When we changed our name in 2017 from Health Intervention Services, or HIS, to Exalta Health, we chose a name that echoes our commitment to lifting up health and praising God who makes this work possible.
Our annual luncheon this month exemplified those two themes. Together almost 200 people gathered at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park to celebrate the Exalta Health mission and give thanks to God.
Board member Eva Alexander first was introduced to Exalta at one of our annual luncheons and was drawn to support us with her time, talent and treasures. She spoke movingly at this year’s event about her experiences with immigration, learning a new language and navigating the U.S. healthcare system.
Now Executive Director at Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates, Alexander was born and raised in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico and emigrated with her family at the age of 13.
“I don’t think people realize how difficult it is when you don’t have insurance, and it’s a choice between your health and groceries,” she said. “It’s a choice between your health and gas to get to work. It’s a choice between your health and putting food on the table for your kids.”
Exalta, she added, helps people not to have to make those hard choices. And the people who support Exalta become part of something bigger than themselves.
Monica and Charles, two Exalta Health patients featured in a video presentation at the luncheon, said they felt like part of something bigger than themselves as patients of Dr. Laura Vander Molen.
Monica recalled being without insurance for a number of years after a successful career in medical sales, followed by a rapid change in life circumstances, including a divorce. And she recalled something more.
“I had a lump that I could feel in my right breast,” she said. “So, when I came to Exalta on one of the visits I decided I should probably ask Dr. Vander Molen if she could check this out, and she immediately said ‘I don’t like this; let me get you a referral.’ And thank God she did.”
Monica’s lump was malignant, and she felt overwhelmed. But she didn’t feel alone.
“Dr. Vander Molen called me and just said ‘I’m just checking in,’” she said. “It just helped so much to know that there was somebody else on my team, somebody by my side. It meant a lot. I was scared out of my mind when I got my cancer diagnosis. And I just needed reassurance that people are there for me who care, and I was going to be okay. That’s what Exalta gave me.”
Charles said the same.
“The personal touch is what I think about when I think about Exalta Health,” he said with a smile. “It was that way from the time I arrived at the office to the time that I left. That was something I hadn’t felt probably since I was a kid at my pediatrician. And after all these years, I didn’t receive that touch until I walked into the Exalta office.”
For Vander Molen, and for Exalta Health President, Ed Postma, hearing heartfelt testimonies from patients like Monica and Charles is what it’s all about.
Indeed, at the luncheon, Vander Molen reflected briefly on the idea of work as found in Genesis 2:15, framing her thoughts around the Gardens setting for the luncheon.
“In Genesis we see the initial use of the word ‘work’ as a beautiful picture of us gardening and working the ground,” she said. “Gardening not only produces fruit and food but beauty. We were able to have our luncheon at the Garden, and wow isn’t it amazing what a good gardener can do.”
Beyond that though, she said, God wants all of our work to be gardening.
“And our garden, on the corner of Division and Andre, is where we are called to bring health and healing and beauty to our patients,” she added.
In welcoming people to the luncheon, Postma sounded a similar theme: “Today is an opportunity to come together in person to see and hear what has been happening at Exalta Health and its response to the pandemic and other needs in the community. We are here together to rediscover what Exalta Health brings to our community through the clinic and through partnerships that we have developed. We knew what Exalta Health brought to the community prior to the pandemic. Let’s rediscover what Exalta Health brings now.”
That rediscovery included not just Ed and Eva and Monica and Charles and Laura, but also the superb talents of emcee Shelley Irwin of WGVU Radio; a Board report from Chair Doyle Hayes; an update from Aundrea Robinson-Burris, president of the Grand Rapids Black Nurses Association about our new partnership and collaboration with her organization; and, of course, a fantastic meal and a chance after the luncheon to spend time in the beauty of God’s creation in the Gardens.
The icing on the cake: $20,000 raised (with more still coming in) to support the important, life-saving and life-affirming work of Exalta Health.
And if you’ve never experienced an Exalta Health luncheon, plan to join us on October 11, 2023!