IMPACT’s latest project: Education

By June 17, 2011April 15th, 2014No Comments

Novembe 21, 2008. The Daily Progress.

The Rev. Dennis McAuliffe sees education as an influential umbrella, powerful enough to affect nearly everything in a person’s life.

It’s for that reason that he and hundreds of other members of IMPACT, or Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together, decided to make education — over jobs, wages and youth — its priority this year.

“Education is really something that can be a catalyst in any one of those three areas,” said McAuliffe, pastor of Holy Comforter Catholic Church and IMPACT’s co-chairman.

The issue was decided at the group’s third Annual Assembly last month, where more than 700 people gathered to choose their focus for the year and to discuss the group’s efforts thus far in affordable housing and dental care for uninsured adults. Now, McAuliffe said, a research team is figuring out what problem in education to face head-on, making sure to pick one that is clearly defined and has a good chance of resolution.

“We wouldn’t pick something that would take 25 years to deal with,” he said, adding, “It’s an issue that we tackle that’s doable, that we would be able to make progress in.”

IMPACT, which comprises 30 congregations, has been credited with many area successes. Referring to dental care for low-income uninsured adults, Erika Viccellio, executive director of the Charlottesville Free Clinic, said, “IMPACT’s engagement in the issue has really helped to increase the community’s awareness of the dire need.”

Dental care was the group’s focus as a part of health care last year, chosen because of the need in the community. In 2007, the emergency room at the University of Virginia Medical Center recorded more than 1,900 visits from people seeking emergency dental care, and Martha Jefferson Hospital had 142 visits. Additionally, more than 1,000 people were on waiting lists for dental programs throughout the area, most of which relied on volunteer dentists.

Now, the local free clinic has a hired dentist and two dental assistants and continues to have several who volunteer, Viccellio said. Because of the boost, the clinic has had a 300 percent increase in patients from last year for extractions. Additionally, its community dental program saw 20 patients in October alone — compared with 40 patients in all of last year.

“There’s exciting progress and good momentum,” Viccellio said. She added that there is still a waiting list for dental patients, but before, “there wasn’t an appointment in sight.”
Viccellio said the clinic’s goal is ultimately to be treating more patients than it has on the waiting list.

Thanks to IMPACT, she said, “I’m confident we’re going to reverse those numbers.”
McAuliffe said for the upcoming year, the group may work with area schools but has not yet determined a clear educational focus. Because education is the process of any learning, there’s a possibility for all levels and ages to be incorporated into the mix.