Merced County Times Newspaper
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Hundreds show up for Back-to-School event at Castle


Free backpacks, diapers, food boxes, vaccines, physicals, and resource information were available to community members and their families at Castle Family Health Center in Atwater last Saturday morning as part of their annual Back-to-School event.

Even though the hot summer sun beat down on the pavement sidewalk right outside the health clinic, a long line of residents remained lined up right outside the cul-de-sac at the main entrance of the center. Helpers stood at the entrance, gesturing community members in one at a time to prevent overcrowding and to allow everyone a chance at picking up supplies.

“This is our way of giving back to our community,” Peter Mojarras, Chief Operating Officer at Castle explained. “We have been here for many years in the community and we have probably over 30,000 people who come to us for medical services and this is a thank you to them. We are doing our best; the main focus of today is that we know this pandemic has made life difficult for so many people, either loss of jobs, family members got ill, or loss of life, it’s been difficult for them and a lot of people are experiencing hardships. We’re seeing prices of food and gas go up. This is just one effort to help the community out and hopefully people walk away appreciative and thankful of what we’re doing.”

In the past, the event had been held as a full health fair for about 15 years until the pandemic hit and the fair turned into a backpack giveaway.

“Within our committee, we also worked with partners and sponsors that include Legacy Health Endowment, Dignity Health, Central California Alliance for Health, and of course Castle Family Health Centers, who is the main sponsor of the event.”

All together, there were more than 600 backpacks, 400 food boxes, diapers for children, food boxes that included juices and fruit, the Pfizer vaccines and boosters, and free physicals for youth.

“Another focus today was doing Covid vaccines and immunizations so we can focus on preparing kids for school,” Mojarras explained. “We have providers inside doing well-child exams; when children enter school they have to have their immunizations and have to have physicals. We have clinicians inside administering both of these.

“A lot of this was also bringing vendors in so they can provide information on their resources, mainly healthcare, and they residents can learn about the services that are available to them in the community. We are, of course, a primary care provider who provides medical services, but today was our day that we give back to our community.”

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