NASHVILLE, Tenn. The Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) is pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s Faith-Based Health Equity Awards:
- Celebration Christian Center for Walk for Jesus Ministries
- Unity Missionary Baptist Church for the Have a Child for a Day Program
- Mt. Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church for its Community Garden
The awards recognize places of worship that promote health equity. They’re part of an ongoing effort to sustain the role of faith-based organizations in community health.
Walk for Jesus Ministries
A simple question, often asked by Christians worldwide, is at the heart of Walk for Jesus Ministries: “What would Jesus do?”
The program, an outreach effort by Celebration Christian Center that began more than 10 years ago, ventures into the community in search of any way it can help. According to the church’s administrator, Brandy Moore, it works with local food banks, schools and various community health initiatives.
“We’re walking based upon Jesus, asking ourselves what he’d do,” Moore explained. “He’d help the sick, the poor. He’d work with youth and impart wisdom to them.”
Walk for Jesus’ efforts include 5K walks, anti-bullying campaigns and healthy food drives for youth. It partners with numerous local resources in order to help communities and families in need.
“That’s what we embody,” Moore said. “We go and help with health initiatives, mind body and spirit.”
Have a Child for a Day
Have a Child for a Day resulted from a need Unity Missionary Baptist Church saw in the community. Young people, they believed, needed mentors.
“Their goal is to help children become respectable, honorable, self-motivated young adults through programs like dance, sports and mentoring,” Community Partners’ Network Administrator and CEO Neely A. Williams, MDiv, explained. “They’ve met with Nashville’s mayor, with Davidson County’s Criminal Court Clerk, and had them out to the program. They’ve also been on a lot of community forums.”
The program dates back more than 22 years, before Unity Missionary Baptist Church was even established. According to Williams, the church began in 2007, and its members were already working for the program. So it just made sense for the church to continue the effort.
“They are just jubilant,” Williams said. “They’ve been doing this so long, past children have grown up and come back to mentor new children.”
Mt. Lebanon Garden Program
Rev. J.J. Green initiated Mt. Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church’s garden program in 2012 as a result of his own love for gardening. “We have 7.9 acres right in the back of the church,” he said. “I thought it’d be nice to have a garden.”
The garden – whose crops include tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, corn, collard greens, eggplants, cucumbers, green beans, sweet potatoes, watermelons and cantaloupe – acts as a source of healthy food for local food banks and a focal point for volunteer efforts in the community. “It varies in terms of who helps … anyone that wants to come volunteer can come,” Rev. Green said. “I had an after-school program … United Healthcare came one year and put some time out there. I try to get anyone that’s interested in gardening.”
Every fresh vegetable harvested, Green noted, was free as part of the church’s mission to help the community.
“I said, ‘Well, you’ve got to eat, and you need to eat fresh vegetables,’” he said. “When they come from the garden, that’s the best vegetables you can get.”
The ultimate goal
Health equity’s ultimate goal is the elimination of health disparities, which can only be achieved when every person has the opportunity to reach their highest level of health. Each organization received the award to assist with funding to assist with funding of their respective programs, and further that mission.
When no one lacks from achieving their potential because of socially determined circumstances, then the United States will achieve true health equity.
About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance
Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.