HPS Partners Spotlight: The Farmington Valley Chapter of The Links
The threat of rain didn’t stop an estimated 800 attendees from participating in the 6th annual Health and Wellness Fair on October 1st at Simpson Waverly School. They came out to participate in medical tests and health screenings, receive critical information and even spa treatments from the over 60 health care and service providers present that day. In addition to the booths set up all around the first floor of Simpson-Waverly, there were also three mobile heath vans on site: one from the cancer unit at Hartford Hospital providing digital mammograms for women over 40, one conducting dental screening and education for children ages 0-12 (which also gave away a free backpack with each screening!), and one operated by the City of Hartford that provided confidential STD testing and prevention education.
The fair is sponsored by The Farmington Valley Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, an international women’s service organization. The founder of the event, Mrs. Geneva Williams launched an early version of the fair when she was a 7th and 8th grade teacher at Simpson-Waverly several years ago. She saw that a lot of students were coming in late and were tired, with low self-esteem and nutrition problems. She began a Ladies at Lunch group to keep down fighting and promote positive behaviors. Soon a boys group was launched to address similar issues. As the energy grew, Ms. Williams quickly brought in her Links sisters to help support and expand the work. With growing success, the health education programs were also extended to adults as a way to promote parental involvement and build the school’s PTO – with health topics specifically targeting women, and later men. These stand-alone programs eventually morphed into a health care fair which boasted 10 providers in the first year.
Ms. Williams speaks powerfully about the importance of health factors on good attendance, self-esteem and success in school and life, noting that the services at the fair do not require insurance and bring much needed information in a fun and welcoming format to our Hartford Public School students and families. The power of the event is clear as she remembers a woman who was recently referred to lifesaving treatment through early detection on the digital mammography van. Ms. Williams summed up the history of this powerful community event run completely on volunteer power by saying that she and her Links Sisters and like-minded Waverly staff “…saw a need and are trying to make a difference.” Hartford Public Schools is deeply grateful for the passion and commitment of this army of volunteers who understand that health is a crucial component of being present and ready to learn and succeed – in school and life.
For more information, visit http://farmingtonvalleylinks.org/index.htm
The HPS Partners Spotlight is written by:
Sandra J. Ward, MA, MSW
Director of Community Partnerships
Office of Communications, Partnerships & Policy
Hartford Public Schools