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Greensboro faith community addresses memory loss diseases with drive-thru health fair


L-R: Dr. Jewell Cooper, a New Zion member and Assoc. Dean of the School of Education at UNC Greensboro; Guilford County Commissioner and New Zion member Carolyn Coleman; Rev. Steve Allen, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church; Greensboro physician Dr. Wayland McKenzie; New Zion Assoc. Pastor Rev. Deborah Holland and June Thompson. Ivan Saul Cutler/Carolina Peacemaker

A group of churches, health advocates and civic leaders provided free boxes of food, along with flu shots and resources for healthcare at the Alzheimer’s Drive-Thru Winter Festival hosted by New Zion Missionary Baptist Church on December 5.

New Zion Missionary Baptist Church partnered with Wake Forest Baptist Health, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, Trinity AME Zion Church, Wells Memorial COGIC, New Light Missionary Baptist Church, and The Pulpit Forum of Greensboro to bring much needed food supplies and healthcare necessities to the community.

“Despite the fact that COVID-19 has just about engulfed our communities, there are many other diseases that impact the African American community disproportionately. Among them are Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss. We have come together, as a community of churches, and Wake Forest University to talk about the needs in this community for the prevention of those diseases,” said Carolyn Coleman, District 7 Guilford County Commissioner and member of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

Coleman added that the drive-thru health fair was intended to create relationships, opportunities and provide information to individuals suffering from these diseases or those with family or friends that fall into the high risk category for memory loss.

Pastor William Wright Jr., of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church, said he has seen memory loss issues largely impact his congregation.

“We were delighted to host this important event that addresses a disease that disproportionally affects the African American community. I have seen it in the church and in the community—it seems to be tied to those who are in isolation. Now, more than ever, it’s important to us as a church to reach out to our elderly community and church members because this isolation negatively affects memory loss. It’s a devastating disease because it also affects the caretaker and the other relationships around them,” said Pastor Wright.

The health fair was also an opportunity for Wake Forest Baptist Health to inform the community about a free study on Alzheimer’s and memory loss prevention. The Alzheimer’s Association and The U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health Through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk (U.S. POINTER) is a two-year clinical trial to evaluate whether lifestyle interventions that simultaneously target multiple risk factors protect cognitive function in older adults at increased risk for cognitive decline. It is a non-medicinal study for adults 60 - 79 years old, who are not regular exercisers (generally less than three times per week), and may have other risks for memory loss in the future such as family history of memory problems or slightly high blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar.

Dr. Lamonte Williams, Grassroots Engagement Specialist for Wake Forest Baptist Health, noted that it was important to reach out to the African American community for the study because too often that population is left out of medical studies.

“The purpose of our event is to provide some much needed resources around Alzheimer’s, dementia and memory loss. We know that African Americans are two to three times more likely to develop memory issues. This is an amazing, cutting edge study around memory loss prevention,” he said.

According to Williams, the study is open for 400 participants; where there are only 240 enrolled so far, adding that minority participation is hovering around 18 percent.

“This is for our whole community, but I want to make a personal appeal to the minority community. If we do not engage and the cure is made, what a travesty it would be for our community that there will be a cure that does not address us as African Americans. This study is an opportunity to do something preventative for your health,” he said.

Williams added that not many know that the use of olive oil in cooking can aid in memory loss prevention. Upon entering into the study, participants will be assigned a life coach, dietician and nutritionist.

More than 1000, 32-lb boxes that included poultry, beef, fresh produce and dairy products were distributed at Saturday’s event. In addition to food boxes, Wake Forest Baptist Health provided a to-go boxed lunch that included a sandwich, chips and fruit.

Bishop Freddie Marshall, pastor of Greater Church of Deliverance said the food distribution portion of the event served to stress the importance of healthy diet and exercise and how it can aid in prevention of memory loss.

“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the globe, but across the Triad there are families in dire need of sustenance,” he said, adding that the event addresses a social engagement piece as well.

“One of the things that’s happening is this disease has separated people and families. What this effort does is not only enforces social distancing, but also shows us social engagement as a spiritual practice. We cannot forget those within our communities who are not able to interact. It does affect cognitively, those who are separated from the communities in which they thrive from,” said Bishop Marshall.

For more information on the study, visit