Leahy Community Health and Family Center Helps the Underserved of Scranton

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Envision some of the greatest joys of childhood: the cold weight of a frog sitting in the palm of your hand; the thrilling drop in your mid section as a roller coaster takes the plunge; the summer heat beating down on your back as you study the iridescent eyes of a dragonfly. Now imagine how impoverished childhood would be without these experiences. That’s the background of the children whose lives are enriched by programs offered through The University of Scranton’s Leahy Community Health and Family Center (LCHFC).

The Center was dedicated in 2003 to identify and meet the health and wellness needs of underserved people in the greater Scranton community – children and families, senior citizens, the homeless and the uninsured – and also to provide a place where faculty could guide students in practical educational experiences.

The University of Success

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The University of Success is a pre-college program designed to provide academic, social, and cultural enrichment and experiences to high school students. The ultimate goal of this program is to assist participating students to successfully complete high school and gain entrance into a college or university.

The University of Success has made a meaningful difference in many children’s lives. Take, for example, Desiree, who never rode a roller coaster and George, who never saw – let alone touched – a frog. But while the experiential learning provided is a treasure for all, there are some children for whom The University of Success is actually a life-saver. Margaret Loughney, program director, recalls one student who was rendered homeless during her enrollment in the program. “When she stopped coming to the program, we didn’t give up,” Loughney says. “We had to contact her through her school, not her home. When we finally found her, the child was relieved to find out that she was actually welcomed and still able to participate in the Saturday classes.”

Alice V. Leahy Food and Clothing Pantry 

Clothing Pantry

Think for a moment how you would cope without running water, a means to cook or even a refrigerator. That’s the plight of the homeless people who seek assistance from the LCHFC’s Alice V. Leahy Food and Clothing Pantry.

The food and clothing pantry is a student-run effort to provide homeless and at-risk people with the dignity of clean, decent clothing and the most basic of human needs – their daily bread. University of Scranton students often assist people who come to the pantry after accessing the health clinic.

Andrea Mantione, LCHFC director says, “This effort forever changes – in a positive way -- the way some of our student volunteers think and feel about those we serve.”

She observes that many of the pantry’s clients come from a completely different culture than the volunteers. The interaction is always educational for all involved. Mantione says, “Groups of women with small children in tow are the norm. As the students entertain the little ones, some assist the moms in selecting clothing items for the family. On one particular day, the students were asked to photograph the group and realized that urging them to ‘say cheese’ was totally misunderstood. The women were dumbfounded at this request!”

She also comments on the students’ work with the homeless, “They also have come to realize and reflect on the homeless person who comes in. Students working in the pantry are startled and humbled that they must provide foods that can be stored without refrigeration and used without the luxury of heat.”

The Edward R. Leahy, Jr. Center Clinic for the Uninsured

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Consider the peace of mind provided by health insurance, which opens the door to caring and professional primary care to cure illness, prevent disease and manage chronic conditions. The Edward R. Leahy, Jr. Center Clinic for the Uninsured was founded to be there for those who lack this most basic necessity.

Since its opening, the clinic has provided care to thousands who otherwise would be forced to use expensive emergency room care or do without medical attention altogether.

LCHFC Administrative Assistant, Maria Lucia Vital says she is “blessed” to work at the clinic. “In 2008, I had the opportunity to help a beautiful and strong Spanish family that was passing through a series of difficulties in life,” she says. “ In the 12 years they had been living the U.S., they never saw a doctor. On this visit, the mother was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and depression. In translating for them in counseling, I understood the problems that they were facing. For a couple months, the mom was complaining about stomach problems and a ‘butterflies’ feeling.” Based on previous medical history, the woman believed she was unable to have children, so she insisted she couldn’t possibly be pregnant. Ms. Vital continues, “How surprised she was when we told her that she was pregnant! Everybody started crying, including myself and the counselor . . . I went to the hospital to translate during the cesarean delivery. It was a a girl. The family has since brought the baby many times to the Leahy Center for me to see and even asked me to be the baby’s godmother.”

The Edward R. Leahy, Jr. Center Clinic for the Uninsured  is open Thursdays, from 2 to 6 p.m. Physical therapy and counseling are offered on Wednesdays by appointment only.

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In addition to these initiatives, the LCHFC also offers a “Peacemakers After School” program for children between the ages of 9 and 13 and a “Growing Stronger” program for area senior citizens, as well as numerous educational programs, health fairs and special clinics offered throughout the year.