Joyful Ministry on A Drizzly Day: Great Outdoor Health Fair Scores Success; Promises Annual Return

The goal was to minister to residents of the Third Ward who have suffered the crushing effects of COVID-19 with job loss, family disruption, financial hardship, illness and even death. And the Great Outdoor Health Fair, a COVID-safe event with masks and social distancing, did exactly that.

Despite the cloudy weather and the intermittent drizzles, Third Ward residents and beyond arrived at the St. James’ campus and received Moderna vaccines, food and water services, health literature, travel size toiletries, clothing and other items.

The event came together thanks to the collaboration among various Episcopal churches—St. John the Divine, St. Martin’s and St.  James’, Houston, as well as corporate sponsors like H.E.B., Walgreen’s Pharmacy, Houston Methodist Hospital, the University of Houston, and many more. 

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has made a commitment to support ministry in the Third Ward, a nationally known historically African American neighborhood, hard-hit by the effects of COVID-19 (and incidentally, the childhood home of George Floyd).

The Rt. Rev. Hector Monterroso, bishop assistant of the Diocese of Texas, took to the mic to bring greetings from the Diocese, and the Rev. Victor Thomas, rector of St. James’ introduced Bishop Monterroso and spoke of the significance of the partnerships among churches and the event itself. They also served as spokespersons to onsite media for the event.

During the fair, St. James’, St. John the Divine, and St. Martin’s announced a budding ministry partnership, and the Great Outdoor Health Fair was the first of what will be many collaborations. St. Martin’s Senior Rector, the Rev. Dr. Russ Levenson, and the Rev. Dr. Greg Buffone, deacon and leader of outreach ministry at St. John the Divine, along with large groups of volunteers from all churches, were on hand to assist and show support.

District D council member, Dr. Carolyn Evans Shabazz also made an appearance. She listened to people’s stories and reminded attendees that Third Ward was her childhood community and that she was born into and grew up at St. Luke the Evangelist Episcopal Church.

Volunteers and representatives came from several Episcopal Churches – St. John the Divine, St. Martin’s, St. James’, All Saints’ and St. Luke the Evangelist; several United Methodist Churches – Trinity East, Trinity, Windsor Village, and Boynton; the Boy Scouts (Troop 212), and Houston Canterbury colleges – Texas Southern University and University of Houston.

Healthcare services at the Fair included: Casa el Buen Samaritano Clinic that provided blood pressure and glucose screenings; Avenue 360 Clinic offered STD and HIV testing; and Change Happens gave colorectal cancer screening kits for early detection.

UT School of Dentistry students volunteered with dental counseling and literature, and UH College of Medicine Healthy Connections provided counseling in a range of family and healthcare services.

St. John the Divine offered information related to medical eligibility for a wide range of services along with an array of other resources provided throughout Harris County.

Cancer care literature was available from St. Luke the Evangelist Episcopal Church, The Rose clinic advertised their affordable mammogram services for the indigent and Gold Card holders, and Angels Surviving Cancer, Inc., was present with support and advocacy for breast cancer survivors and the newly diagnosed. Also on hand were representatives from Humana and United Healthcare, offering educational materials regarding their services.

COVID-19 Moderna vaccines were administered by volunteers from St. James’ nursing professionals and Prairie View A&M University nursing students. The date for the second dose is Saturday, June 19, 2021.


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