The Mt. Sinai Orlando Church has been on the forefront of community services and outreach ministries in the Orlando, Fla., area for several decades. Thousands of lives have been touched as well as transformed through the Mt. Sinai food distribution program, community garden, home ownership workshops, and health screenings and information and referral services over the years.
Mt. Sinai Orlando is located in the 32805 zip code, a high health risk zip code near the downtown area. According to the most recent central Florida Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA, 2019) conducted by local hospitals in collaboration with behavioral health agencies, federal qualified health centers, and the Florida Department of Health, the top health priorities for Orange County and especially high risk zip codes such as the 32805 zip code are the following: healthy equity, access to care, behavioral health, health weight, nutrition, and physical activities.
The metro area population of Orlando, according to macrotrends.net, is 1.9 million people. Orlando serves as the county seat for Orange County. At the time of the writing of this article, the total number of COVID-19 cases were almost 129,366, and the total deaths for the county were 1,214. COVID-19 has not stopped outreach ministry at the church, but rather catapulted it to another critical level of need due to already existing inequities among vulnerable communities in our church zip code of 32805. More specifically, food and housing insecurities, unemployment, and access to care were further exacerbated due to the impact of the pandemic. What was the answer to this crisis in the community?
Building Bridges: For more than a year, the church community services ministries have prayerfully strengthened existing partnerships. Wendy Roman, community outreach manager for Humana, one of Mount Sinai’s major partners states, “We lead with community service first …. In the last couple of years, I’ve seen the difference we can make by helping community organizations locally.”
New partnerships and volunteers were welcomed and essential to expanding the reach, and increasing the capacity for transformative solutions to social determinants of health and economic instability during the pandemic crisis. “We serve as a safety net for our community members that find themselves underinsured and uninsured,” stated Bakari Burns, president and CEO of Orange Blossom Family Health Centers, who provided COVID-19 testing and vaccine appointments during the outreach events.
Mt. Sinai’s goal is to address the whole person by making life sustaining services and information available to populations where they live, work, play, and pray. “Our ministry motto is that we serve in Christ’s name; therefore, whatever we offer must enhance health and wellness for mind, body, and spirit,” states Derrick Moffett, D.Min., senior pastor at Mt. Sinai Church in Orlando.
During the pandemic, the community services ministries offers free, socially distanced services, directly and collaboratively with partners. These services include, but are not limited to, coordinating food deliveries to homebound residents; providing drive-up food distributions; administering COVID-19 test and vaccine, flu vaccine, and HIV test; distributing facial masks and sanitizer; and hosting large health and resource events with partners in the community. This “Building Bridges” approach has the potential to make a significant collective impact.
Southeastern | July 2021