More than 1,500 people gathered at the North Florida Fairgrounds on Sunday, April 10th for the second annual Southside Community Health Fair, sponsored by the Tallahassee Maranatha SDA Church. This year, professional football player Ernie Sims and his Big HITS Foundation, which stands for "Helping to Instill Tools for Success," joined Maranatha as a co-sponsor.
A major contributor to the fair was the Florida A&M Univeristy (FAMU) chapter of Health and Educational Relief for Guyana (HERG), a volunteer organization that provides local and international service opportunities for students of all majors. The fair was comprised of more than 70 vendors that provided a plethora of free services and goodies from noon to 5 p.m. for the medically and financially disenfranchised. However, this year’s focus was especially on seniors, youth, and children.
"This community health fair is a direct result of the outreach and in-reach pillar ministries of our church," said Willie L. Taylor, pastor of the Maranatha. The collaboration required to successfully plan and implement such a huge fair was born from the Joint Leadership Initiative, which was developed and promoted by Taylor. "Joint Leadership is a means to empower the church ministries to support each other and to serve the community in a big way," Taylor added.
A variety of critical health screenings were offered throughout the day at the fair, including HIV, diabetes, cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, vision, and dental screenings. The Leon County Mobile Health Unit, managed by Kathy Lewis was also on site.
"I expected to have a full and fruitful day with everything we offered and the Lord did not disappoint," said James L. James, head fair coordinator and Out-reach Pillar Ministry leader. "We must have touched more than 1,500 souls today."
Other activities included free food and clothing distributions, as well as a complete vegetarian meal served during the event. Children and youth enjoyed the rock climbing wall provided by the US Army. But, most of their time was spent in the Moon Walk and the Bounce House.
"Southside youth are more at risk, so we are trying to give them an alternative," said James. "We want them to know we are here for them."
"People were impressed that we had quality music and that it was indeed a real health fair," said Natalia Word, project manager and assistant coordinator of the fair.