Just two weeks before the school year begins, Janice Bishop said she faced some issues getting required, routine preparations for her children.
Clothing, shoes, checkups at the doctor’s office and backpacks all add up, and time was running out.
“I make enough to pay the bills, but I don’t make enough to pay the $40 copay to get physicals for my kids,” Bishop, 29 of Jeffersonville, said. “Even though I have health insurance, all that’s not enough to do the job.”
But on Saturday, Eastside Christian Church’s second annual Community Health, Education and Safety Fair helped her get everything on her list without any cost to her.
Community members were able to get basic medical checkups, eye and dental examinations. Students could pick up a free backpack; families could get haircuts and sit down for a family portrait.
Bishop said even though government and other programs are available for those in need of them, it’s often difficult to qualify for them even if a family is struggling.
“A lot of places should do more of this just because so many people who don’t qualify for a lot of the help that’s available,” Bishop said.
David Parkerson, health and wellness coordinator for the church, said families didn’t have to worry about prerequisites for any of the services available at the fair.
If they needed to see a nurse practitioner, doctor, dentist or optometrist, all they had to do was get in line.
“I’m not about paperwork and some people have enough times where they have to verify their information,” Parkerson said. “There might be some instances where that’s taken advantage of, but that’s on them. We just want to provide that help.”
He said at last year’s inaugural event, about 180 people came in for checkups and other services. This year, between medical visits and backpacks, they served about 700 people.
Parkerson said the partnerships with Centerstone and Community Action of Southern Indiana really helped make this year’s event bigger than before.
He said many of the families coming in really needed the help the church was providing, so he was happy to see they could get the necessities without any strings attached.
“I try to have people not feel like they have to lie to me about things,” Parkerson said. “I find the less questions you ask, the more sincere people are.”
He said the health fair has been a project he’s wanted to do for about 10 years, but has only had the time to coordinate in the last six months.
“I want Eastside to be more than just a church building on Veterans Parkway,” Parkerson said. “I want this place to be a part of the community to help people.”
Families were also able to go to the church’s Free Market. Families donate clothing, shoes, toys and furniture for the church to give away. He said the church holds the free market about three times a year.
Jennifer Coward, director of backpack giveaways, said the church purchased 250 backpacks to hand out to children getting ready to go to school.
With a line extending outside the building, she said one of her team members was sent off to purchase 50 more.
“It really adds to the services we offer with the fair,” Coward said. “We specifically had this fair before school just so we could add this service to it.”
Cathleen Franklin, one of the advocates helping with the event, said many of the families coming in faced genuinely difficult circumstances.
But the opportunity to give comfort and resources to people who need it made the difficult stories easier to listen to.
“I just wouldn’t have missed this,” Franklin said. “I’ve had a lot of hardship and heartaches and I know where it comes from. If you can help somebody, why, that’s why God put us here for.”