Health fair returns Aug. 20 after two-year COVID-19 hiatus

Scott Swanson

After a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, Sweet Home’s Health Fair will return Saturday, Aug. 20.

The event will be held outside, in the Sweet Home High School parking lot facing Long Street, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is no charge to attend.

As of Friday afternoon, Aug. 12, nearly 30 organizations had signed up to participate, said Bob Dalton, chair of the city’s Health Committee and an organizer of the event.

“The vendors were really eager to come back,” he said. “They were asking, before I was asking, whether we were going to do this again.”

The Health Fair was founded in 2016 by Dalton and others concerned about the state of healthcare in Sweet Home. It provides easy access to resources for local residents, he said.

The last fair was held in 2019.

“Our whole idea is we’re trying to create a healthy community,” Dalton said. “We want people to live healthy lives. This is an opportunity to achieve that.”

Participants will include local medical providers Samaritan Health, which is co-sponsoring the event and is planning to staff five tables, Ridgeway Health Services, Benton/Linn County Health Services, and the Oregon Health Authority, which will provide vaccinations.

Local care and service organizations MANNA and SHEM food programs, Sweet Home Pregnancy Care Center and the Sweet Home Senior Center/Linn Shuttle all are expected to participate, as is the Sweet Home Swim Club.

Also represented will be the Sweet Home Library, Sweet Home Parks and the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District.

Participants will provide information on housing assistance, mental health, Medicare, hospice care, transportation, preschool options, the 211 essential community services line, alcohol and drug treatment, domestic violence prevention and free health screenings.

Dalton emphasized that the Health Fair offers residents a chance to connect one-on-one with service providers.

“You don’t get that face to face, you get a phone recording,” he said of some residents’ experiences in trying to get help. “This is an opportunity to meet and greet these vendors who have these resources. So many times we try to get the word out and it gets buried in a phone book or in Facebook. You get sent here, you get sent there.

“That’s the importance of the Health Fair.”

This year the back-to-school Kids Backpack Program will take place on-site, offered this year by SHEM, he said.

Julie Dedman of SHEM said the organization will be handing out “over 500” backpacks containing school supplies and other necessities.

Recipients must be students in Sweet Home School District and must be accompanied by a parent or other adult.

The backpacks are provided by the Salvation Army, she said. Supplies and other contents are funded by donations.

Any residents wishing to get COVID vaccinations can do so at the fair, Dalton said.

“You can get boosters, first shots, whatever you want.”

He said previous visitors have discovered things that came as complete surprises.

“They didn’t know they had it until they came and got free testing for things like blood pressure or diabetes,” he said.

“One year we did a cancer screening. A guy came in who had severe skin cancer. He didn’t even know he had it. He’d never been to a doctor.”

He emphasized that all the information and services offered at the event are free.

“You don’t need an appointment. You just walk right up there. You’re not waiting one week, two weeks, three weeks to see these professionals.”