Partnership seeks new ‘Friends’

Published 8:49 pm Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In an event that was part celebration and part pep rally, members and friends of the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community gathered recently to consider the organization’s successes and press for a new era of community involvement.

On the heels of an assessment designed to give a snapshot of the health and healthcare of Suffolk, the organization met last week to review the success of some of its initiatives and to encourage community leaders to join the effort toward a healthier community.

“We want to engage as many citizens as possible and to share their assets,” President Caroline Martin told those attending the luncheon meeting at Suffolk Christian Church last week, encouraging them to get involved with the organization’s work. “We’ll know we’ve been a success when those we serve become part of the shared provider network.”

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That network provides the city and its residents with significant benefits, said Bobbie Chapman, who served as the Partnership’s interim executive director until days before the meeting, when the organization’s first paid administrative officer began working.

Noting the success of the Partnership’s flagship project, the Western Tidewater Free Clinic — which has since become a separately functioning nonprofit agency under its own board of directors — Chapman pointed out that for every dollar spent at the clinic, between seven and 11 dollars in service are provided to uninsured people from Western Tidewater.

Other successful projects highlighted during the presentation included the Community Gardens project, which raised nearly 1,600 pounds of vegetables for church food pantries, the Salvation Army and other nonprofit organizations last year; Suffolk on the Move, whose goal is to “broaden the definition of active lifestyle” and get city residents to improve their health through daily activity, even if it’s not traditional exercise; and the recent community-wide health assessment, which helped members to identify some of the organization’s future priorities.

One new project also got some publicity during the meeting. The Friends of the Partnership program seeks to engage community members as agents of change for a healthier city, Chapman explained.

Friends will help “expand the reach and impact of the partnership’s initiatives,” she said. With membership expected from all of Suffolk’s boroughs, the Friends also will empower the city’s various neighborhoods to address their own health and wellness issues at a hyper-local level.

Those attending were asked to commit to become Friends and to spread the word about the opportunity. For more information about the organization or to learn how to join, call 238-3261 or visit