Harlan County, ARH Receive Aflac grant

Published 7:04 am Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Dressen Park has been dressed up with a new park bench, however the bench itself is only part of the story.

The bench comes alongside a $100,000 grant as part of the Close the Gap initiative from Aflac, which is designed to assist Harlan ARH and Harlan County in combating cardiovascular disease.

Aflac and ARH Healthcare held a ribbon cutting ceremony at Dressen Park on Friday to announce the grant and dedicate the bench.

According to a press release, the grant is intended to help reduce the cardiovascular disease burden in Harlan County through increasing the availability of disease education and screening and maintenance equipment.

Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley was present for the event.

“We certainly appreciate Aflac’s commitment to our community through this grant to address health outcomes,” Mosley said. “Harlan County has a high rate of heart disease, and February is National Heart Month. This is a perfect time to address long term health for our community and also bring awareness about heart disease.”

City of Harlan Mayor Joe Meadors, who also took part, mentioned the high rate of heart disease in Harlan County.

“We have such a high incidence of pulmonary and cardiovascular disease in this county,” Meadors said. “Our incidences of those are alarming, and this is just the first step of what I hope are many steps to combat that and to help our present generation and future generations to come. This is a positive first step, and we’re thankful to Aflac and what they’ve contributed here.”

Aflac U.S. President Teresa White made the trip to Harlan to present the grant.

“Aflac does things by the numbers,” White said. “We have an Aflac care index, which is a survey and study that helps us to understand where there is the most need for services…We saw Harlan as a place where there is a high need, especially in the cardiovascular heart disease/stroke area.”

According to Mosley, during the past month community facilities equipped with AEDs (automated external defibrillator) have been identified, and part of the grant funds will be used to equip additional facilities with the life-saving devices.

“Those are the defibrillators that are able to shock a person’s heart back into beating if they have a heart attack,” Mosley said. “A lot of our schools and public buildings have these. This grant will enable us to acquire AEDs for our police departments, so we’re very excited about being able to put these in our police departments to provide greater access in our communities.”

Harlan ARH Hospital Cardiologist Dr. Georges Damaa, MD, gave his thoughts on the grant.
“I am very pleased we are receiving a grant from Aflac insurance to our community to help Harlan Countians become healthier,” Damaa said. “We are pleased they are going to help us make sure Harlan Countians are receiving the best care.”

White explained Harlan County reached out to Aflac concerning the grant.

“We saw that as a win/win for Harlan and for Aflac,” White said. “As I was saying earlier, Aflac is in the community, we have agents that sell insurance, go to churches and things like that, so this is not our first foray into Harlan. What we are trying to do is make sure as we’re in the community that we’re serving the community as well, especially when there are needs like the one that we saw in the care index for Harlan.”

White pointed out this is the first park bench Aflac has installed.

“For Aflac, the park bench is a place of reflection,” White said. “We thought Dressen Park would be a great first bench reveal.”

Mosley noted the Aflac Park Bench is a welcome addition to the park.

“Aflac as part of this investment wanted to do something at a park,” Mosley said. “Back when the Aflac duck was introduced years ago, it was brought out by a park bench, so for the first time in the company’s history, they are going to be putting benches at community parks, and today is the unveiling of the first bench. It’s a very durable bench…it will be a nice addition to our park, and it showcases Aflac’s commitment to our community.”

Aflac launched the Close the Gap initiative earlier this year. The company considers the Aflac Park Bench to be a physical manifestation of the commitments they make to the communities where it awards CareGrants to organizations that are working to close the health and wealth gap.