AMHA partners to bring services
to Twinsburg community Part 2
Story by Lyndsey Schley
Vaccines and WIC aim to keep babies healthy
Women, men and young children came and went from the impromptu waiting room outside the WIC Clinic at Pinewood Gardens April 30th. Children played with a bead maze while their guardians filled out forms.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides services for pregnant women, recent mothers and children up to the age of five. These services include a food program, health care referrals and nutritional education.
The clinic was formed three months ago, after AMHA realized community members were traveling to Akron for their WIC appointments, Morehouse said. Macedonia was closer, but it was not on the bus line.
While the clinic operates every Wednesday, the Summit County Health Department also offers a vaccine clinic at the site on the last Wednesday of every month. The vaccine clinic started here six months ago and it is run by Wendy Brolly, a public health nurse.
She comes in every month to the clinic with vaccines, a computer and medical tools.
Brolly said the county started the clinic to make getting vaccines easier for the residents. About 39 percent of local area residents are up to date on their vaccines by 24 months, the worst rate in the county. She hopes with their efforts, the rates will rise by 10 to 20 percent by the time they are reassessed next year.
The clinic offers vaccines for free or reduced cost based on a sliding income scale through the Vaccines for Children program.
“What we’re trying to do is close the loop so they have a one-stop shop type thing,” she said. “They still have to go to their provider for well-care, but they can come to WIC and also get shots at the same time.”
Brolly said they want make sure babies and teenagers get their vaccines for school, which are now required in Ohio.
The clinic not only gives shots to children, but also caretakers. These include vaccines for the flu and diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, known as TDaP. Brolly said since young children cannot get vaccinated for these diseases, they try to form a cocoon of resistance around them by vaccinating caretakers. A major concern is pertussis, known as whooping cough.
“The baby’s not protected until six months of age from whooping cough,” Brolly said. “We’ve seen a lot of whooping cough issues across the Unites States and even in our area.”
Brolly spent the day checking in with women waiting at the clinic, seeing where their children were in the vaccination process and whether they had any needs in their family.
Barb Krettler with Wendy Brolly, a public health nurse
Barb Krettler was waiting with her daughter and grandchild when Brolly persuaded her to get the TDaP vaccine. She is afraid of needles, but wanted to make sure she could keep her grandson safe.
“I’m doing it for him,” Krettler said. “I don’t want anything to happen to him. I hate needles but I figured if he could get them and stand it, I could.”
Brolly said vaccination rates have gone down throughout the state, because of alternate scheduling and myths about vaccines. She said in this community, unlike some higher income populations, people are not against vaccinations.
“People aren’t refusing,” She said. “A lot of times in a community like this they don’t even realize the importance of children getting vaccines because they have too many other things in their life. They’re thinking of safety, food and clothing and how am I going to get to the doctor’s appointment? So it’s not a concern for them until someone educates them about it.”
Brolly hopes to do some informational meetings on vaccines and safe sleeping at the community. She is looking into starting up a clothing distribution. She would also like to have some focus groups to see what the community needs.
“[We want to] kind of see what the need is in the community, not coming from us but coming from them,” she said. “We hope we can get some people who are going to stay here, because it’s pretty transient, who can become leaders, champions for everyone else and maybe institute some programs here, maybe get a store, maybe get bussing to take them places.”
Food Where Little is Found
Jamie Wade, a resident volunteer, mentioned before that food is a major difficulty at Pinewood Gardens. To help, The Emergency Assistance Center, a food pantry out of Northfield, distributes food on the first Thursday of every month to the Pinewood Gardens community room.
The Emergency Assistance Center Executive Director Joyce Hunt ran the distribution April 7. It was the third distribution the group had done at the center.
“We thought it was real important to do this because we had heard that a lot of the folks here are single parent moms with limited to no transportation,” Hunt said. “They don’t have cars or don’t have a driver’s license so they have the Metro bus or walk and a lot of times, with the little ones, it’s actually more feasible to walk. “
However, with the closest store being the GetGo gas station, she said even that is not a very good option.
About 9:00 a.m., a semi-truck full of food arrived from the Akron-Canton Regional food Bank. Volunteers from Swagelok, West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, Kohl’s and other community groups came to unload and repackage about 8,000 lbs. of food.
After registering, residents were guided through a room filled of piles of milk, fruits, vegetables, breads and more by volunteers. While there were limits to the amount of any category the residents can take, they were given the choice of various types of items.
After the residents selected their items, volunteers helped them take the items back to their apartments and the process began all over again.
The giveaway is run similarly to their main pantry in Northfield, which is known as a choice pantry. Hunt said a choice pantry is where clients are allowed to choose which items they take home from the pantry, as opposed to being given a preselected package of food.
While choice pantries require more work and more volunteers, she said it has been worth it for their organization. Not only does it reduce food waste, it also gives clients more dignity.
“The first three people we took through the pantry and we gave them the choice, they literally cried,” she said. “We asked them ‘What’s the matter?’ and they replied ‘No one gives you a choice when you’re poor.’ So I looked at my staff and I said ’We have to do this method.’”
Vicki Lovelace, a volunteer from the Emergency Assistance Center, spent the day guiding clients through the pastries and breads section and offering hugs. She said she helped out of a love of service.
“I like serving,” Lovelace said. “I love giving out hugs. I’m blessed and I love giving out blessings to someone else.”
Janet Meyer is on the board of the Emergency Assistance Center and was one of the volunteers from West-Ward Pharmaceuticals. She started working with the organization after finding out some of her co-workers at a previous job had been laid off and needed food assistance.
She said before coming to Pinewood Gardens, she did not know that this pocket of need existed.
“I live in Twinsburg township,” Meyer said. “I had no idea. I live two miles from here. So when I was looking for some place to volunteer and be involved in, I wanted to be involved with my neighbors.”
Joyce Hunt, Emergency Assistance Center Executive Director
Hunt said poverty in the Twinsburg area is different from urban populations. She said much of it is situational rather than generational.
“Situational is when something drastic happens, somebody has lost their job and they have used all their saving and if they’re blessed enough to find a job, it’s at a reduced rate,” she said. “Some of them have two part-time jobs. That seems to be more in-fad in companies. They’ll hire you part-time so they don’t have to pay medical.”
She said she sees the same transportation issues with the impoverished individuals outside of Pinewood Gardens.
“You don’t have the bus system you would find in the inner city or you can’t just walk places,” she said “Even in Northfield, we have people that will walk and hour to get to use and walk all the way home or, if we have a volunteer that is willing to take them home, we will try to do that.”
At the end of the two hour distribution, the pop-up pantry had served more than 60 families. Hunt said it was the largest participation yet, up from the last two months about a third from the last two months.
For more info. go to: akronhousing.org