Embracing Community Involvement with USJ’s Wellness Center

When it comes to community outreach, the Saint Patrick-Saint Anthony’s Church Wellness Center has become a successful initiative in the city of Hartford. The Wellness Center assists the underserved people of Hartford by providing basic medical services for those without health care benefits. For 13 years, the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) and Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry – the Church’s outreach program – have partnered together to have students, faculty, and parishioners work with the community.

Students from the departments of Nursing, Nutrition, and Pharmacy at USJ collaborate with the Wellness Center on a regular basis, with junior and senior nursing students participating as part of their clinical rotations during the academic year. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors serve as volunteers during the winter, spring, and summer breaks. Before students volunteer, Beth Fischer, RSM, ’76, assistant dean of Student Affairs/Community Engagement, meets with students to discuss what they will be doing onsite and has them write reflection pieces on their experiences. In addition, Fischer is the onsite coordinator and the University’s liaison.

“For some students, it’s putting what they learn in the classroom into action and making a difference in people’s lives. It’s a ministry of the heart. Students engage with someone face-to-face, heart-to-heart, and they hear someone’s story. That’s very powerful,” said Fischer.

“I continue to come back to the Wellness Center on a weekly basis not only because it is a passion of mine, but because I have learned that my presence there makes an impact on those who utilize the services provided. It has taught me that a simple smile, conversation, or taking a set of vital signs can change a person’s life. Without the experiences I have had at the Wellness Center, I would not be the nurse I am today. It is truly an indescribable experience,” said Meghan Chasse ’16.

Other outreach programs of the Wellness Center include the Saint Elizabeth House, Manna Community Meals, Manna Assistance & Advocacy Food Pantry, Sandwich Ministry, Malta House of Care, Malta House of Care/Saint Justin’s Food Pantry, and the Guyana Immersion Experience. Each one of these programs allows students to use their specialties to serve the community in numerous ways.