplies they received at St. Paul United Methodist Church’s back-to-school health and ministry fair Aug. 4. Photo by Steven Skelley. Photo #07-0658.

Church members, health care providers and community organizations offered free school supplies and physicals to help area children get ready to go back to school. The day also featured a craft center, nearly 20 church ministry booths, 11 booths from local health agencies, and both Boy and Girl Scouts. Translators were available for the area’s Spanish-speaking visitors.

The event was created and organized by Grant Corrigan, a local registered nurse.

“This is what the great commission is all about,” he said. “We have over 100 volunteers ministering to the community today. … We’re showing what God’s got going on on the corner of Highland and Rosary.”

Corrigan said the church was eager to be involved in the outreach event, and planning for it took nearly 12 months. Church members donated school supplies, middle school students went door-to-door with fliers to let people know about the event, and more than 100 members volunteered during the fair. It was such a success the church wants to publish a manual to show other churches how they can offer a similar outreach in their communities.

Sitting behind an open truck filled with school supply bags, Betty Myers and Jan Handura greeted children. “We want to get the word out to our community that the church is here to help them,” Myers said.

“Each bag contains notebook paper, folders, crayons, stick glue, craft glue, scissors, a bookmark, colored pencils and pens, and each bag has the name and address of the church on it,” Handura added.

Michelle Robinson brought her sons Peyton and Zachary. As her smiling sons received their school supplies from Myers and Handura, Robinson said, “This is great.”

Other church volunteers sat outside by the large welcome banner. When asked why they’d brave the 95-degree heat, they replied, “We love people,” “It touches our community,” “It excites the people of our church when we help others,” “It does the heart good.”

And despite the heat all it took was one student mentioning it was her birthday for the four banner volunteers to begin singing a cheerful “Happy Birthday” to her.

Dozens of children gathered around “Rick the Balloon Man” as he made multi-balloon creations. Spiderman, in both black and red versions, was the most requested, but Zachary Dalton loved the balloon artist’s Daffy Duck creation.

James Hill, a local teacher, operated the fitness area’s obstacle course. “I’m a teacher so I love working with kids anyway, but this is fun, and I feel like I’m doing what God calls me to do,” he said. “I’m happy to be out here.”

Steve Abernathy was part of the event’s planning committee. He said the church has more than 180 ministries and is open seven days a week, “so we have something going on all the time.”

“Today, we’re trying to reach out to the families in our community,” he said. “We’re offering free physicals and things to help the kids prepare for school, but we’re also looking for a way to offer them and their families Jesus in an inoffensive way.”

Debbie Brimacombe, St. Paul Christian education director, agreed. She shared information about the Sunday school program with parents and children. “Today, we are focusing on children,” she said. “We’re trying to expose them to what we have to offer children.”

Inside the fellowship hall dozens of people visited booths about local agencies and church ministries. Chair massages and one-week guest passes were offered by Morton Plant Mease Wellness Centers. Mark Wintrub staffed the information table for the wellness center.

Local agencies and church ministries provided materials and information to people attending the health and ministry fair Aug. 4 at St. Paul United Methodist Church. Some agencies, like Morton Plant Mease Wellness Centers, took a hands-on approach. The center’s Penne Learomatis gives church member Maxine Bertran a relaxing chair massage. Photo by Steven Skelley. Photo #07-0659.

“We wanted to be involved here because it helps people,” he said. “We want to help the community and offer them a chance to visit our facilities. Healthy body — healthy spirit.”

That sentiment was echoed by many of the service providers attending, including Cindy Cleveland, who ran the Florida Blood Services bloodmobile. “I’m here today on what is normally my day off, but it’s for a good cause,” she said. “It’s all about life. We need 600 pints of blood a day so every donation helps. I’m glad to be here.”

The Rev. Michael Pestel, associate pastor of the church, said the best thing about the day was “seeing needs of people met in the community.”

“For them to know Jesus Christ is behind what we’re doing to meet their needs is fantastic,” he said.

The Rev. Joe Walker, Pestel’s colleague and co-worker, agreed. “I think this is totally of God,” he said. “This whole event has been organized and led by laity. We’re letting people see Jesus through our actions.”

Their senior pastor, the Rev. Tom Farmer, completed the thought: “I feel like we’re doing what Jesus said — ‘Follow me.’ ”

More information on the event may be obtained by contacting the church at 727-584-8165.


This article relates to Outreach.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Skelley is a freelance writer based in Beverly Hills, Fla. His columns appear in the Naples Sun Times newspaper and Faith & Tennis magazine.

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