ELIZABETHTOWN — The local health department is adding to its numbers.
On Tuesday, the Bladen County Health & Human Services Department held its annual open house, an effort, according to Health Educator Marinanne Valentiner, to educate area residents about the organization’s offerings.
“Before I started working here, I didn’t know what-all the Health Department did,” Valentiner explained. “I don’t think most people understand how much we have to offer. The Open House is an opportunity for us show everybody all the great services we have.”
For the event, the Health Department greeted guests at the door and encouraged them to register for prizes. Among the gifts given away throughout the afternoon were gift certificates to Walmart, The Car Wash, Leinwands, and Food Lion, as well as Visa cards, T-shirts, and cups.
Inside, various agencies had set up science-fair type displays with information about their services. Every division in the Health Department — from Women, Infants, and Children and Family Planning to Communicable Diseases and Health Education — offered to educate guests about what they do. Children and adults alike snacked on popcorn and bottled water while they perused the displays.
The North Carolina Tobacco Branch was offering carbon dioxide screenings, East Bladen Keyettes were painting faces, the Bladen County Library offered story time and the Bookmobile, the Elizabethtown Fire Department let kids inspect its truck, and the Sheriff’s Office was fingerprinting children for their parents’ records. BARTS, the Division on Aging, and Bladen County EMS were represented as well.
“Our partners are very important to us,” said Valentiner.
Much to the delight of the children present, the Sheriff’s Office also conducted a demonstration of its 2-year-old Belgian Malnois, Jaxx. Jaxx’ handler, Deputy Clark, hid some narcotics in a bush, which Jaxx promptly found in response to Clark’s hand signals.
The Animal Shelter was offering discounted adoptions during the day and had about 10 cats, dogs, and puppies available for anyone wanting to take one home.
“They’re really cute, but my policy is that the animals can’t outnumber the humans in the house, and we already have two dogs, so I won’t be taking one home today,” said Kelsey Edwards. “They’re really cute, though.”
Children were trying to get as close as they could to the cages, and several children were seen begging their caretaker to let them take at least one home.
If the goal was to educate residents about the services offered, the Health Department succeeded. Personnel said within the first hour they had already signed up five additional families for the Women, Infants and Children program.
“I would call it a success,” said Valentiner. “I don’t know how many we had registered for the day, but we’re very pleased.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.