By Jacqueline Hanoman
It is 3:06 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, and as I stand in the parking lot at our center, I look around at the open-air health fair taking place with a smile. So many people participating! There are Healthy Lifestyle Center and Open Door Health Services booths everywhere, with smiling nurses, community health workers, a doctor, medical students, and nutritionists spending time with our community friends; giving out flu shots and COVID vaccines, sharing health resources, preparing delicious healthy food, doing chair yoga, blood pressure checks and giving out blood pressure monitors, weight scales, and so much more. Community friends lined up for our weekly community market that starts at 4:00 p.m. have come out of their cars to walk around, see what is being offered, and participate. I see them asking questions, in some cases with a little nervousness, but their questions are answered with a smile. It is good to see this.
Forty-five minutes later, we begin our weekly community market. Our community friends walk down our large display of dry goods, breads, sweets, meats, fruit, vegetables, and other goods, choosing what they want, several kindly declining to take what they don’t need saying, “no, keep it for someone who needs it.” This expression of generosity from persons who are facing the challenges of varying levels of food instability in these trying times touches me. I feel humbled by their sensibility. As they come to choose the fruit and vegetables that they want, they then turn to Toni at the YMCA bus that comes every Friday with a small busload of prepacked healthy meals to give away to families, to supplement what they have chosen at our market and what they may (or may not) have at home. Together, we ensure that families make it through the next few days.
It is noon on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, and I stand in our gym looking around with a smile at the Kinship Appreciation event that the Department of Child Services is hosting at our center. There are so many different service providers at tables all around the gym, sharing resources with the kinship families, chatting with them, and lending them a helping hand. I see the love and grace in the faces of the foster and kinship parents towards the kids they are taking care of. They are here for them to give them more opportunities and resources to grow and thrive. I see the kindness on the faces of the diverse service providers. They are here because they are dedicated to supporting these families. Together, they continue to create a strong web of support for these kinship families. As the Executive Director of our center, I am honored that we are able to support them in creating this wonderful space of connectivity.
As the Ross Community Center grows as an organization, the power of connectivity is becoming one of our strengths and points of pride. We not only believe in connecting people; we thrive on it. We are stronger because we can bring people together to build community. It is part of our mission, after all! We build community by providing and promoting programs, services, and activities to advance education, health, and wellness in our diverse community. What we have been doing these last two days is promoting the services of others, as well as our own, connecting people in dynamic and mutually beneficial ways.
Today, I am a very happy leader of my organization. We are fulfilling our mission. And this is what making a meaningful difference is about.
Featured Image: Jacqueline Hanoman