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2022 in Re(ar)view

We are grateful for a successful year within our team –as measured by events, capacity building, client success stories, affirming exchanges, etc–even as we navigated various, familiar challenges–including losses among the team and community, staffing and team changes, the grief and vicarious trauma of witnessing, and severe weather. Over nearly three decades of consistent, on-the-ground and in-the-classroom work, the MHI refined, and continues to refine, strategies for resilience as well as the most effective practices for improved outcomes.

By the numbers:

  • Participation, hosting, presenting, and/or tabling at 150 events for a total of 255 hours.

  • Direct interaction with 4000+ event attendees

  • 6350 attendees total

  • 329 volunteer hours

  • 1500 pamphlets distributed

  • 100 blood pressure screenings

  • 250 masks and 100 hand sanitizers distributed

  • 1400+ health and medical items distributed

In addition, several of our team members earned certifications in Mind-Body Medicine and as Lifestyle Coaches in the CDC’s program for preventing Type II Diabetes. We are excited to implement these new skills with the support of Project Hope in 2023.


To start off the New Year, the MHI continued its tradition of engaging our community, providing health resources, and educating community members in an effort to promote health and break down barriers. The month started with our monthly coalition meetings bringing in members from the community to discuss ongoing health challenges, such as the Omnicron wave of COVID-19, health disparities in care and more. Dr. Merritt also gave a student lecture at New College about emerging health issues, the disparities that exist in the U.S. healthcare systems and hopes she has for the future. We also offered health screenings and information at the Newtown Farmer’s Market, and at our monthly healing circle Dr. Vida Farhangi of Newtown Residency Practice Training Clinic spoke on Thyroid awareness. The MHI finished the month in our continued community outreach with a presentation in collaboration with Ringling Museum and New College of Florida’s Anthropology department and other community coalition meetings.

Barbara Powell-Harris provides an Earth Box demo at New College of Florida.


February was a very active month with the MHI and saw us engaging with health partners around the country. In addition to our community and health equity coalitions meetings, Dr. Merritt had the opportunity to attend and showcase the MHI’s work at the Association of Black Cardiologists’ annual meeting. She gave a combined lecture with Professor Brion at New College of Florida and Jay Boda of Ringling Museum regarding the work of Eleanor Merritt and Mid Century impressionist Artists. The MHI also had a monthly, yearlong presence at several local and national events and meetings including the SIA NAACP Steering Committee, the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Bioethics, Physician Wellness, health equity and Community Health Meetings, Dr. Merritt’s guest commentary with the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, as well as our active participation in several health equity and strategy task forces. We continued our community impact with Financial Literacy workshops, our monthly healing circle focused on Heart Health, and participation in New College’s “reclaiming Wellness” symposium. To wrap up the month, Dr. Merritt continued to be a face for change in the community, giving museum gallery tours and talks, doing interviews about arts and equity, steering the conversation of several local health organizations towards health equity, and continuing to champion the principles of health equity.

MHI Team and Community Members gather at Bay First Bank for a Financial Literacy Workshop.


March was the month of coalition building, including the reinvigoration of our environmental justice work, with the MHI holding 5 community coalition meetings with our local partners. MHI continued its health focus in March with a National Kidney Disease Healing Circle, health events at Newtown Farmer’s market, and financial literacy and educational workshops throughout the community. We also certified several of our team members in delivering trainings on Mind-Body Medicine.


April was a month of continued coalition building as well as community outreach. The MHI participated in several health event pop-ups, supply distributions and workshops. Our monthly Healing Circle focused on Autism Awareness. We also continued our financial literacy workshops to tie socio-economic health to biological health, and we wrapped up the month with the Howard Club award ceremony where both Dr. Lisa Merritt and her mother, Eleanor Merritt, received recognition. The ceremony was held at the Ringling Museum at Eleanor Merritt’s Remembrance Exhibition.


May was a month of community engagement with the MHI which saw us participate in five community targeted events around SRQ. The MHI not only participated in our recurring monthly events such as the healing circle on mind-body medicine featuring MHI’s Director of Wellness Dr. Mike Weddle, and food pantry assistance, but also recognition at the “Women in Power'' luncheon and financial literacy workshop. Plus, we started off the month with an interactive Healing Arts and Wellness Fair at the Ringling Museum.

Odessa Ammons, JoOni Jones, Darlene Brown, Vicki Royer, and Dr. Lisa Merritt at the Women in Power Luncheon.


June was a month of celebration for the MHI as we celebrated Juneteenth together and focused our impacts on events revolving around the holiday. We participated in both Newtown and Bradenton’s celebration of Juneteenth and pro

vided free health screenings and information to promote health equity. The MHI continued our COVID-response work in June with several community coalition meetings to discuss the continued impact COVID has on our communities. The MHI continued its monthly programs including the financial literacy workshop, Healing Circle (focused on Men’s health month and featuring David Morse), and food pantry work with Oneco United Methodist Church.


July focused on the kids and those who educate them as we participated in several back-to-school events. The MHI made sure to show up for our community at one of the most stressful times of year as we all prepare for the back-to-school season. During one such event, we conducted community

surveys about environmental health in North Sarasota, at an event hosted by Booker High School graduate and football player Marlon Mack. The MHI also continued its monthly programming such as with the financial literacy workshops, healing circle (minority mental health awareness featuring Dr. Janet Taylor), and work with Onceo’s food pantry. Left: Marlon Mack and Dr. Lisa Merritt at Booker High School.


August was a month of advocacy with the MHI in addition to our focus on back-to-school work. During the month of August, the MHI took part in several advocacy and public broadcast events with Dr. Merrit interviewed by ABC7 on 3 separate occasions. In addition to interviews by ABC, the MHI also presented at the National Medical Association in Atlanta about our data for advocacy and the impact that the MHI has had on its local communuity; MHI Scholars Ryan Mays and Chief Nelson presented alongside Dr. Lisa Merritt. August was also a bittersweet month for the MHI as we celebrated the conclusion of our MHI scholar program with this year's class and the wonderful accomplishments and drive that they brought to the MHI team. To finish up the month of August, the MHI continued its monthly event programs such as the healing circle, focused on breastfeeding and featuring Sheera Thomas, Oneco’s food pantry, and our community coalition meeting.

Ryan Mays (left) and Chief Nelson (right) present at the National Medical Association.


September was a month focused on advocacy for the MHI with Environmental Equity, Data monitoring, and PSA’s in mind. Through MHI’s commitment to health equity, we took part in several health events such as a PSA for prostate screenings.

However, mother nature had something else in mind; September was a mission critical moment for MHI as we not only continued our day-to-day health promotion activities, but quickly activated our crisis response team. Shortly after Hurricane Ian made landfall, the MHI sprang into action providing needed relief for our community, resources, and information. We assisted in coordinating several water evacuations, EMS services, and providing disaster recovery information to our community, including several of our own members.

MHI Team and community partners distribute medical and hygiene supplies provided by Project Hope at Greater Hurst AME Church Chapel.


October was a month focused on recovery and resilience with the MHI. In total, the MHI participated in five hurricane relief supply drops in addition to providing up-to-date evacuation and recovery information on our resiliency dashboard. Furthermore, we not only maintained our recurring health events such as our monthly Healing Circle, health navigator meetings, and continued our breast cancer awareness efforts. The MHI furthermore participated in several community breast cancer events, and also provided testimony about breast cancer and our past experiences with it. In collaboration with All Faiths Food Bank, CenterPlace Health, the LINKs, the Sarasota Department of Health, and Simon Med Imaging, we provided free mammograms. To wrap the month up we gauged interests in diabetes prevention for our workshop series, and presented about cyber security, and took part in Newtown Community Health Action Team.

MHI Team and partners in front of Mobile On-site Mammography bus at Newtown Estates.


While we at MHI always love to give back, November brought a whole new meaning to the season of giving for us. November was one of the busiest months for the MHI this year and saw a wrap around of events and advocacy for the Sarasota/Manatee community. We started off November with our first annual “Healing Around the World Wellness Workshop” where we brought in local and national health leaders to share tips and methods to manage our emotions and cope with the stresses of modern society (recordings available to MHI Members). We co-hosted a networking event for local physicians of color, including students, in collaboration with the Gulf Coast Medical Society and MCR Health. MHI Scholar Kenya Woodard received recognition for her academic achievements at the Sarasota NAACP Freedom Awards. MHI continued its monthly diabetes prevention workshop, our healing circle (focused on lung cancer featuring Dr. Merritt and MHI Scholar Marquia Walker), and conducted several supply drops for those in need and victims of Hurricane Ian. MHI further embodied the spirit of giving with our participation in several advocacy efforts in the SRQ area. We conducted an environmental focus group at the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, gave interviews with WSLR on pollution in North Sarasota, and gave presentations at the Community Navigators meeting on furthering health equity in our community. Finally, MHI took part in several community events including Visions of the Black Experience, Bank of America Community Needs roundtable discussion, NAACP Freedom Awards Dinner, and several other community events. To wrap up the month and focus on our continued work, we held an end of month coaching event for our MHI scholars and met with stakeholders to plan for the upcoming Community Health Fair.


We are proud to have finished the year strong! We started and ended the month with supply distributions, including on World AIDs Day, where we distributed information on HIV/AIDs as well as hygiene and medical supplies. We continue planning for a stellar 2023 at Community Health Fair Planning Meetings and Environmental Equity Task Force meetings. We had an intro session on our forthcoming diabetes prevention program, and maintained our monthly community coalition meetings and healing circles (this month’s topic being HIV/AIDs and featured speaker Michael Kehoe). Left: Angela Miles and Darlene Brown distribute supplies provided by Project Hope at Bethlehem Bible Church.

Huge thanks to our MAT collaborators, hosts, and supporters at these events, especially including:

  • Amaryllis Park Neighborhood Association

  • Bethlehem Bible Church

  • Boxser Diversity Initiative

  • CAN Community Health

  • Centerplace Health

  • Empath Health

  • Greater Hurst Chapel AME Church

  • Gulf Coast Medical Society

  • The LINKS Inc.

  • MCR Health Services

  • New Bethel MBC Church

  • New College of Florida

  • Newtown CHAT

  • Newtown Farmer’s Market

  • Newtown Nation

  • Oneco United Methodist Church

  • Project Hope

  • The Ringling Museum

  • Sarasota Department of Health

  • Sarasota Memorial Hospital

  • Sarasota NAACP

  • WSLR + Fogartyville

  • Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota

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