Courtesy of Jasmine Blennau

On Saturday, the Fair Haven Community Health Center held a community celebration that included a live hand-percussion band, an educational bingo scavenger hunt, a public health forum and a puppet show on healthy eating. 

The Fair Haven Community Health Center, which has been in operation for 50 years, offers health education, vaccinations, food and other resources to local residents. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Center has added COVID-19 and vaccine education to its list of services. According to the Center’s CEO Suzanne Lagarde, the organization has provided services to roughly 29,000 patients across 14 locations — seven of which are school-based health clinics — in the last 12 months. Lagarde said that the Center’s work would not be possible without events like Saturday’s because they build trust between the Center and the predominantly Hispanic community in Fair Haven. 

“We provide a full range of services… we provide cradle to grave,” Lagarde said. “We have nurse midwives that deliver babies, we have board certified geriatricians who take care of our elderly. We have dental services, we have substance abuse services, we do a lot of behavioral health….”

She added that the Center allows patients to access all its resources in one location. 

The Center’s services range from physical exams and checkups to cancer screenings, addiction services and LGBTQ+ care. For Saturday’s event, the Center partnered with other local organizations, including Project Access, a non profit organization that aims to increase access to medical care and service for underserved patients, and URU The Right to Be, a nonprofit multimedia organization that fosters communication and understanding among diverse groups of people. Collaborations like these provide more services, such as donated medical services for people with limited health insurance. All programs were provided in both English and Spanish, which Benjamin Oldfield, the Center’s Chief Medical Officer, said is an aspect of the care that makes all the difference to the community. 

“One of the priorities identified at our [community listening] session was the importance of providing services in Spanish,” Oldfield told the News. “A lot of our staff is part of this community too. They grew up here, they live here.” 

Upon arriving at the event, community members were given bingo cards, which contained information about the different resources and services available at the event — such as tables for getting a COVID-19 vaccination. Upon completion of a bingo row or column, attendees were given a ticket to a free meal at the food truck that catered the event and offered up a variety of Hispanic dishes.  

Food donations from Trader Joe’s were also provided to community members. Families were able to grab bundles of flowers to go along with the produce and other food. Many of the health tables also provided complimentary items to go along with their informational brochures, such as toys for children, stress relief balls and thermometers. 



Joaquin Fernandez-Duque, Contributing Photographer                                    

Local community member Yulian Segarra told the News that he attended the event because he heard it from across the street. He said that he had gotten the second dose of his COVID-19 vaccine three days prior and felt that he deserved to enjoy the celebration and its resources. 

The Center has a campaign in which it knocks on doors and provides information on the vaccine, encouraging people to get vaccinated. Center affiliates have knocked on every door in the Fair Haven neighborhood, including his house, he said. Segarra is now fully vaccinated, having gotten both doses at the Fair Haven Community Health Center.  

Many of the attendees included families with children. The event’s puppet show on healthy eating and diabetes prevention attracted roughly 20 children. The entire show was conducted simultaneously in Spanish and English, a feat accomplished by seamlessly alternating lines in both languages. 



Joaquin Fernandez-Duque, Contributing Photographer           

“There is so much potential in health centers like this,” Lagarde said. “I want our leaders to understand . . . if we can’t completely change our health system so that healthcare is readily available to everyone, the second best [option] is to invest in health centers like us because we have been doing it now for 50 years and we know how to do it.”

According to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, there are roughly 1,400 nationally recognized community health centers which serve nearly 29 million individuals.

Correction, Oct. 6 The story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Lagarde’s last name.