The Rev. Wade Powell poses for photograph with Wesley nurses

The Rev. Wade Powell, pastor of First United Methodist Church, practices social distancing while posing for a photograph with the Wesley nurses, left to right, Elizabeth Wilson, Beckie Garcia, Lindsey Floyd and Kathy Frels, in the sanctuary of the church.

Jay Munoz, 51, of Victoria, found a flier at DeTar Hospital about the free monthly clinic offered by the DeTar Family Medicine Residency Program at First United Methodist Church in Victoria.

Munoz, who suffers from diabetes, asthma and arthritis, lost his job and did not have health insurance. He was forced to use other people’s medicines to try to keep his blood sugar under control.

“I was also buying insulin from Walmart, but that wasn’t helping me. I needed to be on medications prescribed by the doctor,” he said.

At the free clinic, which opened about three years ago, doctors confirmed Munoz had diabetes, and he began receiving the medications he needed. He also had his eyes tested by Prevent Blindness and received a voucher for eyeglasses.

“The family medicine residency exists to train graduates of medical school to become Board-Certified Family Medicine Physicians,” said Dr. Sidney Ontai, program director for the DeTar Family Medicine Residency Program, in an email.

The residency program requires residents to do community projects based on their needs assessment, Ontai continued.

“Dr. Sandra Nweke’s project was to create a free clinic in 2017 to address the medical needs of those underserved due to inadequate income and/or insurance,” Ontai said. “She identified the First United Methodist Church in Victoria as the organization best positioned to partner with the residency to address this need.”

Although the free clinics have closed because of the pandemic, the Wesley nurses, including Kathy Frels with First United Methodist Church and Beckie Garcia with Webster Chapel, as well as Elizabeth Wilson who works in Goliad and Lindsey Floyd who works in Edna, are busier than ever working from home.

The Wesley nurses are a critical, underappreciated component of the precarious safety net for underserved patients in our community, Ontai said.

“The Wesley nurses and their program benefit the underserved community that, on a normal day, does not have access to medical attention,” said Jodi Yancey-Sandoval, community health care worker for Be Well Victoria. “The thing I love the most is that they build relationships with the doctors and relationships are a big part of accessing medical care and making them feel more comfortable.”

Munoz feared his access to health care would end with the onset of the pandemic and the closure of the free clinic, but he has continued to receive the care he needs thanks to Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, a faith-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to creating access to health care for low-income families and the uninsured, the DeTar Family Medicine Center, First United Methodist Church and the Wesley faith community nurses who work for the Methodist churches in the area.

“I’m very grateful for Ms. Frels and the organization (MHM) for being able to help keep me on medication for diabetes,” Munoz said. “I thought it was not going to be kept going with the pandemic, but it’s still been available and not a problem.”

The Wesley nurses continue to connect 120 to 130 underserved patients each month with the care they need. They get a discounted rate at the DeTar Family Medical Center.

This was made possible through a $32,000 grant from Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, which was part of a $1.1 million grant awarded in April to 46 nonprofit, health and social service agencies in its 74-county service area for COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. Also part of the large award was a $50,000 grant to the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent. Not part of the $1.1 million was $27,750 awarded to Christ’s Kitchen and another $25,000 to enable First United Methodist Church and the Wesley nurses to continue helping underserved patients receive the care they need.

To date, the health care ministries has awarded $1.84 million as part of its COVID-19 relief efforts, said Teno Villarreal, communications specialist for Methodist Healthcare Ministries.

Also, since the start of the pandemic, the church and the Wesley nurses have helped more than 75 patients receive comprehensive eye exams and get eyeglasses when needed.

“They (MHM) inquired about what was impacted in our service area when the pandemic hit — what we had to stop — and we had to stop the free clinic,” Frels said. “Underserved patients were not able to come to the church for the free clinic — for medical visits and eye visits.”

The grant money has prevented gaps in care for those impoverished and underserved individuals who suffer from chronic disease, Frels said.

“Methodist Healthcare Ministries came through for us to help those underserved,” Frels continued.

Frels said she hopes to acquire adequate personal protective equipment for the staff and patients in order to open the free clinic again soon.

“You would think at this point when we’re not able to see people that she would be on break or vacation, but I think she has been able to reach the community of underserved and ramp up her efforts three- or fourfold,” said the Rev. Wade Powell, pastor of First United Methodist Church, of Frels. “She’s constantly going. It’s amazing to see her embrace this and bust her tail to help people get the medical attention they need.”

Powell said he is immensely grateful to Methodist Healthcare Ministries for its partnership in Victoria that enables the church to help a large number of people in need during the pandemic.

“As Christians, we can’t just say we’re not holding services in sanctuaries. It’s that much more important to be out there to show the love of Christ to folks when they are hurting the most,” Powell said. “It’s easy when things are going great to be Christ-like, when it’s coming up roses, but some out there are truly suffering, and even more now, and we are constantly looking for ways to help fill in the gaps created by the pandemic.”

Recommended For You

Elena Anita Watts covers arts, culture and entertainment for the Victoria Advocate. 

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

Features Editor

"I'm glad to be reporting on the events that bring people in my hometown together for fun, culture, camaraderie and good causes."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Transparency. Your full name is required.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article. And receive photos, videos of what you see.
Don’t be a troll. Don’t be a troll. Don’t post inflammatory or off-topic messages, or personal attacks.

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.

To subscribe, click here. Already a subscriber? Click here.