Connellsville's Wesley Health Center marks two decades

| Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, 6:27 p.m.

Twenty years ago when the Wesley Health Center opened, there were skeptics on how the center, which provides free health care to those without insurance, would be able to keep its doors open.

“This was made possible by prayer, belief and a lot of hard work,” said Marilyn Weaver, executive director of the Wesley Health Center, during a special service Saturday recognizing the center's 20th anniversary. “The Wesley Health Center owes so much to so many people and are grateful to everyone.”

The Connellsville center was the vision of the Rev. Eugene Ankeny, who was then pastor of the Wesley United Methodist Church. He enlisted the help of local physician, Dr. J. Miller Oppy.

Since it opened 20 years ago, the center has expanded through grants and donations to offer a variety of services. Renovations have also been made.

Thanks to the elevator that was installed last year, the facility was able to expand to use the entire second floor, which includes the retinal screening room and camera areas and other rooms that are utilized for a number of various functions.

“Before we installed the elevator, we were virtually land locked,” board President Paul Grubach said. “We looked into expanding or adding on but there was no way that we were able to. Adding this elevator opened up the second floor to us. It's really made a big difference for us.”

Various public officials attended Saturday's services, including state Rep. Deb Kula, who presented the center with a citation.

“This place is my shining star,” Kula said. “It is a great honor for me to be here to celebrate this occasion.”

Connellsville Mayor Charles Matthews praised the facility for what it does and what it has brought to the community and to the people of Connellsville.

“When this first started, I didn't know if it would make it a year let alone 20,” Matthews said. “This shows what dedication can do. This is really the gem of the city of Connellsville and I have always been proud to support the Wesley Health Center.”

Saturday's ceremony included a rededication and ribbon cutting.

The facility was open for several hours for tours.

Grubach said she was proud to be a part of such a well run and maintained organization. She commended Weaver for her dedication.

“Marilyn (Weaver) is phenomenal,” Grubach said. “She goes above and beyond. She is wonderful and she does everything she can. We know that there are still people who are going to fall between the cracks but she always does everything she can.”

The Wesley Health Center is a stand-alone clinic and is not a part of any larger facility, hospital or health care organization and does not charge its patients any fees nor does it receive any federal, local or state reimbursements.

In 2012, 100 percent of fees paid to providers, staff and operational fees were made possible through donations, grants and fundraising.

Weaver said the center will have flu shots offered to the community this year free of cost thanks to the efforts of Kula.

“We have truly been blessed with getting the flu shots and we can now offer them to all in the community who needs them,” she said.

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.

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