Plans for gala finalized

THANK YOU — Trudy Wilson, executive director of the Ohio Valley Health Center, checks out a plaque on the building at 423 South St., Steubenville, that honors the memory of Mary Jane Brooks through the Mary Jane Brooks Charitable Trust, lead donor of the renovation that occurred at the center’s new location since January. The OVHC will hold its largest fundraising event Saturday with the annual gala to be held at the Steubenville Country Club. Tickets are $50 per person, and reservations are being accepted through Wednesday by calling (740) 283-2856. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — As the Ohio Valley Health Center continues to get settled in its new home at 423 South St., the nonprofit also is putting the final touches on a big event it’s planning for next weekend.

The annual “Arabian Nights” gala will be held Saturday at the Steubenville Country Club, beginning at 5 p.m. with champagne and hors d’eouvres, followed by dinner at 6 p.m. The event will include a live auction with a destination theme, a Chinese auction featuring a variety of items and a “Restaurant Tree” offering more than $500 in restaurant gift cards and certificates.

Tickets are $50 each and are available by calling (740) 283-2856. The center’s website is www.ovhealthcenter.org.

“The Ohio Valley Health Center’s annual gala is the nonprofit’s largest fund-raising event, which supports uninsured patient care,” said Trudy Wilson, the center’s executive director. “We encourage community members to come and enjoy a great dinner and participate in the auctions as well. With the ‘Arabian Nights’ gala only days away, reservations will be accepted through Wednesday,” Wilson said.

The event is semi-formal in dress, but “Arabian Nights”-themed outfits are acceptable as well.

Just for fun, the man and woman voted to be wearing the best “Arabian Nights Outfits” at the gala will win a prize, based on how many $1 vote are cast in their favor.

The gala raises money to help the nonprofit provide health care to the uninsured and underinsured individuals and families in the Ohio Valley, regardless of their ability to pay.

Some of the destinations in the live auction to be conducted by John Westline are:

≤ A condo for one week on Panama Beach in Florida, donated by Gala Co-Chairs Kyle and Sheila Brown;

≤ A Brandywine Bed and Breakfast package, donated by Tricia Maple-Damewood, and including an overnight stay, a tray of pizza and goodies;

≤ Le Chateau Pier Bed and Breakfast package for Father’s Day, donated by Todd Piergallini, and including an overnight stay, breakfast and dinner;

≤ A Grandvue Park package, including an overnight stay in a Treetop Villa, two all-day activity passes and two zip line rides;

≤ Seven Springs Mountain Resort, donated by The Herald-Star and including an overnight stay for two, breakfast buffet, swimming and exercise room and a $50 gift card for onsite shopping; and

≤ An overnight stay and dinner at the Hotel Monico in Pittsburgh, donated by Dr. Tom and Suzanne Brown; and

“I’m grateful for the hard work of the auction committee, including Betty Ferron, chair; Dr. Frank and Eileen Petrola, Chris Orris, Chris Hyland and Suzanne Brown. Our local community of donors who contribute items for the auctions are to be commended. They are so giving and supportive of the work of OVHC. Without these people, the auctions would not be nearly as much fun, and OVHC would not be able to raise as much money to support uninsured patient care.”

In addition to the onsite fundraisers, the evening will include a brief program and recognition.

“This year we are going to recognize the people who helped bring our new health center to life, so we’re going to recognize the donors and the construction people and the people who really helped get us to this point,” Wilson said.

The Ohio Valley Health Center began seeing patients in January in its new location downtown in what formerly housed the Neighborhood House Daycare and Preschool. On March 29, it was the site of an open house.

Since its inception in 2006, the Ohio Valley Health Center has provided free services in more than 19,500 patient visits and dispensed more than $6.5 million in free medications to its patients, according to Wilson who noted that, last year alone, the center dispensed more than $600,000 in free medications.

The center’s board of directors is led by Francesca Carinci, president; Anthony Mougianis, vice president; Dr. Mary Mihalyo, secretary; and Tom Timmons, treasurer. Also on the board are Kyle Brown, Jimmie Bruce, Gertrude DeHart, Robert Gribben, Mark Judy, Clint Powell, Dr. Charn Nandra, medical director, ex-officio, and Dr. Thomas Brown, dental adviser, ex-officio.

“I am so pleased to have such a supportive board of directors with a passion for our mission,” Wilson said. “They provide oversight in ensuring the organization operates efficiently, and they are always willing to offer help and direction when asked. They encourage me to dream big dreams for the future of OVHC and support making those dreams a reality. I don’t think OVHC would be where it is today without the support of our board members,” she said.

There are so many stories of how the Ohio Valley Health Center has provided health care services to needy patients in ways that offer hope and healing, according to Wilson.

“Just this week we had a homeless person walk in off the street needing help with prescriptions. He had been a patient at a Wheeling Hospital, and upon his discharge, all the Wheeling homeless shelters were full,” she said. “The hospital sent him in a cab to Steubenville where he was able to secure lodging in a local shelter. However, he didn’t have any money and was not able to get his prescriptions filled at a retail pharmacy. With a handful of prescriptions and nowhere else to turn, he came to us. We were able to get him in to be seen by one of our volunteer doctors that same day, we filled all but one of his prescriptions — which we did not have in stock — and set him up to have his prescriptions filled when he was able to return to Lima, Ohio, where he has family,” Wilson said, raising several questions.

“What happens to those unfortunate patients who do not find access to a free clinic? What happens to those who just give up and don’t have the medications they need to survive? What happens to patients who have to choose between food and life-saving medications? We can guess at the answers to those questions,” Wilson continued. “Many people who live in poverty, who are homeless, who are the working poor — they end up sicker, or they die. I am so incredibly blessed to be part of the health center, where we can make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. We can make a difference by closing the gap between life and death,” she said.

“There is a small piece of land behind the new health center building where the weeds grow high and trash collects among the grass and debris, where two bright red tulips bloom each spring,” Wilson said. “To me, that is symbolic of what the Ohio Valley Health Center is to the low-income uninsured and underinsured patients in the Ohio Valley. I like to think that we are the bright spot of hope to those who need help among the down-and-out, the poverty-stricken and the working poor in our community. OVHC is ‘hope’ in the midst of the unfortunate circumstances that often come along with poverty and poor health,” she added.

The center welcomes help financially and through volunteering. Donations can be made to OVHC, 423 South St., Steubenville, OH 43952.

“If anyone is interested in volunteering, we have many opportunities for volunteers — medical support, administrative support or manual labor — cleaning, outside work, maintenance, etc. We can always use some additional provider support as well. If there are doctors or nurse practitioners who would like to volunteer a few hours a week or once a month, we would love to talk to you.”

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