Walker checks up on Care-A-Van driver, Henry Smith.

Advocacy for the voiceless… a ministry to a community in need.

This is how Sonya Walker describes the Care-A-Van, a 42 foot-long mobile health screening bus that travels central Mississippi to serve the elderly and children, thanks to St. Dominic Health Services.

Walker, a one-time medical surgery nurse, has been their director for 13 years, a job she knew she was destined for.

“I think about junior high school, and my parents and I laugh about it now,” she recalls. “I was that 7th grader that carried a briefcase. I was called a nerd. But I was also the kid everyone wanted to come to for help. I understood how important service was. As the child of ex-military, service is engrained in the fabric of my family.”

St. Dominic’s Care-A-Van offers “head to toe” assessments that can be tailored to an organization’s needs. Blood pressure, vision, hearing, height, weight, BMI, glucose and cholesterol screenings help shine a light on the importance of health to academics and quality of life.

“People don’t understand how impactful it is knowing their numbers,” Walker explains. “We see children that have high blood pressure, yet they may have vision issues. Their parent might say, ‘Yes, he’s been having trouble in school, but just didn’t know [what was going on.]’ We advocate for them and shed light on improving their health and well-being.”

Success stories abound, but the most impactful ones count a now-incoming college freshman as a testimony of healing. A rare, aortic heart defect, discovered at age four through simple blood pressure screenings, may have never been recorded without intervention from the Care-A-Van.

“We’ve built great relationships and a repoir with those parents who love the ministry and will come back and help,” Walker said. “They understand how powerful the ministry is.”

Community partners help St. Dominic’s serve on a broader scale. Walker loves having doctors on call that will see children pro-bono, or pharmacists who hear of a senior who has run out of medication and has no money and will help provide them an emergency supply.

The Care-A-Van ministry has served over 4,000 seniors and children throughout the year and has recorded nearly 600 hours of volunteer service.

“I want people to understand how invested St. Dominic’s is in giving back,” Walker said. “The services [we offer] are provided at no charge for the good of the community. This is our way of giving back and being a good steward of the resources we have gained. The Care-A-Van is a very important way to do it.”

Volunteers are needed for registration and to help with height and weight screenings. Connect with Walker at swalker@stdom.com or call 601-200-6799.