MUSCATINE, Iowa–Since 1988, World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 has provided an opportunity for public health officials and other community partners to raise awareness about prevention and testing for HIV and effective treatments that can prevent the disease from progressing further. To highlight HIV testing opportunities in Muscatine County and to connect local residents with other health, wellness, and support services, Muscatine Center for Social Action, in partnership with Scott County Public Health and many other organizations, hosted a wellness fair Dec. 1.
JoJo Green, a social worker who assists with the Muscatine Center for Social Action’s food pantry, explained that the wellness fair, which coincided with the weekly Thursday food pantry, provided a simple way for people in Muscatine County who could benefit from various services to learn about them. “I think it’s awesome our clientele, or population gets connected to resources and I can get their needs met,” she said. Along with accessing the food pantry, Green encouraged wellness fair attendees to take any free hygiene items the needed from the food pantry, enjoy a complimentary hot lunch, and connect with the Scott County Health Department to learn about their free HIV and hepatitis C testing options.
Stuart Scott, a representative from the Scott County Health Department, explained that anyone in Muscatine County may receive free and confidential HIV and hepatitis C testing three times each month; on the second and fourth Fridays of the month at the Jesus Mission at 509 Mulberry Avenue in Muscatine and on the last Tuesday of the month at Muscatine Center for Social Action at 312 Iowa Avenue in Muscatine. Scott welcomed the opportunity to share this information, as well as additional health information and useful giveaways with members of the community. “It’s important to meet people where they’re at, whether that’s Scott County or Muscatine County,” he emphasized. “It’s important to be accessible and out in the community, to be a community stakeholder, and that’s what this is really about.”
In tandem with these efforts, Navi Pauley, director of the food pantry program at the Muscatine Center for Social Action, used the fair and meal to better acquaint people with how the food pantry operates. Currently, the pantry provides bags of foods designed to give people complete meals, as each one contains fruits, vegetables, components for a main course, meats, and bread. For those who cannot come to the food pantry in person easily on Tuesdays or Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon, Pauley highlighted the food delivery program, where participants indicate any special dietary needs they may have, such as requiring foods suitable for people with diabetes, and receive bags of food delivered to their home on a regular schedule at no cost. To help as many people as possible, (the pantry currently serves 200-300 people in person each week, plus another 100 through delivery) the pantry requires no proof of income to use it. “We are a low barrier resource for all our clients and we have no requirements,” Pauley stressed.
In the Muscatine Center for Social Action’s gym, 20 community partners, in addition to the center itself and Scott County Public Health, set up displays and provided additional information and giveaways to people who wanted to learn more about their services. Together, these organizations provided information about available physical and mental healthcare services, employment, and community supports for all ages to meet any needs they might have.