Scheduled maintenance

When funds for childhood vaccinations ran low, Kansas Kiwanians filled the gap.

By Lydia Johnson

During a worldwide pandemic, routine healthcare can become, well, less routine. But maintaining a child’s regular vaccination schedule remains as critical as ever. So when members of the Emporia, Kansas, Kiwanis Club learned that a health center faced a challenge reaching kids who needed help the most, they jumped in to secure healthy futures.

The Flint Hills Community Health Center in Emporia serves the small town of 24,598 and its neighboring counties. But when stay-at-home orders went into effect, standard operations took a hit.

“The impact in patient productivity forced a furlough of staff to help offset the financial impact of our organization,” says Flint Hills Community Health Center CEO Renee Hively.

At the same time, the center needed to lead the community’s public health response to combat the novel coronavirus. Stretched thin financially, the center had no funding for its immunization program for children from low-income families. That meant 30 children had to be placed on a waitlist to receive crucial vaccinations.

“Providing vaccines for the underinsured and underserved is essential to keeping our community and our children safe from vaccine-preventable illnesses like measles, mumps and rubella, hepatitis A and B, along with pertussis and many more preventable diseases,” says Hively.

Emporia Kiwanis Club President Michael Perigo heard of the need and encouraged Hively to request funding. Club members then voted unanimously to support the program.

“We felt like this was a great opportunity for our club to do something that would really make a difference,” Perigo says, “especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The club donated US$607.50 to cover the administrative cost of vaccinations for the waitlisted children. Funding came from the club’s 2019 Pancake Day event, an annual fundraiser that provides money for charitable donations.

“The smiles on the faces of the families that received this benefit speak a thousand words,” Hively recalls. 

While this donation is a first, club members welcome the opportunity to support the health center’s future child-related initiatives. All Kiwanians, Perigo stresses, have a responsibility to seek ways to fill community gaps.

“Service is not a passive word,” he says. “As a service club, we should have local needs on our radar. Look for unmet needs.”

This story originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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