Every year PCC Community Wellness Center, located at 14 W. Lake St. in Oak Park, is joined by a new group of individuals who have committed to a year of community service. This program year, which began Sept. 6, PCC has a team of 12 AmeriCorps members, making it PCC’s largest group to date. Team members are recruited from various cultures and backgrounds both locally and nationally, with some members coming from as far away as New York and California.

PCC’s West Side AmeriCorps program was established in 1997 to help forward PCC’s mission of providing quality primary and preventive health care to those who lack access to care. With this AmeriCorps program, PCC provides ongoing community service. Members receive six weeks of intensive training where they are educated about the community, services and procedures of PCC, local social service agencies, and health education. They are also trained and certified as American Red Cross Family Service Workers. This designation allows the team to respond to local and national disasters. Upon leaving AmeriCorps, members can transfer their certification and skills to their local Red Cross Chapters.

With their training now complete, this new group of AmeriCorps members is ready to provide health education and outreach services in the community. PCC’s West Side AmeriCorps Program is divided into three service teams that support three unique target populations:

1) high-risk pregnant women, new mothers and their babies;

2) individuals with diabetes or at risk for developing diabetes; and

3) children who have been diagnosed with elevated lead levels and/or asthma.

Members provide outreach to patients of PCC as well as members of the general community in the form of home visits, clinic visits, hospital visits, labor support phone calls, letters, group classes?”such as prenatal class, nutrition class, and weight management class?”health fairs, and accompanying patients to appointments at other service providers.

According to Wanda Brandt, a local resident who has lived in both the Austin and Lawndale communities her entire life, “So far PCC’s West Side AmeriCorps program has been exciting, encouraging, and overall a unique experience. I look forward to strengthening my knowledge of the community, and further developing my skills and personal goals.” Wanda is excited to give back to the communities where she was raised, and now works in. Wanda is on the Family Support Team, and will be providing outreach and health education to families affected by asthma or lead poisoning.

For more information about PCC’s Westside AmeriCorps, please contact Lynn Hopkins, director of Development & Outreach Services, at 708/524-7678. PCC Community Wellness Center is a nonprofit community-based health-care organization providing primary and preventive health care to uninsured and medically underserved individuals and families living in Chicago’s West Side and near west suburbs. For information regarding PCC’s services, call 708/383-0113.