Martin was in the right
place at the right time recalls Elizabeth Flournoy who was
part of that early effort. “She was a wonderful person;
everybody wanted to be around her, even the board members.
She was always trying to make things better.”
Within a year, federal
funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development had been obtained and the doors of the Cordelia
Martin Interim Health Center opened in its first location at
1636 W. Bancroft Street.
Toledo City Councilman
Larry Sykes, a young man at the time and just starting his
banking career, remembers those early days well and the
impact the Center had on the community. “The first year,
they might have had 3,000 [patients], if that many – but
that was big back then. It was a Mecca for the
neighborhood,” he recalls, rattling off the names of some of
those original Center associates – Talmadge Foster, Center
administration; Margaret Howell, community health
coordinator; Drs. John Coleman, Robert Walden – for example.
And, of course, the nurses
that were such an integral part of the Center – Daisy Smith
(for whom one of the NHA centers is named today), Donna Todd
and Mary Gregory.
The Center, says Sykes,
was next to a barbershop and a car repair business and
remained in the spot until the late 1970s when Kroger moved
out of the city abandoning its location at Hawley and
The Center provided an
option for central city residents, says Sykes. Before the
Center “everyone who didn’t have health insurance went to
the Health Department, the clinic gave another option
because where else were poor folks going to go?” he asks.
In those early days, the
clinic was only open a few days a week based upon the
availability of the volunteers who staffed the operation.
Federal funding allowed the clinic to survive although that
funding was never a certainty. Model Cities funds ended in
1974 and obtaining continuing federal funds was an ongoing
In 1975, Daisy Smith, a
registered nurse who had been with the Center from the
beginning, brought together 14 women to organize themselves
as the Cordelia Martin Health Center Auxiliary in order to
augment the organization and to help fulfill a range of
needs – chief among those needs was raising funds.
The Auxiliary held bake
sales, rummage sales and charity bazaars along with
sponsoring the cleaning of facilities and yard work. The
women of the Auxiliary provided valuable supplemental funds
for the Center over the next decade and a half,
nevertheless, financially, NHA was never out of the woods
during those early days.
During the late 1970s, as
Sykes started his service on the Cordelia Martin board of
directors, the Center moved to the former Kroger location at
Hawley and Nebraska.
By 1978, the Center had 25
people on staff, had increased patient visits to 600 per
month and had added an Adolescent Health Care Program
through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health,
Education and Welfare – mainly due to the impact that Martin
had on so many in the community, says Sykes.
“The respect and power she
had, for her to be able to do that,” he says of Cordelia
Martin and her ability to effect change.
Ed. Note: The Truth will
be remembering 50 Years of Service by the Neighborhood
Health Association in the months leading up to the
commemoration of the Silver Anniversary in the fall of 2020