When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, Texans were limited in how they could serve their communities — but still found ways to help.
Jordan West, the Faith in Action coordinator at Baylor Scott & White, said those residents were innovative in connecting people to resources.
“Obviously, lots of faith communities shut down and were limited in what we were allowed to do,” West said. “That being said our faith and community health volunteers still wanted a way to serve the community.”
West highlighted how hand sanitizer distributions at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the many ways people stayed engaged with their communities.
“Our department was actually gifted hand sanitizer by a local company, and through these donations, we were able to get them to local communities,” he said. “So even during a time where we were limited in what we were able to do, we were still able to provide a great service to the community.”
West shared his department’s story during the Community Health Summit on Wednesday — a four-hour event that placed an emphasis on how people can improve the overall health of their communities.
Although the Community Health Summit typically focuses on addressing an array of social determinants in health care, Baylor Scott & White spokesman Deke Jones said a different approach was taken in light of COVID-19.
“COVID-19 has impacted our families, disrupted the way we live, work, and do business,” Jones told the Telegram. “2020 was a challenging year for many … but with every challenge there is an opportunity for change and to improve. This summit (examined) how the global pandemic has inspired creativity and innovation to solve challenges brought on by the crisis.”
The educational event, which was held in a virtual format, involved collaboration from a variety of regional entities: Baylor Scott & White Health, Advent Health Central Texas, Central Counties Services, Bell County, the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Endeavors, the Central Texas Council of Governments, the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, and the Temple Chamber of Commerce.
This year, Dr. Michael K. Hole, the founder of StreedCred, was a keynote speaker. His national organization works to help low-income families file their taxes as they wait in hospitals or clinics — a need that was exacerbated by COVID-19.
“When a family struggles financially, it prevents access to quality child care, healthy food and stable housing, which ultimately leads to long-term negative outcomes,” he said. “That’s why it’s vital for low-income families to take advantage of opportunities that help them build wealth, like the earned income tax credits. But people run into lots of barriers, like difficulty with transportation or not even knowing they’re eligible.”
Hole, who also serves as an instructor at the University of Texas at Austin, said approximately $8.5 million has been returned to nearly 3,900 families through his program. He was grateful for the opportunity to share his mission to help others, and hopes more will strive for ways to positively impact those in need.
“It’s always a welcomed opportunity to be among people who are like-minded in the sense that we’re on these missions to improve the health of folks who need our help,” Hole said during his presentation. “If you go and meet with the folks who are actually facing the problems that you want to solve — and ask them questions about what is they really need — then the solutions become actually really easy in terms of what you need to build. So I would urge people to do that.”