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February 25, 2013

St. Mark’s health fair serves hundreds

New Albany church event fills a void with free checkups and more

NEW ALBANY — A free checkup, a free haircut and a hot meal drew hundreds to downtown New Albany Saturday.

St. Mark’s United Church of Christ hosted its fifth annual neighborhood health fair, which provides health and wellness services to individuals in the community for free.

“We sit downtown, and we made a decision several years ago that we needed to figure out a way to open our doors and open our hearts to our community,” said Wendy Swisher, a coordinator for St. Mark’s health fair. “We wanted to be able to reach people that are underserved.”

The church partnered with WaterStep Ministries, the Lion’s Club and Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services — along with a number of other organizations — to offer those in need a chance to get regular health care needs and even a free haircut.

Free flu shots, HIV tests, blood pressure tests, blood sugar screenings and eye exams and glasses were all offered as part of the health fair.

Even in its inaugural year Swisher said the health fair was meeting the goals the church had hoped it would. The first year St. Mark’s held the event, Swisher said there was an elderly couple waiting outside well before the doors opened. But when Swisher told them they wouldn’t be open for three hours, they said that was OK and they would wait.

“They sat in the parking lot and waited for three hours to be able to get eyeglasses because they had no other resources,” she said. “So we were like OK, maybe this is the right thing to do.”

The number of visitors to the health fair over the past five years has ranged from 300 to 500. Swisher said she anticipated about 300 people would visit the health fair this year.

“There will be people that have no access to care and there’ll be people who have access,” Swisher said.

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5-year-old Nicholas Garrison is handed a lemon drop, while 6-year-old Thomas and 4-year-old Walker Sturgeon, try theirs at Schimpff's Confectionery Friday afternoon in Jeffersonville.

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