By Kirstie Matzek and Corenza Townsend

The authors with a mountain of back packs donated for Unity Jam.

Sometimes a moment grabs you and just won’t let go. For us, that moment happened at last summer’s Unity Jam, an event created to break down Louisville’s barriers to good health. As volunteers gave out free lunches — with extras to take home — one woman said, “This will be the only food my family gets today.”

Something like that is hard to forget. It reminds us that actions matter.

Unity Jam is a take-action volunteer-driven project coordinated by Norton Healthcare’s African-American employee resource group, called SYNERGY.

Our initial focus was on the 40211 and 40212 ZIP code areas, where Jefferson County’s top poverty rates are found, but it soon became clear many people in our community have limited health care access. So our broader goal became to build relationships and bring people together.

And, because you can’t bore people into action, we vowed to keep it fun!

SYNERGY’s first Unity Jam was a rocking success with nearly 1,100 people representing 267 households. Norton Healthcare’s Mobile Prevention Center provided health screenings to more than 100 individuals. Some 340 adults and children received cancer prevention and tobacco education resources. Nearly 700 backpacks filled with school supplies were given out, and another 350 were distributed later through area schools.

This year’s Unity Jam will be even bigger and better. It takes place Saturday, Aug. 11, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Molly Leonard Portland Community Center, 640 N. 27th St. Admission is free, and all are welcome.

We will have dozens of booths with health information, free health screenings, demonstrations and giveaways. The Mobile Prevention Center will offer mammograms and wellness exams.

Entertainment and children’s activities will include music, a dunk tank, bounce houses, face painting and games. Students can complete a scavenger hunt to earn a backpack of free school supplies based on “needs for each grade” lists provided by Jefferson County Public Schools.

Norton Healthcare is presenting Unity Jam in partnership with Passport Health Plan. Miller Transportation provided a school bus that donors are filling with school supplies at several “bus crams” through the end of July. Morrison Food Service is helping provide food. iHeartRadio and Insider Louisville are helping get the word out.

Our community is stepping up in a big way for Unity Jam. We invite you to join us.

Health access is just one of our area’s challenges. Gun violence and drug abuse leave no neighborhood untouched. Economic disparities cause many to struggle with food insecurity and lack of affordable housing.

In the face of such issues, it’s easy to say, “No one person can fix it all.” That would be true.

Yet, when we unite and tackle complex issues together, we can make good things happen. A woman can smile because her family has food. A child can start school excited with a new backpack full of supplies. We can start ripples that will one day become big waves, even if we aren’t there to see it happen.

If this, and more, can happen against a backdrop of music, family fun and loads of valuable free resources, aren’t we all the better for it?

Kirstie Matzek, Ed.D., MSBC and Corenza Townsend, LPN, are co-leaders of Norton Healthcare’s African-American Employee Resource Group. Matzek is the practice manager for Norton Community Medical Associates — Brownsboro. Townsend is practice manager for Norton Leatherman Spine Center.

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