The English translation of Bon Secours is "good help," and nothing embodies that like the Bon Secours Hampton Roads Health System’s Healthy Communities Initiative.
In the summer of 2009, the health system partnered with New Life Christian Center and Virginia Beach-based Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corp. to start the Healthy Communities Initiative in East Ocean View, a small coastal community in Norfolk, Va. But, in November 2009, remnants of Hurricane Ida developed a nor’easter offshore, resulting in massive flooding in the community — adding even more urgency to the initiative.
“The flood really brought a focus to that area,” says Michael Kerner, CEO of Bon Secours Hampton Roads Health System. Soon after, other Norfolk community partners joined in the effort to revitalize a section of Norfolk where approximately 4,500 people reside. Many of them, including the Navy, took a different approach to rebuilding East Ocean View and found that many of their needs were not directly health-related.
“Sometimes we have a tendency to go into a community, and it may be just our nature that everyone wants to help, but they don’t listen to the community first to see what’s needed,” Kerner says. “This work really does address the fact that there are needs in addition to health care, and we do provide that health care piece, but we also provide a number of other things.”
That includes rebuilding and expanding the community storehouse, which holds food for residents. To date, more than 7 tons of food have been distributed during the storehouse’s existence — a vital need in East Ocean View.
One request from residents took Bon Secours and its partners by surprise: landscaping. Bennett’s Creek Wholesale Nursery donated more than $13,000 in shrubs and plant material toward a beautification effort.
To address actual medical concerns in the coastal community — which had no medical facility — the Bon Secours Care-a-Van mobile health unit is deployed twice a month in partnership with Lighthouse Community Church to reach out to the community’s uninsured residents. And in 2013, the East Ocean View Medical and Dental Center opened, providing primary care, a pharmacy, diagnostic tests and other critically needed services.