Over 500 People Attend Sweet Home Health Fair

Benny Westcott

According to event organizer estimates, over 500 people attended the Sweet Home Community Health Fair at Sweet Home High School’s parking lot on Aug. 19. The fair offered attendees a chance to interact with a diverse range of healthcare services, including Samaritan Health Services, Ridgeway Health, KidCo Head Start, CHANCE, Linn-Benton Housing Authority, Lumina Hospice & Palliative Care, Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence, Linn County Mental Health, Sweet Home Emergency Ministries, Manna, 211 Emergency, Family Assistance and Resource Center Group, Linn County Alcohol and Drug, and more.

Free resources available included health screenings, kids school backpacks, housing services, mental health resources, services for seniors, physical health resources, and more than 30 additional resources. 38 “stations” representing different organizations were present at the fair.

Bob Dalton, a Sweet Home Community Health Committee member, has been teaming up with fellow committee member Dick Knowles for six years to put on the event.

“We realized we wanted to do some outreach and bring resources here that a lot of people may not know exist in our community,” Dalton said. “The whole goal was to let people in need in our community know that there are resources available to them. That was our goal, and we’re reaching that goal. And each year we always strive to add a new resource that we haven’t had before.”

“Everything that’s in Sweet Home, Lebanon and Albany are represented here today,” he said, gesturing toward the packed parking lot. “We added the kids backpack program a couple years ago, and that was a big draw.”

This year featured a substantial focus on mental health. “We’re trying to educate people on the mental health side of it,” Dalton said. “You hear a lot about that out there in our world. It’s about changing that stigma with the word mental, so people understand that mental health is just about having a resource there that can help you through times when you’re struggling, when you’ve lost a home, a parent, a job, etc.”

Courtney Abdelhameed, 23, learned about an upcoming suicide awareness walk in Lebanon at the fair. “I’m really excited about that, because mental health is definitely one of the hard things to get awareness of,” she said. “I’m so glad to see the whole community out here checking it out,” she said of the fair in general. “There’s a lot of things here that we didn’t know were here until now. It’s really awesome what the community does for Sweet Home.”

SHEM runs the backpack program at the fair annually, with over 500 backpacks given to kids in the Sweet Home School District. Most of the packs are provided by funds from Salvation Army, United Way, and local churches.

Leonia Meek and her husband were playing tennis at the Sweet Home High School courts that Saturday. Afterwards, they decided to check out the fair after seeing all of the hubbub in the high school parking lot.

Meek brought her kids, and one of her daughters, an incoming fifth grader at Oak Heights Elementary School, ended up getting a backpack full of a bunch of school supplies. “It’s definitely important for our family,” Meek said. “We’ve got a number of kids and things are kind of pinchy financially, so it’s nice to have this kind of help for all of the littles.”