From its beginnings as a PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) group offering health services to the community, to a vital, thriving health center serving Anne Arundel County residents, the Parole Health Center (PHC) has grown as the neighborhood has grown, because of the diligence and dedication of its community members. Thanks to volunteers who contribute their time and talents, local businesses and organizations that offer funding, and well-trained and knowledgeable staff who provide health care, PHC has evolved as it continues to meet the needs of the county.
In 1936, Parole Elementary School Principal Walter S. Mills said to the PTA, “Every child has the right to be born a healthy child” as motivation to begin a campaign to create a health care center in the Parole community. In the 1930s, health care and many other facets of American life were greatly segregated. During the Great Depression (1929-1942), only the very wealthy could afford quality health care. While a few of the middle class were able to take advantage of basic medical needs through health insurance, most African Americans were only able to receive medical assistance in specific segregated facilities.
The PTA was able to secure the use of the Asbury Methodist Church in Parole (now Cecil Memorial United Methodist Church) for the Parole center on a monthly basis from 1936 to 1938. Although it was a good start, the area was basic and sparse, using pews for examining patients and sheets as partitions.
The health center moved to Mount Olive African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1938. The church hall provided a sink and running water, which was a tremendous improvement, but a space heater was the only heat in the winter months. It was clear that more suitable facilities were needed.
In 1941, the Parole Health Association was formed. Its Board of Directors, with overwhelming community support, began raising funds with dinners, bazaars, raffles and a door-to-door solicitation campaign. Groundbreaking for a new facility took place in 1946 when the land was purchased from Henry and Marie Taylor for $10. Although some construction was done by contractors, much of the work was done by community residents themselves. Men provided their labor and skills, while the women provided food and hot coffee. The building, located at 1950 Drew Street in Parole, was finally dedicated on June 5, 1949. From 1949 to 1977, the facility remained virtually unchanged. Services provided at the center included maternal and child health clinics and immunizations.
Community functions in addition to child care services were held in the lower level of the health center. In 1967, the Executive Director of Economic Opportunity, Inc. Everett Wilson played a major role in starting up the Child Development Center (later the Drew Street Head Start Center). While the lower level of the health center was used as the learning and daycare center, the upper level was used for clinics and offices. PHC received much support from the community. A refrigerator, floor covering, blinds and nursery necessities were donated by local merchants, and PHC received a federal grant for children’s services, facilitated by American politician and activist R. Sargent Shriver. Anne Arundel County Government funded the staff and some support services while building maintenance and other programs were supported by funds raised by the community.
As community needs increased, France Pindell, president of PHC, believed he could best serve the community by heading up the center’s renovation and expansion committee. He handed over the presidency to Alice Wright in 1977 who still holds this position. The PHC was reorganized as the Community Health Center at Parole (CHCP), Inc. Federal, state, county and city grants were actively pursued and received. Donations were solicited from local businesses and organizations. Through the hard work of the CHCP, volunteers and supporters, 2001 marked the groundbreaking for the facility’s renovation and expansion, which was dedicated in 2002.
Today CHCP is one of the most modern and well-equipped health centers in Anne Arundel County. The health center currently offers the following services: Healthy Start home visiting and case management for pregnant women, infants and toddlers; HIV/AIDS testing and counseling; immunizations; pregnancy testing; and tuberculosis treatment.
For more information about the center’s services, call the Parole Health Center at 410-222-7247.