Filling a need

Black health professionals’ organization makes donation to Kearny Center

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Not quite sure which of the many resource agencies for the homeless in Tallahassee that the National Association of Health Services Executives should help in coping with the coronavirus pandemic, two FAMU professors were called to help.

Marisa A. Lewis, an associate professor in the division of healthcare management, and Robbya Green-Weir, an assistant professor and undergraduate program coordinator, came up with the Kearny Center.

Their effort came to fruition last Friday when Grant McGaugh, the immediate past president of NAHSE Florida, showed up with a donation. He brought about 600 masks and enough food to feed about 400 people.

The donation is part of a campaign that NAHSE is calling “Mind, body and soul.” It made stops in South and Central Florida before coming to Tallahassee.

“With the Kearny Center and the pivotal role they play in our society by helping the homeless and those that are under-served,” said Lewis, “we knew this would be a significant impact.”

Members of the Kearny Center staff accept a donation of food and masks last Friday from the National Association of Health Services Executives.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

“We are here not just talking about it…”

–Grant McGaugh

Lewis is also an at-large board member of NAHSE Florida.

In addition to feeding the homeless during the pandemic, the Kearny Center also provides dental and healthcare for its tenants.  The mask that NAHSE donated will go a long way in keeping their clients safe, said Bret Oglesby, director of Kearny Center.

 “We have enormous appreciation for that (donation) because the way we are able to do what we do is with the support of the community; whether it’s through grants or the kinds of donations that we received today,” Oglesby said.

NAHSE is a 50-year-old organization of Black healthcare leaders. It has had ties to Florida for the past 25 years in its effort to promote Black healthcare leaders and their contributions to helping to elevate the quality of healthcare service for minority and underserved communities.

“We are here to help with the accessibility of healthcare for our community, as well as affordability of access to care which is essential,” said McGaugh, after making the presentation at a press conference in front the Kearny Center. “We brought them things that can help them through this challenging time that we are in right now.”

Since the onset of COVID-19 in the spring, the Kearny Center has been forced to house its tenants in hotels and other housing. It has also continued to provide meals for the homeless daily.

Homeless shelters throughout the state are facing some issues similar to those experienced by the Kearny Center during the pandemic.  NAHSE wants to reach as many homeless people as possible, said McGaugh.

“We are here not just talking about it; we are doing something about it,” he said. “We are not just sitting on different virtual platform and talking about these issues. We have to be actionable and that’s why we are doing this today. We are here to help with the accessibility of healthcare for our community, as well as affordability of access to care which is essential.”

The Kearny Center relies on city government for some funding of its services. Having support from NAHSE is an ideal supplement, said City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, who represented the city at the brief press conference.

“This is a very important partnership because not only are we addressing the housing and nutritious needs of the homeless, but we are also addressing their healthcare needs as well,” Richardson said. “This virus has taken over. We need to make sure they have the equipment to keep themselves healthy because if we don’t do that then the disease continues to spread.”