Fort Worth, TX event provides free health screenings
Lena Wilson (7) and her little brother Tres Wilson (5) got into the white van, which had a green University of North Texas Health Science Center in the Fort Worth logo on the side.
The back of the normal-looking vehicle didn’t meet the expectations of the two – there was a long, comfy seat with drawings of owls and other animals, and an HSC medicine professor sat across from them in front of a blue sheet that covered the two front seats. Lena felt “like on a farm”, as she later described dizzy. The light in the mobile examination room went out after a few seconds and the doctor Abe Clark started the eye test.
He held up a device called a plus-optical refractometer, much like a large-screen iPad, except that one side protruded from a large black smiley face. It glowed red for a few seconds and scanned her eyes with infrared cameras.
The children who live in Mansfield didn’t know what the doctor was measuring or why they were asked to look at the kind face that was looking at them. But her mother, 32-year-old Brooke Wilson, did and she was delighted at the end of the exam when the lights came on and Clark told them they had passed.
Some time after the exam, Lena and Tres stood outside the Baker Chapel AME Church in Fort Worth, where a major event was held that included free food and water distribution, as well as voter registration and various health screenings.
The two were excited and full of energy, not as if they had just come out of a doctor’s appointment. They wore the free green sunglasses they got.
When asked how it felt to pass the eye exam, Tres happily exclaimed, “Healthy! I feel healthy! “
Brooke, who is married to Baker Chapel AME pastor, Rev. Melvin Wilson Jr., said the children had twice had their eyes checked by a pediatrician. But it was nice to have them tested again.
“It’s amazing, especially when it’s free. You don’t have to make an insurance claim or anything,” she said. “I think it’s nice.”
The event on Saturday was about helping a community and zip code that were facing difficulties, from the effects of the COVID pandemic to the historic February winter storms that streaked the region and left many people without electricity or water busy .
Zip code 76104, which includes the church and its vicinity near downtown, has the lowest average life expectancy in Texas at 66.7 years, according to a study by UT Southwestern. A Star Telegram series examined the factors causing this inequality, including high costs and limited access to quality health care. There are also few grocery stores nearby, but plenty of grocery stores and fast food restaurants.
During the event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., cars continued to drive around the church grounds on Saturday, and organizers expected to give away all boxes of food and water – enough for 200 cars – before the end. Baker Chapel AME has been doing the grocery giveaways every other Saturday since the storms ended, in partnership with the Community Food Bank. However, that weekend’s event was the first day they partnered with other Tarrant County’s HSC and My Health My Resources.
Rev. Melvin Wilson Jr. of Baker Chapel AME in Fort Worth, TX loads a box of groceries into a car Saturday. He said the church, in partnership with the Community Food Bank, has been providing free food and water since February’s historic winter storms. Jack Howland
Donnetta Jackson, 66, was in an SUV that pulled up on Saturday. When volunteers loaded propel water and boxes of groceries like eggs into the vehicle, Jackson said she is doing the same for her church with a pantry.
Events like this, she said, “help us help someone else.”
“We have a lot of homeless people here,” she said. “If I pick it up, I’ll even give it to them.”
Fewer people took advantage of the free checkups on Saturday as Lena and Tres were the only two patients in the HSC eye exam around noon. At another ward, also operated by HSC, doctors were willing to measure the height, weight, and body mass index or BMI of children to see if they were at risk for disease-related diseases Obesity like diabetes exists. Nobody had come to this station at the time either.
Clark said the HSC’s North Texas Eye Research Institute has so far examined the eyes of 12,000 children for free. They have come to community events and visited schools in Fort Worth to do eye exams.
“These refractometers were bought through community donations,” he said of the six machines, which cost $ 6,000 each. “The community gave our program excellent support.”
Rev. Melvin Wilson Jr. said he was affected by the Star-Telegram 76104 series and prompted a group of pastors, including himself, to form the 76104 team. They meet weekly on Thursdays to brainstorm ideas on how the community can thrive.
The articles are “a call to action” to unite different groups working towards a common goal. That happened on Saturday, he said.
“I think it has been shown that we all have these resources … but not all in a concerted effort,” said the AME pastor. “So when we do something, we make sure we address it.”
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Jack Howland is a news and corporate reporter. Before joining Star Telegram in May 2019, he spent two and a half years as a breaking news reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal in New York. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.