Fellowship with the homeless: Ecumenical event provides resources for people in need


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Octavia Evans gave the thumbs up signal as Genesis nurse Jeanine Lees clipped the homeless mom’s toe nails during a foot clinic at The Center. Evans heard about the foot clinic from a staff member at the Family Service Center, the Salvation Army shelter where she is staying temporarily.

Barb Arland-Fye
Octavia Evans enjoys a bit of pampering from Genesis nurse Jeanine Lees during a foot clinic at The Center in Davenport May 16. The foot clinic comprised one component of a “Swing into Summer” event intended to offer fellowship, a meal and resources for people in need. It was a collaborative effort among faith groups, health care providers and social service agencies.

The foot clinic comprised one component of a “Swing into Summer” event held May 16 at The Center, a group of ministries seeking Christ-centered actions to alleviate the pain of the oppressed and marginalized.

“Obviously, people living on the street need foot care. They’re on their feet,” said Dr. Rebecca Wiese, a Genesis hospitalist who has served the homeless population for years. Her parish, Grace Lutheran in Davenport, hosted a Christmas get-together for the homeless and wanted to do additional outreach in the springtime. Dr. Wiese had the idea for an event, which her parish eagerly developed.


Through a variety of networks, the event blossomed into a collaborative effort of Quad-City health care systems (Genesis, Trinity and Community Health Care), Christian denominations and social service providers. In addition to the foot clinic, participants could have their blood pressure checked and shop in a room that served as a free store. Merchandise included sun block, sun glasses, caps, hand-made sleep sacks, socks, toiletries and other items. The event concluded with a boxed lunch.

“We want to be in fellowship with this community,” Dr. Wiese said. “We want to spend time with this community. These people are good folks,” added the doctor, whose work with the homeless included 17 years during which she was medical director at Community Health Care Inc. in Davenport.

Bob Davis, outreach manager for Community Health Care, had a table at The Center with informational brochures. “We provide six months of free health care (to homeless individuals). They can come in without an appointment. It’s first-come, first-serve.” After the initial six months, patients can continue to receive medical and dental care on a sliding fee scale, based on income.

Jennifer Hildebrand of Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire volunteered at the event to do blood pressure checks. She works as Faith Community Nurse and coordinator of Health Ministry for Genesis VNA. She also solicited her employer and others for donations of towels, socks and other necessities for the homeless. “I’m good at asking people for things,” she said with a smile.

Michael Gayman works in homeless outreach at The Center and runs a Catholic Worker house in Davenport. He appreciated the event organizers’ efforts because “They understand it’s about sticking around for relationships.”

“They take the words of Jesus Christ seriously,” added Penny Kellenberger, The Center’s director.

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