Church offers free drive through health fair with flu shots, lab tests, blood pressure monitoring and more
By Lindsay Peyton En Español
Imagine a pit stop at NASCAR, where a crew stands ready to refuel, change tires and repair racing cars. Now, instead of race car experts, picture nurses with clipboards, prepared to give free flu vaccines and process lab work, with patients in the safety of their cars. That’s the vision that transformed the Mt. Pleasant Community Health Fair this year. The event, held Oct. 10, was hosted by Tennison Memorial UMC and Titus Regional Medical Center.
Tennison’s Pastor, Rev. Mike Cline explained that the fair has been a fixture in the community for the past 15 years. He has served the church for nine years, and health is one of his top priorities personally. He works out every day, rides his bike, hikes and takes youth groups from church on backpacking excursions into the mountains each summer.
Having access to medical care, however, can be difficult in Mt. Pleasant, a town in northeast Texas with a population of about 15,500. Economic recessions have challenged working families in the past – and the situation was compounded by COVID-19.
“The need here is high,” Cline said. “We’ve had anywhere from 500 people to 1,000 people attend the health fair in the past.”
Usually, in October for the event, the church’s activity center is full of families, getting free vision and hearing tests, blood work, vaccines and even mammograms. “It’s really helped people who can’t have this type of care normally,” Cline said.
This year, Cline worried how the health fair would continue – and if so, in what form. In August, he sent a text to an organizer at the hospital, asking what the plan was. Immediately, he got a response, “Honestly, I have no idea.”
“It started from there,” Cline said.
He began brainstorming with staff at the church and organizers at the hospital. The solution became evident – a drive-through health fair.
The event was held outside of the Tennison Activity Center. Vehicles lined up at a distance, and police officers guided traffic. Clipboards were handed to passengers in the car, who marked which services they wanted.
“Then the nurses jumped in and took care of it,” Cline said.
All services were offered free of charge. There were lab tests and health checks that included blood pressure and sugar, as well as flu shots.
Students from Northeast Texas Community College Allied Health’s nursing school volunteered to help during the event. Translators were provided for Spanish speaking participants. Cline estimated that about 250 people attended.
“If ever there were a year for a health fair, this would be the one,” he said.
Providing flu vaccines was a top priority for the church. In addition, ensuring optimal health is a way to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. Cline said each year, people attend the health fair and discover medical concerns that need attention.
Tennison Memorial UMC has a heart for outreach, the pastor added. They join with other churches each year to offer reading programs at local elementary students. Last year, the congregation went a step further and adopted a fourth-grade class to tutor.
Every summer, Tennison feed thousands of children and their families, when the school lunch program concludes. Throughout the year, the church also constructs wheelchair ramps for disabled members of the community.
Now, members of the congregation are concentrating on distributing food to families in need. Last month, they hosted a food drop with 800 boxes. “So many people came that we ran out,” Cline said. “So for our next food drop, we’re ordering 1,700 boxes. It’s also a drive-through.” Through its outreach ministries, the pastor explained, the church is making a positive difference in the lives of so many in the community.
“It gives us an opportunity to show we care about them and give them encouragement and hope,” Cline said. “Taking care of people, helping them and lifting them up, that’s a very Biblical thing. That’s what we should be doing as a church.”