2017-01-12 / Front Page

Church offers MLK day help

By Anthony Aloisio
Staff Writer

SACO – First Parish Congregational Church in Saco will offer health screening and personal care services Monday, Jan. 16, in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. day. The church, located at 12 Beach St., has used the holiday as an occasion to do service projects for impoverished members of the community for eight years.

“Martin Luther King has a legacy of service, and it’s a day of giving back to our community, and helping people who are unfortunate,” said Kris Galasyn, director of Christian education at the church. “It’s pretty much based on one of his quotes, ‘Life’s most urgent question is, what are you doing for others?’”

Services offered by the church always include breakfast and lunch, Galasyn said. In addition, it tries each year to offer a variety of health services and personal care, such as haircuts and foot care.

“We usually get visiting nurses to come and do foot care. This is a big thing for a lot of our clients because they do a lot of walking,” Galasyn said.

The foot care is provided by local nurses, Galasyn said, but she wasn’t sure who would do it this year since it was often a different nurse each year.

The church will also provide simple hair cuts. Galasyn said that having a haircut “lifts spirits” for people who often can’t afford them because they’re expensive.

“That’s a huge thing,” she said. “A number of them have come back year after year. A couple have come here all nine years.”

Galasyn added that, for some of the clients, that hair cut is the only one they get in the year.

Also offered on the holiday will be personal care items and underwear.

“I had one woman that told me one year that she used to have only one pair of underwear, and now she has two,” Galasyn said. “I mean, that’s pretty bad.” The church opens its facilities for showers and laundry as well.

“Our church is fairly new, it was built in 2004, and when it was built it was built with the idea of hosting mission trips,” Galasyn said, “so that we have showers and we have a laundry facility, so we do open those up for people in the community.”

For the health screenings that the church offers, Galasyn said she has a relationship with the University of New England’s medical school, which has contributed services for all nine years. In the past the church has made available blood pressure checks, eye exams, flu shots and chiropractor exams. This year there won’t be any eye exams because that doctor has to work elsewhere, Galasyn said. She said that variability is typical.

“I have to be flexible about that because obviously people are giving up their time,” she said.

“For the past few years several (UNE) students volunteered to provide a blood pressure screen to the visitors of the event,” Polyxeni Gudis, a thirdyear student at UNE, wrote in an email. “We get a wonderful chance to interact with the local community and practice our skills as developing physicians.

“Every person that is screened gets their blood pressure taken and then the meaning of their blood pressure numbers are discussed with them by a student. These discussions can range from factors that impact cardiovascular health to health tips that may be helpful, or providing information that aids in finding a physicians to manage their care if they don’t currently have primary care.”

The church also pursues service in other parts of the community.

“The other aspect of it is that we do community service,” Galasyn said. “I have high school students from our church, our youth fellowship, students from Interact at Thornton Academy and their National Honor Society students. I’ve had students from Old Orchard and Biddeford also in the past.”

Those volunteers work at food pantries, such as Stone Soup in Biddeford, doing basic ministerial work like sorting, she said.

Galasyn said that in past years the event has served around 100 people in the four hours they operate. Some people only come for a meal, and others will utilize one or more of the health or personal care services. The event uses about 50 volunteers in total.

“It’s helping our neighbor,” Galasyn said. “It’s a biblical mandate, to take care of ‘the least of these.’”

First Parish will offer health and personal care services at the church on Martin Luther King, Jr. day, Monday, Jan. 16, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Galasyn said they are still looking for a nurse to help with foot care, and someone to give simple haircuts.

Contact Staff Writer Anthony Aloisio at news@inthecourier.com.

FMI

First Parish will offer health and personal care services at its church, 12 Beach St. in Saco, on Monday, Jan. 16, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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