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Care Force Helps Hundreds of Seniors

Oct. 20, 2005 – Seniors lined up early Thursday morning at the Frenchtown Community Center to wait for Care Force 2005 to open its services at 7:30 a.m.
Care Force is a collaboration between the Virgin Islands Medical Institute, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Hovensa, the Department of Human Services, the V.I. National Guard and the V.I. Air National Guard.
The program provides free flu and pneumonia shots, blood-pressure screening, blood-sugar monitoring, dental checks, vision screening and foot exams. It also provides hemoglobin A1c and lipid profiles, a group of tests that determines the risk of heart disease, but to get these tests you have to present a Medicare or insurance card.
The driving force behind Care Force is Dr. Cora Christian, Virgin Islands Medical Institute director, who has managed the program since its inception in 2000.
"This is my first time," said Glen Smith, as he filled out his final paperwork with Yvette Canegata, AARP associate state director.
"Did you get a flu shot?" Canegata asked. "Yes," Smith replied, "and I had my blood sugar and my blood pressure tested." Smith praised the program. "I believe in preventative measures," he said, "and I am encouraging everybody to come here, too."
Those standing nearby didn't need encouragement. Many are back for their second, or even fifth time.
"This is my second time," said Ms. Payne, who didn't want to give her full name. "It's a good opportunity. I'm going to do it every year."
The dental checks and vision screening weren't available Thursday at the Frenchtown site, but the foot exams were running smoothly. People lined up to have St. Croix Dr. Jeffrey Innis take a foot in his lap for a look.
Innis gently ran a slim instrument along the bottom of the foot of a patient. "Now, if all your toes fanned open like this," he said, spreading his fingers, "that would indicate a brain lesion or a spinal cord injury. It's a neurological test." The patient's toes stayed put.
The Frenchtown center was filled with tables set up for the different tests and was staffed with volunteers from the AARP and National Guard. The volunteers ranged in age from girls in their 20s to AARP members themselves. The atmosphere was upbeat, with the staffers dispensing wide smiles along with medical advice.
"It's really fun here," said one person waiting in line. "This is nice."
National Guard Lt. Col. Ben Mitchell was overseeing about 18 National Guard volunteers. "We look forward every year to this," he said. "It gives us a chance to stay engaged in the community, and it gives the medical detachment an opportunity to maintain their medical skills. We've been doing it for four years now."
Canegata said AARP had about 13 volunteers on duty Thursday. "But there are more staffing the other sites," she said. Canegata and Mitchell said they hoped to see about 200 people Thursday at the Frenchtown center.
About 600 seniors participated in the Care Force program on St. Croix earlier in the week. The program will be held again from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 21 at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Sugar Estate and the Frenchtown Community Center. For more information on Care Force, call 712-2444.

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