SWPA health center has been providing free care for nearly 30 years | Helping the Helpers

‘We’re trying to help those who slide through the cracks,’ Executive Director Marilyn Weaver said

By: - December 3, 2021 6:30 am

Dr. Jeremy Hunt volunteers at Wesley Health Center in Connellsville, Pa., which provides free health care to anyone with or without insurance (Uniontown Herald-Standard photo)

By Mark Hofmann

CONNELLSVILLE, Pa. — For nearly 30 years, the Wesley Health Center in Connellsville has provided free health care to anyone who enters its doors.

(Capital-Star file)

The center, a mission of Wesley United Methodist Church, was founded in 1993 by the Rev. Eugene Ankeny and parishioner Dr. J. Miller Oppy. Initially, the center provided free primary health care for individuals and families without health insurance.

Following the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, officials at the center moved from providing free care to individuals without health insurance to providing care for anyone  — whether they’re insured or not.

“If someone has insurance, but can’t afford the deductible, they’re welcome to come to Wesley as well,” said Marilyn Weaver, the executive director of the Wesley Health Center. “There’s no charge to anyone who comes in.”

Weaver said the services offered at the center include primary care, retinal screenings and oral care.

With the exception of two part-time paid employees, the center runs on volunteer labor from the physicians to the board of directors and operates only through donations that come from local businesses, the Marilyn Keefer Foundation and local fundraising events like the Bud Murphy Memorial Golf Outing.

“It’s the small donations that keep the doors open, too,” Weaver said, adding that a jar is available in the waiting room where visitors or patients can put in a few quarters or a few dollars while they’re there. “It makes them feel good like they’re doing something for the care there.”

Along with the donations, Weaver said what the health center also needs is word of mouth so that people know they are there to help.

While the center is based in Fayette County, Weaver said they’ve treated patients from as far away as Somerset and Allegheny counties. Yet, she said, there are people who have lived in Connellsville their whole lives and never head of the center.

“Get the story out that the Wesley Health Center exists and is open to anyone and their family,” Weaver said. “Donations and getting the word out is what we need.”

Weaver said the center is currently giving out flu shots. She also noted that the center does not give out any drugs or narcotic medications, nor do they conduct testing for COVID-19.

“We’re trying to help those who slide through the cracks,” Weaver said.

Mark Hofmann is a reporter for the Uniontown Herald-Standard. Readers may email him at [email protected]. Helping the Helpers is a cooperative effort between the Uniontown Herald-Standard and the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. 

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