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Recently, Heart to Heart traveled to the edge of the Great Plains with the University of Kansas Medical Center to operate a health fair during the annual Emancipation Celebration in the historic town of Nicodemus, Kansas.

The whole town of Nicodemus is one of those quintessential American tales of hardship and hard work, westward expansion, newly-found freedom and finding a place to call one’s own and holding onto it.

Nicodemus was settled as a planned town in 1877, 12 years after the US Civil War during the Reconstruction era, by mostly former slaves from Kentucky and Tennessee.  At its peak the town boasted around 800 townsfolk.  Residents had petitioned for the Union Pacific Railroad to lay tracks trough the town, but the railroad dashed those hopes, bypassed the settlement and its long slow decline began.  However, Nicodemus is a National Historic Site, and is the oldest and only remaining all Black Town west of the Mississippi. A couple of dozen people still reside there.

Every year since it’s founding, the town holds an Emancipation Celebration during the last weekend of July to commemorate the end to slavery, the freedmen and women who founded the town and the town’s heritage.  This is a “coming home” celebration, as many descendents from across the nation come home to visit with friends and relatives while commemorating the rich history of Nicodemus.

It’s a purely small town Americana affair with a parade and talent show, even a pancake breakfast made from wheat grown in nearby fields.

But the celebration isn’t just about history, but the future too. A healthy future. And that’s what brought Heart to Heart International out here to work in partnership with KU-MED.

During the Celebration’s health fair, 25 medical students and five HHI volunteers worked out of our Mobile Medical Unit to conduct laboratory tests, health screenings and physicals for more than 80 people.

It was a great day and Heart to Heart is honored to have been a part of both the past and the present of this rich historic community, and to have broadened access to healthcare out on the wide open Plains.

DW HHI

(with great thanks to Carla Orner, Heart to Heart’s head laboratory specialist, for the photos)

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