By Dennis J. Freeman
WATTS — Hundreds of people got up out of their beds early Oct. 6 to wait in line at the Ted Watkins Park Fieldhouse just to get a wristband. It was not a wristband to attend a local concert or anything related to entertainment value.
No, this was a methodical and systematic approach that Care Harbor, which puts on free health clinics across the nation, decided to do to make things run smoother when those same individuals come and seek medical, vision and dental assistance Oct. 13-15 at The Reef.
Thousands of individuals are expected to make their way to 1933 S. Broadway to have their eyes examined, get blood pressure and blood sugar checks and see about their dental needs.
Those waiting in line for wristbands weren’t from one specific demographic or ethnic group. Professionals whose jobs don’t cover health and dental insurance were in line as well as students and homemakers.
Coming out a week ahead of time to have the wristbands placed on them was just a mild inconvenience for their greater medical and dental needs.
Ursula Marie Porche loves the services that Care Harbor is able to provide.
By offering free medical, dental and vision clinics, Porche said Care Harbor has given her the opportunity to take care of her health better. For the past five years, Porche has taken part in Care Harbor’s free medical clinics. In the past, she has had dental work.
This year, she is attending the clinic to have her vision taken care of.
“This is important to the community because most of us can’t afford vision, dental [care],” Porche said. “I wouldn’t be able to smile if it wasn’t for Care Harbor because these teeth in my mouth, they put them in there.
“Now I need new glasses, and my insurance won’t cover it. I have to change glasses every year because of the stigmatism and the medications that I take. I need new glasses.”
This will be Starla Hampton’s third year trying to get services. Like Porche, Hampton is looking to have her vision needs met. Care Harbor has been a great tool in assisting people get their lives together through the medical, vision and dental services they offer, she said.
“I believe that it is important to help the community and low-income families because sometimes they cannot afford health care at this moment,” Hampton said. “Simple things like glasses and dental care are free in other parts of the world. America is one of the highest places to pay for insurance rates, so we really need programs like this.”
Donald Manelli, the founder and CEO of Care Harbor, said the wristbands serves their purpose in making sure the clinic runs without chaos and confusion.
“What we’re doing today is passing out wristbands and this allows admission into the clinic,” Manelli said. “We do that so that we don’t have people camping out overnight trying to get in. Once they get a wristband, they know that they can pick a day they want to come. We can also give them a little material to prepare on what to bring or for them to have the right materials with them when they come to the clinic, and it let’s us know how many dental patients are coming, how many vision patients are coming, so that we’re prepared on our end to make sure we’re giving out the right services.”