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To help a hunger crisis in Haiti, Holy Name rolled out a meal packing event at Bergen Catholic HS. Students packed boxes of macaroni and cheese to send to Haiti.

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As many as 400 people were expected to pack Holy Name Medical Center’s Marian Hall in Teaneck on Saturday to take advantage of free health screenings offered as for Black History Month.

The event provided a number of different services to attendees including bone density screenings, family planning, counseling, blood pressure screenings and blood tests, said Dr. Robert Adair.

While anyone was free to attend the screenings, the hospital focused the program on the African American community and the health risks it faces. That’s why the event was held during February, said Hilda Ventimiglia, a resident nurse and manager in charge of community education for Holy Name. She has organized the event for the past two years.

The conference hall was crowded with people looking at information from more than 30 organizations in attendance, partaking in healthy soul food and listening to jazz musicians perform.

“It’s really important to address specific health equities for specific cultures so we tailor the program to specific needs of specific populations,” Ventimiglia said.

During the event, there were three breakout sessions with physicians focused on sickle cell, anemia hypertension and kidneys and uterine fibroids — common diseases and ailments in the African American community.

“It’s a wonderful program and it really fills my heart,” Ventimiglia said. “We’re always looking to meet the community’s needs.”

Adair said it is important for events like this to be held because of the decrease of free clinics and misinformation on the internet. 

“You are able to speak to a healthcare specialist or healthcare provider and actually get vetted, accurate, intelligent information on a one-on-one basis in a hospital setting,” Adair said. “It’s very important.”

Bloomfield resident Karon Blue made sure to get in line for a pulmonary screening after her mother passed away from an embolism in 2012. Blue said she attended the screening last year as well and had already had her blood pressure taken earlier in the day.

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“I think it’s important for our community to be aware of our health and health issues that affect the African American community,” Blue said.

For Alphaeus Tonge, his wife insisted he come and take advantage of the screenings. 

“I don’t normally go to the doctor so she insisted,” Tonge said, noting his wife worked for Holy Name.

His plan was to go down the list of offered services to see if there was anything he should be concerned about.

The event wasn’t limited to health screenings. Organizations like the NAACP, the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department and the Holy Name Medical Center Auxiliary were there to provide various types of information.

The auxiliary, which fundraises for the hospital, was looking to recruit new members to help with their fundraisers, said Judy Tucci, auxiliary president.

Jeff Carter, president of the Bergen County chapter of the NAACP, said the health of the African American community was an important priority. . Additionally, the NAACP was facilitating voter registration and providing information about the 2020 census.

Holy Name doesn’t limit its screenings to the African-American community. Similar events are held for their Asian health services program and their Hispanic outreach program, Ventimiglia said.

Ed Torres, the director of Familia u Salud, the Hispanic outreach program, said 37 percent of the patients at Holy Name are Hispanic and the health screenings help answer any questions they may have.

“We’re there to educate,” Torres said.

Ventimiglia, Adair and Torres agreed that one of the most important things was to be there and provide for the community and the people in it, noting the town is diverse and has embraced its diversity. 

“We’re all about the community and we open our arms all the time,” Ventimiglia said. “We identify a need and go right to it.”

Kaitlyn Kanzler covers Essex County for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: kanzler@northjersey.com Twitter: @KaitlynKanzler8

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