As health centers mark their 50th year of existence, we went in search of stories that represent the spirit and mission of the Community Health Center Movement. Thank goodness Don Yost reached out to us. Yost is the Chief Story Teller for Maple City Health Care Center, located in Goshen, IN. Of his unusual job title Yost explains that part of the center’s mission is to “to articulate and promote our experience as a sustainable model.” And when it comes to telling the stories, Yost is very good at his job.
Yost told us that Maple City Health Care Center is located in what used to be the fire department. When it first opened its doors, the center had very little in the way of money and resources. That is why when the health center needed a new roof in 1998, the leadership and staff invited donors, neighbors, and patients to help.”
“A hodgepodge of people responded,” he said. “Some spoke Spanish. Some spoke English with an Appalachian twang. Some spoke Pennsylvania Dutch. It could have been another Tower of Babel, but we all seemed to understand each other enough to get the rafters aligned (more or less) and the tar paper nailed.”
By 3:00 in the afternoon, the project was 80 percent finished but everyone was getting tired, including the volunteers who showed up. The project’s leaders tried to call it a day but the volunteers would not hear of it. By the time darkness fell, the roof was finished.
“We realized that more than the roof had been changed,” said Yost. “Some of the neighborhood volunteers would become patients. All of the patients who helped with the roof became donors of their time. The donors who helped with the roof now felt part of the neighborhood. Ten years later, one of the men who had helped replace the roof, was inside the center as a patient. As he walked down the hall, he proudly pointed upward and announced to all within earshot, ‘I put on the roof. This is my building.’ ”
Maple City Health Care Center’s story is similar to the start of the Community Health Center Movement, which began with a group of people who saw a need and moved to fill it. Today, 50 years later, the mission has expanded from coast to coast because health centers are built from the bottom up by members of the community. Sometimes all it takes to build a movement is for people to show up and raise the roof.