Once a month, a medical van rolls into the Holy Name Church parking lot near the corner of 3rd Street and Central Avenue, and sets up shop outside Catholic Charities’ Father Jack Jones Food Pantry.
“It’s the food pantry that gets people here, and then we stand outside and offer medical help,” said Cindy Wyatt, co-director of the mobile medical unit. “We’re starting to see a few more people that come to the food pantry. Sometimes it takes a while for people to get comfortable enough to see us.”
The medical services are offered by a partnership between Middletown United Methodist Church’s Mobile Medical Ministry and the Family Community Clinic, a nonprofit based at St. Joseph Church in Butchertown that provides free primary healthcare services for the uninsured.
During the mobile unit’s June visit, one man had his blood pressure checked — it was a little high, the nurse told him — and asked about dental services. He’s a food pantry regular, said Deacon Andy Heinsohn, who coordinates the pantry located at 2914 S. 3rd St.
“He was scared the first time, so I went and sat with him,” Deacon Heinsohn said. “He had high blood pressure so they got him on medication.”
The mobile unit depends on volunteer medical staff — primarily nurses and doctors — to help uninsured people with things like blood pressure checks, glucose screenings, flu vaccines and some medications.
“Sometimes if people can’t get their medications filled we can give them enough to get through,” Wyatt said. “Things like inhalers and blood pressure medications until they can afford it.”
Wyatt said the volunteers refer patients to the Family Community Clinic for more comprehensive care and provide bus passes to those who need transportation.
“There are a lot of resources out there that people don’t know about,” Wyatt said. “And we feel like there’s more we can do, we just need the people.”
Last winter, Wyatt reached out to Catholic Charities to offer the medical unit’s services and recruit more volunteers. Four months ago, the Mobile Medical Ministry began partnering with the Father Jack Jones Food Pantry on the second Wednesday of the month.
Catholic Charities is hoping to expand the partnership to include a monthly stop at Sister Visitor Center in West Louisville, but Wyatt said more volunteers are needed first.
“We need nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, those who can prescribe and treat things,” Wyatt said. “It’s four hours a month and it’s in your own backyard.”
Wyatt, whose background is in healthcare administration, and co-director Roni Evans, a registered nurse, said they have three dedicated nurses and one doctor currently volunteering. Volunteers are covered by the Family Community Clinic’s liability insurance. Right now, the mobile unit provides services at two locations each month. In addition to the Father Jack Jones Food Pantry, they also visit the 4th Avenue United Methodist Church Open Door Ministries on the fourth Thursday of each month.
“There’s a whole lot of need, these are some of the most needy people in our community,” Evans said. “We love what we do and hope we can do more. You go home and just feel like you’re doing the Lord’s work.”
Wyatt, a member of Middletown United Methodist Church, enjoys the ecumenical aspect of the work.
“We have people from all denominations, not just our own church,” she said. “We just support each other.”
Evans, also a member of Middletown United Methodist, said someone once asked her if volunteering around town on the medical unit was scary.
“If people could come and see, it’s not threatening,” she said. “It’s not a scary thing at all. We check blood pressure, glucose, it’s very safe.
“A lot of times what these people are missing is human touch,” she said. “I think we help them feel cared for.”
Even if folks can’t volunteer, Evans hopes they will keep the Mobile Medical Ministry in their prayers.
“If you can’t help physically, please keep us in your prayers,” she said. “This is a mission and we can’t do it without help and prayers.”