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NHA: 50 Years of Service, Despite the Very Difficult Early Years

By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor

In 1969, Cordelia Martin, then a supervisor of community workers for the Expanded Family Planning Project of the Planned Parenthood League of Toledo, Inc and chairman of the Health Functional Committee, gathered around her a group of like-minded individuals who were equally concerned about the lack of proper health care that was available to less fortunate Toledo-area residents.

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 Nebraska.

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 challenge.

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




Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03/19/20 16:50:45 -0400.

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