Open Cities Health Center celebrates 40 years of service
St. Paul's Open Cities Health Center, (OCHC) formerly known as Model Cities Health Center, celebrated its 40th Anniversary on October 12th at the Saint Paul Hotel. The banquet event honored the staff and community members that make Open Cities an outstanding clinic. OCHC staff at Martin Luther King Center, late 1960s
St. Paul's Open Cities Health Center, (OCHC) formerly known as Model Cities Health Center, celebrated its 40th Anniversary on October 12th at the Saint Paul Hotel. The banquet event honored the staff and community members that make Open Cities an outstanding clinic.
African American women create legacy at OCHC
OCHC began in 1967 when a group of St. Paul residents opened one of Minnesota's first medical clinics dedicated to helping populations of color. The clinic started in the basement of St. James Church, in St. Paul's old Rondo neighborhood, an area where the majority of residents were African American. To date, Open Cities has been a leader in serving the new immigrant populations in Saint Paul.
The one-room clinic would not have grown to be the nonprofit community clinic it is today without the leadership of African American women.
Mary Stokes and Timothy O. Vann were named the clinic's first coordinator and project coordinator in 1969 and 1971 respectively.
This year Dorii Gbolo was named CEO of Open Cities continuing the tradition of strong African American women running the clinic.
Early Leaders: Mary Stokes and Mrs. Timothy O. Vann
Mary Stokes was a public health nurse who relocated to St. Paul from Harlem in 1947. She was named OCHC's first coordinator in 1969. She had previously worked for the St. Paul Bureau of Public Health. A community activist who worked to better the Summit University neighborhood in St. Paul, Stokes kept in regular contact with the media and local elected officials to ensure that health care was available for residents.
She believed strongly that health care was only one part of helping society and thus developed a strong network of agencies that OCHC used to refer patients to including Catholic Charities, St. Paul Ramsey Hospital and other social service agencies.
Mrs. Timothy O. Vann became the project director at OCHC in 1971. Vann supported her 10 children by herself when she was widowed in her early 30s. A graduate of Langston University and the University of Minnesota, she was employed by the St. Paul Public Works Department and for many years she worked for the Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
Vann worked to expand OCHC services to offer outpatient medical care and added many programs and services including social services, a pharmacy, dental facility and eye clinic.
During Vann's tenure, OCHC became part of the St. Paul Division of Public Health in 1972 and moved to the Hallie Q. Brown-Martin Luther King Center. Three years later, when federal demonstration funding was phased out, the clinic remained open through funding from the City of St. Paul. The clinic expanded to offer outpatient medical care including exams, minor emergency care, maternal and infant care, a well-baby clinic, podiatry, ophthalmology and hearing screens.
Toward the end of the 70s, under Mrs. Vann's leadership, OCHC was established as a community health clinic and funding was granted under the Federal Urban Health Initiatives. Mrs. Vann retired in 1983. Today Mrs. Vann's son, Tony, carries on his mother's legacy, serving on the Board of Directors at OCHC.
Dr. Beverley Oliver Hawkins
Dr. Beverley Oliver Hawkins replaced Vann as OCHC's executive director in 1984 and became CEO in 1991
Hawkins provided leadership in the agency's transfer from being a satellite clinic of the Saint Paul Division of Public Health to a private non-profit corporation. She directed the development and implementation of the agency's strategic plans and expansion of the agency's service delivery system. She also guided development of two newly constructed facilities, incl