About The Health Center Advocacy Network

We are a robust grassroots network of over 175,000 Health Center Advocates, fighting for good policies and sustainable funding for America’s Health Centers. Join us!

Connect With Us on Social Media
 

Founding Mothers/The History of CHCs Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities Today and in the Future

Founding Mothers/The History of CHCs Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities Today and in the Future

By Katie Comando
Director of Government Affairs & Advocacy
HRHCare Community Health

Community Health Centers have long understood the inextricable link between social justice and the health of a nation, now finding themselves at the front lines of a pandemic that hinges on the undeniable vulnerability of a healthcare system that favors the wealthy, employed, and white. Pioneers of the community health center movement strove to address these inequities by providing access to high quality healthcare in areas with the greatest need, as did the Founding Mothers of Hudson River Health Care (HRHCare) – Mary Woods, Willie Mae Jackson, Pearl Woods, and the Reverend Jeannette Phillips – who sought to bring health care access to their community by opening the doors of their health center in 1975 in Peekskill, New York.

Despite the odds, these four African American mothers came together to create a Federally Qualified Health Center network that now serves over 245,000 patients in 16 counties of New York State.

 

Founding Mothers of HRHCare from Left to Right: Willie Mae Jackson, Pearl Woods, Jeannette Phillips, Mary Woods

The Founding Mothers had no doubt about the interconnected nature of social justice and health equity.

As Pearl Woods shared in a 2010 interview:

“Most of us had taken part in the March on Washington, and we had heard Martin Luther King in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and we realized in the back of our minds… that’s really what we had.

I think that when I hear his speech, I think about what we went through to get to where we are, and I think about the Center as a part of my family. This is something that I have a great deal of pride in, and I think all of us continue in the same vein as we started then – that we are always going to be trying to help other individuals. So I think that’s a major part of this. I get real teary-eyed about Martin Luther King’s speech, and I get real teary-eyed about this Health Center, and I believe in it.”

The inspiration of the Founding Mothers and the beacon of their dream to help others is a guiding principle for HRHCare and health centers across the nation. As Black Lives Matter continues to raise the alarm in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism, and communities of color are hit hardest by COVID-19, the community health center movement finds itself in familiar territory, ever more thankful for the incredible individuals who have shared their wisdom and their vision with us throughout the decades, lighting the way.

The Reverend Jeannette Phillips continues to guide HRHCare, as Executive Vice President of Community Development and Executive Director of the Housing Preservation Company, in focusing on health equity as a human right.

Reverend Phillips reflects on that commitment in this clip from a discussion in 2010:

“Most of us had taken part in the March on Washington, and we had heard Martin Luther King in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and we realized in the back of our minds… that’s really what we had.

I think that when I hear his speech, I think about what we went through to get to where we are, and I think about the Center as a part of my family. This is something that I have a great deal of pride in, and I think all of us continue in the same vein as we started then – that we are always going to be trying to help other individuals. So I think that’s a major part of this. I get real teary-eyed about Martin Luther King’s speech, and I get real teary-eyed about this Health Center, and I believe in it.”

Reverend Phillips reflects on that commitment in this clip from a discussion in 2010:

It is fitting that Reverend Phillips has been recognized in a number of ways for her achievements in improving access to quality health care services for under-served communities, and especially appropriate that Reverend Phillips will be receiving a Congressional Proclamation from Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, on August 13th during National Health Center Week 2020.

At the HRHCare 40th Anniversary celebration in 2015, President and CEO of HRHCare, Anne Nolon, announces the naming of the HRHCare Jeannette J. Phillips Health Center at Peekskill

We rely on the leaders of our Community Health Center Family, like Reverend Jeannette Phillips, who keep us grounded and remind us of our history as a Movement, born out of the Civil Rights Movement, and the War on Poverty. As our country takes a long hard look in the mirror, it is those who have advocated tirelessly for human rights, equality, healthcare access, and who have served others, who can smile at the face they see reflected. With the Founding Mothers lighting our way, we remember our roots, and look towards the future.

https://www.hrhcare.org/who-we-are/