York College students helping fill Health Wagon

Katherine Ranzenberger

Students in the York College Public Relations Campaign class have been researching the Health Wagon all semester.

Teresa Gardner (left) and Paula Hill-Meade, founders of The Health Wagon

The students broke up into four groups to find out how they could help bring the mobile health care unit to the center stage and stock its shelves so it can help people in need.

"It's a very hands-on experience," said Jordan Elford, a 21-year-old senior at the college. "Normal PR campaigns unfold in over a year. This one is way shorter, in a semester and actually working the campaign for two weeks while the semester wraps up."

Elford is studying hospitality management and public relations, and she said this class and the experience of helping other people has helped her learn on the fly. She said she enjoys the compassion behind the Health Wagon as well.

Health care: According to the Health Wagon website, the goal of the group is to provide quality health care to the medically underserved people of the Appalachian Mountains. The group works through community outreach, collaboration and empowerment to provide health care those in poverty in that area.

"It's free health care," Elford said. "That's not something that's normally heard of."

Kathryn Xakellis, a 22-year-old senior in the class, said she's enjoyed getting to know the group that cares about this underserved population in southwest Virginia.

The Health Wagon, a mobile medical care unit that works in the Mountains of Appalachia.

"They have all the equipment a hospital has, but they take it to people at 11 different locations," Xakellis said. "We talked to the two owners. They're very passionate about helping others. It's a great way for people to give back to the community, even if it's not the community immediately surrounding them."

Comparison: Xakellis and Elford worked with their classmates to compare York County the area of Wise County, Virginia, the area mainly served through the Health Wagon. According to their research, York and Wise counties aren't that different, with 17 percent of people in York County and 15 percent of people in Wise County without insurance.

"This is something people could benefit having here, too," Elford said.

The class created a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the Health Wagon. It's already exceeded its goal of $500, but the group is hoping more people can donate to the cause.

The students are also looking for physical donations so they can create bags to send to the Health Wagon. Xakellis said they will be putting together gallon-sized zip-top bags with things such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and other health care essentials.

The Health Wagon has a wishlist on its website with sections of ongoing needs as well as one-time needs. These include everything from ibuprofen, bandages and gauze to three-ring binders, highlighters and correction fluid.

The class is accepting donations through Sunday, May 1. To make a donation, email Elford at jelford@ycp.edu to set up a donation time and location.

More of the class's research, including a guest post from Elford, can be found on (Your)k Health.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at kranzenberger@yorkdispatch.com.