Sifredy believes he wouldn’t be alive today if Mary’s Center didn’t urge him to get immediate treatment for severe hepatitis. Sandra says the community health organization helped her turn her life around after a breast cancer diagnosis. And Michelle credits the clinic with pinpointing her trauma and arming her with the coping skills to move forward.
These three survivors are among the tens of thousands of men, women and children Mary’s Center has helped since opening its doors in a small Washington-DC basement in 1988. Its founder, Maria Gomez, noticed Latin American immigrants were foregoing prenatal and postpartum care because they had nowhere to go. Gomez, a nurse, started offering bilingual health services to pregnant women and their infants, serving 200 women in the clinic’s first year alone.
Mary’s Center will be featured on “The Hero Effect,” a docuseries presented by United Way that airs on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
More than 110 million people in the U.S. are struggling with one or more chronic health conditions. An estimated 85 million people are underinsured or without health insurance for a full year. Gomez recognized early on that Mary’s Center needed to do more than provide healthcare; they needed a multi-pronged approach to help people lead healthy and productive lives.
“We started with a very simple concept: to make sure people have the opportunity to be born healthy and to have access to health, social supports within their community and education to move up the economic ladder,” Gomez said.
Mary’s Center looks at all the pressures in an individual’s life that could hinder good health, such as poverty, limited education and few job opportunities. Among other things, they offer domestic violence support, programs to help students prepare for college, and a family literacy program aimed at helping parents succeed in the workforce.
“We owe it to ourselves, our country, and to our families to lend a hand up so that the chain of supporting each other continues for a lifetime,” Gomez added.
Mary’s Center will be featured on “The Hero Effect” on February 11 at 10:00 am EST.