Health Fair turnout exceeds expectations, organizers say

Scott Swanson

It looked like a mid-summer version of the Sweet Home Rock and Mineral Show Saturday, Aug. 20, as a steady flow of Sweet Home residents browsed displays and booths sponsored by area healthcare providers in the Activity Gym at Sweet Home High School.

Organizers said the inaugural Sweet Home Community Health Fair was a success.

“I’ve gotten nothing by positive feedback,” said Bob Dalton, who chaired the organizing committee.

“I personally went around to every vendor that participated. They were all excited, all looking forward to next year.”

Others said the attendance, on a hot summer day that eventually wound up in triple digits – the high school’s display board registered 95 degrees as the event closed down at 2 p.m. – exceeded their expectations.

“We were shooting for 500 and I think we had about three times that amount,” said Mayor Jim Gourley, who spent most of the day at the event, along with City Councilman Dave Trask, who manned a booth for Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District.

“The weather hurt us, of course,” Dalton said. “I think a lot of people wanted to escape the heat. I went by the lake and there were a lot of people out here.”

The event started with a one-mile walk at 9 a.m. that included about 20 people. The Health Fair ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the gym. Outside, Sweet Home Farmers Market vendors sold locally grown food and a piano-trumpet duo played traditional jazz and swing hits. The Boys & Girls Club set up an obstacle course for youngsters in the high school Quad and Steelhead Strength and Fitness staffers led short aerobics and exercise classes next to the Main Gym.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Katrina Crabtree said she collected at least 125 cards that visitors got signed off at the various booths to win prizes. Most of the players were adults and many were accompanied by multiple children, she noted.

Staff at the Smilekeepers booth, promoting free dental care, next to the entry door tracked their visitors and reported they had over 180, Dalton said.

Vendors were impressed.

“I didn’t think we would have this much turnout,” said Kristin Ashcraft, director of Sweet Home Family Medicine, which had a sizable representation at the event, including members of the physicians staff.

“It’s been a steady stream,” she said as staffers packed up at the end. “So many people who are new to the area found out what we had available.

“The people manning the booths from the other communities were impressed. It was a good day.”

As Crabtree talked with a reporter a vendor walked past, heading to her car: “Thank you so much. This is a great event,” the vendor said as she exited the building with arms full of materials.

“What I heard was all very positive,” Crabtree said. “Some people did not realize how much is available here.”

Christine Mosbaugh of the County Health Centers, which operate the Sweet Home Health Center at 799 Long St., said she and colleagues were able to sign local residents up for services at the clinic, which offers acute primary care, screenings, well child care and women’s health, chronic disease management and more.

“We got a lot of feedback from people,” she said. “I feel like we got to connect a lot of people with resources.”

She noted that the clinic is offering sports physicals for $30. Call (541) 367-3888 for more information.

Karen Bostrom, director of the Sweet Home Pregnancy Center, said the health fair was “really good.”

“It gave people a chance to find out what we have to offer.”

Dalton expressed appreciation for high school Principal Ralph Brown and staffers’ efforts in setting up the gym for the event.

He said the next step is to get the organizing committee of Crabtree, Dick Knowles, Chamber board member Bill Matthews, Carol Oldshield, Boys and Girls Club Health and Wellness Coordinator Bobbie Kent-Brakeall, Farmers Market organizer Jan Nielson and Rhonda Greene and “talk about our successes.

“We need to invite Samaritan back to our community for roundtable discussion,” he said.

Marty Cahill, CEO of Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital, said the event offered his organization a chance to “let them know how we can support Sweet Home.

“People believe we are disconnected,” he said. “We’re trying to connect. This can be an ongoing thing.

If the community says they want to do it next year, we’ll bring our resources again.”

Gourley said he thought the event is “what we needed for the community.”

He said he wanted to see “people leave here excited to see what’s available.

“I think this could grow next year and the year after. I’d like to see an annual event where we have the backpack program and other programs a part of this – one big event that takes care of the needs of the community.”