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By Lisa Marisiddaiah

Did you know that there are almost 800 faith communities in Gaston County filled with compassionate members? Imagine if even a small percentage of those were willing to partner with a community initiative. Not only to strengthen their own health ministries, but to reach beyond their own walls to help their neighbors in need. And if faith communities in the same geographic regions were willing to collaborate, to create a partnership to serve those nearby by combining their assets.

We could really make an impact… we are always stronger when we come together.

FaithHealth-Gaston is a new community-initiated program. It is a “movement” of compassionate care, partnering the strengths of congregations, the clinical expertise of health providers, and a network of community resources. The goal is to assist patients by offering them a network that they can rely on, someone they can trust to be with them at a time of need.

This program is strongly supported by CaroMont Health, the CaroMont Health Foundation, Gaston County Depatment of Health and Human Services, Gaston Faith Network, Gaston Together, HealthNet Gaston and the United Way.

Imagine no support system

We may take for granted many things in the course of our day: being physically able to drive ourselves to a medical appointment or having the ability to prepare a meal. When we are not feeling well, most of us have family, friends or neighbors who will help. We are blessed with the basics we need for a comfortable life, good health and a network of support.

Imagine if you weren’t so fortunate. Imagine if you did not have a support system, if your health declined and you couldn’t drive yourself to the doctor’s office or to the pharmacy to pick up your medications. Imagine if you didn’t have the energy to stand up long enough to prepare a nutritious meal or even to get to the store to buy groceries.

Unfortunately, this is reality for many older adults in our community. Many go without proper nutrition or prescribed therapies because they lack access to transportation. Sometimes that can lead to a health crisis that could have been prevented.

We’re ready to assist but need your help!

After many months of planning, FaithHealth-Gaston will soon begin assisting frail, elderly patients who are being discharged from CaroMont Regional Medical Center; patients who do not have a support network in place. Hospital staff will assess the needs and make a referral to the FaithHealth-Gaston Community Coordinator who will connect the patient with a caring volunteer.

Volunteers from congregations will offer health care ministries for their members and neighbors. When illness strikes, they’ll provide support before, during and after hospitalization. They’ll make home visits, provide emotional and spiritual support, and help with meals, transportation and picking up medications. Training will be provided to these volunteers in respecting patients’ privacy, hospital visitation, care at the end of life, mental health first aide, and other topics.

Partnering congregations will receive a wealth of educational resources aimed at improving health. Volunteers will gain the many benefits that come along with helping someone else, and the recipients will witness what a true relationship between faith and health looks like.

If you want to be a volunteer, or would like additional information to be presented to your faith community leader, please email Lisa Marisiddaiah, RN, BSN, FCN, Faith & Health Ministry Manager, CaroMont Health. Or call 704- 834-3516.

For additional information, please visit FaithHealthNC.org/Gaston.

This article first appeared in Digging Deeper. Photo: First FaithHealth volunteer training, First Presbyterian Church, Gastonia, August 2015.

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