On a cold Saturday morning, over a hundred people gathered outside Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church in Southeast DC, forming a line nearly spanning the length of the block. On the other side of the church building, volunteers prepared to service the growing crowd.
“The world needs to see this. Young, old, black, white, everybody coming around,” says Ernest Clover, director of the DC Dream Center, to a group of volunteers. “Look around. Look at the diversity right here. Everyone looks different from one another. Everyone would say this is not possible and yet here we are.”
As the volunteers dispersed to their stations, one can see a line of cars extending out of the parking lot that drivers would later say went back several blocks. Visitors of all ages, races and backgrounds began to disperse to the stations, picking up boxes of food, getting HIV and COVID-19 tests, and learning about COVID-19 safety practices.
“People would rather see a sermon than hear one,” said Clover. “And this is just us putting that sermon out there and putting flesh and blood on it through the people out here volunteering.”
This amount of commotion was not uncommon during the three weeks that the Leadership Council for Healthy Communities partnered with United Healthcare, Five Medicine, the Mary’s Center and DC Dream Center to provide these services to the public. The initiative began on Jan. 12 and interest in the program only increased with time. Through one-on-one conversations, promotion on social media and word of mouth, large crowds were generated week after week.
“We’re very proud to be a part of this effort,” said Sullivan Robinson, executive director of the Leadership Council for Healthy Communities. “This opportunity allowed us to truly see everyone come together and support one another.”
Though the initiative ended on Jan. 31, the organizations are planning to come together again to aid in the push for COVID-19 vaccinations. The pilot for the program will begin Feb. 11.