Uniting For The Uninsured
Derived from the Muskogee Indian word "pilo," meaning canoe, the close-knit community of Bithlo, Florida, was established more than 100 years ago in a rural, eastern corner of what is now Orange County. Over the decades, as Central Florida grew and flourished around it, Bithlo remained on the outskirts, devoid of the urban development that built up much of early Orlando during the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s.
"We were moved by the challenges the people of Bithlo face and equally by the commitment of United Global Outreach. Our goal is to simply come along side this community to support and encourage." -Brian Paradis
AdventHealth's mission has propelled us to help restore basic needs for underserved communities in Ethopia, Haiti, Peru, Germany and Jamaica. Upon learning of Bithlo's plight, we decided it was time to take action close to home.
Surrounded by scrap yards and beleaguered by contaminated drinking water, unemployment, inadequate public transportation, dilapidated housing, high illiteracy rates and limited access to quality health care, Bithlo has dealt with challenges more typical of a third-world country than that of a US community. Thanks to recent efforts, this downward trend is beginning to look up.
Since 2009, Tim McKinney has been a guiding force in leading an effort to transform Bithlo into a thriving community. Inspired by his great aunt, an AdventHealth nurse who quit her job to care for her ailing parents, McKinney has devoted himself to full-time advocacy for the underserved. Having grown up in Orlando, he utilized his years of experience organizing worldwide mission and humanitarian aid efforts for a local Baptist Church to begin tackling Bithlo's biggest challenges. As executive vice president of United Global Outreach (UGO), a non-profit organization, McKinney is engaging local government, social service organizations and more than 40 partners to help solve Bithlo's overwhelming infrastructure issues.
Over the years, AdventHealth's mission has propelled us to help restore basic needs for underserved communities in Ethiopia, Haiti, Peru, Germany and Jamaica. Upon learning of Bithlo's plight, we decided it was time to take action close to home. With our rich history of putting altruism into action, we worked quickly to designate Bithlo as our first local "Footprint." We began the transformation process by helping Orange County Academy (OCA)-Bithlo's first and only private school established by UGO in 2010 - to meet the special educational needs of Bithlo's children. "We were moved by the challenges the people of Bithlo faced, and equally by the commitment of United Global Outreach. Our goal is to simply come along side this community to support and encourage," said Brian Paradis, chief operating officer for AdventHealth. Recent facility improvements initiated by AdventHealth will allow OCA to nearly double its current number of students. Hospital volunteers also provided back-to-school physicals as well as vision and dental exams at the Bithlo Back-to-School Bash, where more than 700 filled backpacks were given away.
"Having an organization as caring and significant as AdventHealth publicly recognize the value and possibilities of Bithlo is incredible," said McKinney. "l am confident others will follow, making Bithlo's positive transformation possible because of AdventHealth's commitment." More plans for Bithlo are on the horizon; we plan to extend our healing ministry by interweaving our time, talents and resources into transforming Bithlo into a healthy, vibrant community. The people of Bithlo deserve nothing less.
For additional information about United Global Outreach, please go to www.UGO2.org