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Cordele First UMC bridges gap between underserved community, healthcare


By Kara Witherow, Editor

Cordele First United Methodist Church recently hosted a health fair to help bridge the gap between healthcare providers and underserved people by bringing the two together for a three-day event.

From cholesterol screenings to COVID-19 tests and car seat checks, Cordele First UMC’s health fair provided free care for those who need it most.

“Many people not in the Church think of the Church as only a place to praise God and to read the Bible,” said Rev. Tania Montero, associate pastor at Cordele First UMC. “I think this event was good to let people know that the Church is not only to praise the Lord and read the Bible, but also to serve the community.”

The church, which has both Anglo and Hispanic congregations, recognizes many in the community don’t have access to needed healthcare. Fear and distrust are additional barriers to people receiving adequate care, said Rev. Larry Rollins, who serves as lead pastor. The church’s outreach team wanted to reach out and serve the community.

“Because of the Hispanic part of our congregation, there’s that connection and a closeness and the ability to say, ‘Here’s part of our community that needs service,’” Rev. Rollins said. “Part of the idea was to be the Church and open the doors and say, not only are we here for services, but we love you and you’re welcome and you’re blessed.”

During the three-day health fair, which ran June 28-30, the Georgia Mobile Dental Van, Baptist Dental Mission, and several local dentists provided dental services to 93 patients, some who had never before had dental work done. Dozens had cavities filled and one patient had six teeth pulled.

Other services, including eye exams; COVID-19 tests; blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose level checks, were performed. Referrals to ophthalmologists, physical therapists, and other specialists were provided. In addition to medical assistance, education about how to open a bank account, legal advice about immigration, translation services, and free car seats were offered. Each family was given a box of food to take home and 445 meals were served during the event.

“The planning work, led by Rev. Tania Montero, was excellent and precise to what the Hispanic and general population of the area needed,” said Rev. Daniel Medina, pastor of Nueva Vida UMC, Warner Robins First UMC, and associate director of Hispanic Ministries in the Office of Connectional Ministries. He and his wife, Julie, along with Rev. Felipe Ricardo, pastor of El Faro UM Hispanic Ministry in Albany and Morgan Hispanic Church, served as volunteers and translators. “I have seen many health fairs as a community leader in my years of ministry, but this fair was special. This event was not only extensive and very well organized, but you could also feel the love of Christ and the heart of pastor Tania, her Hispanic congregation, and the general congregation of Cordele First UMC church in every act and space offered. They are really the eyes, the hands, and the heart of Christ.”

Rev. Montero hopes the community sees Cordele First UMC as a place where everyone is welcome and loved and can receive what they need.

“I think it’s another way for the community to know us but also for the church to come together and work hand in hand. It’s another way to be united as a church.”

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