Matthews-based program has been boon for local nonprofits, individuals in need
During the course of three months, the Community Health Alliance partnered with the local community to collect nearly 4,000 pounds of food to benefit area residents in need.
Presbyterian Hospital Matthews founded the Community Health Alliance seven years ago. Looking back, the alliance has come a long way in serving the Matthews and surrounding communities through programs like the food drives.
Roland Bibeau, president of Presbyterian Hospital Matthews, said the alliance is dear to his heart.
“When Mark Billings was the leader of (the hospital), a decision was made with local community leaders and administrators of Presbyterian healthcare that we needed to better connect with the community and listen to the community about what it needs with healthcare and other challenges,” he said. “He brought together a vision of connecting the dots between what we think the community needs, not just with healthcare, but also social needs, with what the community says they need.”
Bibeau said the alliance is led by a volunteer board including mayors and former mayors, local business and community leaders, physicians, bankers and administrators.
“It’s a very good cross section of individuals who live in Mint Hill, Matthews and the surrounding communities,” he said. “We’re a blue collar committee — we roll up our sleeves and understand the needs in our community and try to help.”
For Bibeau, the journey to assemble individual communities into a more cohesive, healthy whole has been a collective volunteer effort.
“We want to meet to continue dialogue around our current health needs and other needs of the community,” he said. “We work very closely with social agencies within the community like the (Matthews) free clinic and churches in our area.”
Bibeau said the alliance has given back to the community in a variety of ways, and not just monetarily.
“In our (Matthews) free clinic, many of the families that were served were uninsured or underinsured and were wondering where their next meal was coming from,” he said. “So we wanted to develop a program to solve this problem.”
The alliance recently structured a monthly food drive that encouraged everyone in the organization to produce food boxes for those in need. Each food box could feed a family for nearly a week, he said.
“The first month, Matthews Presbyterian delivered over 900 pounds of food,” he said. “The mayor of Matthews said they could do better and they delivered over 1,100 pounds of food. Then representatives from Elevation Church brought 1,500 pounds of food. That’s a clear example of the community hearing a need within the community and taking the initiative to address that need.”
Bibeau said the alliance next partnered with the Matthews HELP Center and the Matthews Free Medical Clinic to offer food boxes to those in need. The HELP Center offers financial assistance with rent, utility bills, and more. The nonprofit also offers a food pantry.
“Now we continue our food drive with the Health Alliance but also deliver to the HELP Center which also serves the (clients of the) free clinic,” he said.
The food drive also reached Presbyterian Healthcare’s community cruiser, what Bibeau calls a “pediatric clinic on wheels.”
“The cruiser spends almost 20 days a month going to local churches and activity centers to be a clinic for the day for those less fortunate,” he said. “Some of these children and families don’t even have the basic necessities of life. They needed toothpaste, toothbrushes, brushes, undershirts and underwear.”
Bibeau said a partnership with a local dentist resulted in Colgate donating more than 200 dental kits, including toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss, to package with other items delivered by the cruiser along with food boxes.
“It’s about strengthening safety nets for the community and offering support for what local churches do in serving the community,” Bibeau said. “We need the HELP Center, free clinic and other programs in the community, so the alliance tries to connect the dots and help where we can.”
While much of the alliance’s work is volunteer-based, Bibeau said it does help the community monetarily as well, such as the recent partnership with Matthews-based Elevation Church which provided an $80,000 grant to the Matthews Free Medical Clinic. The grant will be used to find an expanded location for the clinic, which needs more room to treat the rising number of uninsured residents.
“A lot of it is sweat equity from volunteers,” he said. “But it’s also in donations and financial backing.”
Volunteers are the driving force behind the alliance, according to Bibeau.
“We always expect volunteers to share the passion to improve the community they live in and identify the challenges within the community that the alliance might not know about.”
Bibeau said the Community Health Alliance also partners with the Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation to enhance the connectivity of organizations like the HELP Center, free clinic and the nonprofit Levine Senior Center.
“We want to continue to envelop churches in our community so that as we bring everyone together, we make a stronger difference than we would individually,” he said. “There’s a lot of pain in the world and we believe if we can reach out and partner with local churches and other programs, we can make a difference,” Bibeau said. “You can only change one step at a time.”
The Community Health Alliance meets every other month, on the third Thursday in the Presbyterian Hospital board room from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The next meeting will be in September.
Want to know more?
For more information about the alliance, including ways you can help, call 704-384-6391.