In the midst of a year-long global pandemic, health has been at the top of everyone’s mind. On February 6th, the Unity Wellness Center – a new, community-based organization in Winston-Salem, brought health access one step closer to several members of the community for its first-ever Winter Palooza. Residents were invited to Rupert Bell Park for complementary health and wellness discussions, blood pressure screenings, nutritional counseling, and more. 

Through the support of sponsors, including WFU’s Office of Civic & Community Engagement, the event assisted around 100 community members. Various donations and sponsor support allowed the Center to provide 800 masks, 400 bottles of hand sanitizer, 300 healthy bagged lunches, 275 gloves and mittens, 270 pairs of socks, 215 winter coats, 270 socks, 164 winter hats, 100 scarves, and hundreds of toiletry items at no cost to those in attendance. 

In addition to providing various materials to the public, the event focused on the intersection of community connection, health, and healing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Community leaders from local organizations including Housing Justice Now, the Hispanic League of Winston-Salem, and Women of Action were present to speak about the work they have been doing to keep members of the community housed, fed, and safe during this unprecedented time. In addition, local medical professionals and public health officials conducted multiple discussions about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

WinterPalooza was the Unity Wellness Center’s first-ever public event. When asked about its future goals, co-founder Sara Hines said that they plan to open an official community center in Winston-Salem by summer 2021. 

“Our future as an organization is bright and full of promise for the community,” said Hines. “We will become a valued part of the community we serve, to provide access to free comprehensive medical screening for health disparities, and offer mental health and addiction recovery peer support services, offered by myself and a mental health team, among other innovative programs for treating and healing trauma.”

Founded in the summer of 2020 by Hines and Dr. Lindsay Peral, the Unity Wellness Center is a grassroots organization that serves as a safe space to promote healing through connection. Its mission is to empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve improved health and wellness. 

Written by: Mercedes Jackson (’22)