Beach Health Clinic, Open to All


September 9 – 13

“We’ve hosted a dental clinic for the past five years, with the mobile dental bus,” said Pastor Shawn Critser of the First Baptist Church of Fort Myers Beach, better known to locals as Beach Baptist, at 130 Connecticut Street. “During our conversations with other members of the Ministerial Association of Fort Myers Beach, with whom we have been meeting regularly for most of this year, we all came up with the idea to expand this concept, by using the dental program as a launching pad to a much larger health clinic, in which most of the services are free.”

The inaugural “Beach Health Clinic” will be offered at Beach Baptist Monday through Friday, September 9 to 13, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is open and available to low-income, uninsured or limited insurance, and homeless populations, as well as to all others. Services include Parish Nurses to answer questions and offer care; LeeHealth for COPD, asthma, smoking and related issues; a bloodmobile and mammograms on Friday; the Hogland Family Hearing Program for free hearing tests; Lee County Homeless Coalition; Florida WIC Program for good nutrition for Women, Infants & Children and to enroll for Food Stamps; Inversion Table; Spiritual Guidance; and of course dental services. You must make an advance appointment for dental care and a mammogram at 239-463-6452; all other services are available on a drop-in basis. There is, however, a fee attached for a mammogram.

Beach Ministerial Association

The Ministerial Association of Fort Myers Beach includes representatives from Beach Baptist, Beach United Methodist, Chapel By The Sea Presbyterian, St. Peter’s Lutheran and St. Raphael’s Episcopal Churches. “This is a cooperative assembly of all the Protestant churches on Fort Myers Beach,” explained Pastor Critser. “We currently cosponsor an Easter Morning service at the Fort Myers Beach Pier, along with Good Friday and other Easter Week programs. This past year, we began to organize and host other community events, like the Beach Cleanup on the morning of July 5, following the Town’s annual July 4 Fireworks display, as well as a ‘Back to School’ bash where we had a cookout and bounce house for roughly 50 island kids, and now this Health Clinic.”

Pastor Critser said he finds the Ministerial Association “dynamic, to provide the island community benefits from a group perspective. Traditionally, individual churches tend to do their own thing, but the Ministerial Association encourages people from different churches to attend different churches, to experience a broader ecumenical vibe rather than just an individual church feel. By working together through these acts of cooperative service, we can better give back to the community, with a sense of purpose, to let the beach community know that we are here not just to serve them through church services, but by getting our churches out into the community, to be community-driven and active. If we just continue to do our own individual church works, we are only going through the motions, honestly.”

The various aspects of the Health Clinic snowballed as discussion continued among the Ministerial Association members, said Pastor Critser. “Our original dental clinic concept started the ball rolling, then someone mentioned the Parish Nurse program, and then the bloodmobile, and someone else had a connection to LeeHealth, and before you knew it, here we are! It seemed like no matter who we reached out to, the answer was, ‘we will be there!’”

All Week at Beach Baptist

While the combined Beach Ministerial Association program, the group decided to host the Health Clinic at Beach Baptist. “Since we previously held the free dental clinics, everyone thought we were the most logical location,” explained Pastor Critser. “Since those dental clinics last from Monday through Friday, we also incorporated the workweek-long timeframe for the Health Clinic.”

He reminded those planning to attend the Health Clinic, “You must schedule dental and mammogram appointments in advance. There are restrictions on some of these medical services, however, such as the dentists do not do things like dental cleanings, but if you need a tooth pulled or cavity filled, they absolutely do that. While the Health Clinic will offer a wide variety of services, please keep in mind that not every one of these professionals can be here every day, so also call to see if the service you need will be on site the day you wish to attend. Mammograms and the bloodmobile can only be here on Friday, September 13, so while we wish they could be here more often, we are grateful for that time.”

Another example, Pastor Critser pointed out, “are the hearing tests; while they will be on site at some point each day, they can only stay a few hours at a time. The Lee County Homeless Coalition can only attend on Thursday the 12th, and we arranged that to coincide with the Choice Market that is open each Thursday. The Parish Nurse program, on the other hand, will be here every day to provide assistance, and you can sign up for Food Stamps all day every day. In addition to the medical services, the Health Clinic will feature informational booths, with all kinds of different details for your health and well being. Of course, it would not be a Ministerial Association Health Fair if we did not offer spiritual guidance for those in need during the entire event.”

One particular aspect of the Health Clinic will literally be trial-&-error throughout the week. “We are experimenting with reproductive health services,” Pastor Critser offered. “We don’t know exactly how this will work out yet, so we will have to see how all of this goes. In the future, we might even be able to accept gynecology appointments for women at offsite locations, while offering urology and proctology services for men. As we perfect what we have here is just one of the many reasons we hope that the Health Clinic will become an annual event.”

Open to All

While the Health Fair is open and available to low-income, uninsured or limited insurance, and the homeless populations, Pastor Critser emphasized that “this is also perfect for our island’s service industry employees, like bartenders and servers! You do not need to live on Fort Myers Beach to take advantage of these medical services, as all are welcome to attend, regardless of where you live or work. Many Fort Myers Beach businesses in the service industry, for example, do not offer dental insurance coverage, so take advantage of this opportunity. Stop in anytime throughout the week, ask questions, and find out the next steps available to you for your healthcare needs. As if you needed any more incentive, we will have coffee and snacks all day long each day!”

Pastor Critser recommended that attendees bring relevant identification with them, “because while you do not need to prove residency or income or anything like that, these are medical treatments, so you will have to answer some questions and fill out some paperwork, like at all medical facilities.”

While the Health Clinic can use volunteers, Pastor Critser has one specific need. “The dental clinic employs three dentists who rotate in-&-out during the week, but we could use a fourth, so if you are a dentist and have time, please contact us. During one of our previous dental clinics, our dentists treated 121 people over the five days, so it is a massive number.” To make dental and mammogram appointments, volunteer or for additional information, telephone Beach Baptist at 239-463-6452.” If you have questions concerning the Ministerial Association of Fort Myers Beach, call Denise Armstrong, the Office Administrator for Chapel By The Sea, at 239-463-3173, extension #20.

One Location; Many Services

Pastor Critser finds working with his colleagues at the Ministerial Association of FMB rewarding: “The group sincerely wants to expand our scope of community services from beyond each of our own four walls, without caring who gets any of the individual credit. We care about the people on this island, because Fort Myers Beach is our home, too! The Ministerial Association of FMB wants everyone to know that we value this community, and not only just through all the church-based stuff. Churches should be more than simply places of worship, but must be integral leaders in our communities, or you are just taking up space.”

When asked why everyone should take advantage of the Beach Ministerial Association Health Clinic, Pastor Critser exclaimed, “Health Matters! It is not very often that you can avail yourself of this many services, all in one place, right here on Fort Myers Beach, and most free of charge, right in your own backyard, so don’t let this opportunity pass by before it is gone! This may sound a little crude coming from a Pastor, but get your butts down here between September 9 to 13 to experience all of these great services!”


By Gary Mooney