A MIX OF IDEAS
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A Network Of Caring
here's unbridled need for Project
Chessed, the Detroit Jewish com-
munity program that strives to
improve health outcomes for medically
uninsured adults. Its increasing popularity
underscores the dire financial straits that
Michigan's poor economy has saddled too
many Jews with.
Key to the Jewish Family Service
of Metropolitan Detroit program is a
remarkable capacity to connect caring
medical providers with low-income unin-
sured adults — a connection that Project
Chessed Advisory Council President Karen
Sosnick Schoenberg says literally changes
the lives of clients by making often-life-
saving medical care available in a digni-
fied and straightforward manner.
Project Chessed serves the medical com-
munity by offering physicians and institu-
tions a way to identify and treat patients in
need with compassion and dignity. It serves
the philanthropic community by leveraging
donations more than five-fold; in 2009, a
budget of just over $733,000 resulted in $3
million in donated institutional care and
3,500 office visits for Chessed clients.
The provider network consists of 700
physicians covering a range of specialties
as well as optometrists, chiropractors,
opticians, nine hospitals, two diagnostic
centers, a pharmacy benefits management
company and four designated pharmacies.
Since it began on Dec. 24, 2004, Project
Chessed has served 3,000 people and has
leveraged $12.75 million in donated hos-
pital services. Enrollment totals 1,000 and
grows by 15 people a week. In a stunning
example of its need, the service last year
provided 5,241 prescriptions for clients,
who paid $3 co-pay for most medications.
By any measurement, Project Chessed ful-
fills the mitzvah of helping the less fortunate
among us. The model resonates because:
• It serves a large metropolitan region,
not a rural area.
• It was developed by a faith community
for that community.
• It boasts a broad, cross-sector commu-
• It doesn't rely on a county medical
society or a public health system.
• It doesn't restrict enrollment; as long
as clients meet eligibility criteria, they
Despite relying on donated medical
services, Project Chessed doesn't operate
on a shoestring budget. The current year's
budget is $733,378, a 20 percent rise from
last year. It covers operations (including
three care coordinators at a quality ratio
of one coordinator per 250 clients as
well as annual medication costs exceed-
ing $140,000) — not donated care. An
increase in clientele will require another
Follow-up surveys reveal a high
degree of client satisfaction with services
received and a
high degree of
status as a result
of the Project
ence. Of all the
( AND WHEN
in 2009, only 74
gency room care,
certainly a low
a tribute to the
quality of Project
nostic and treat-
Project Chessed saves lives through the
generosity of 700 goodwill providers. It
is an example of the best our community
has to offer.
THEY WILL THEN
LISTEN TO YOUR
ADVICE FOR THE
The project model is worth emulating
— and the local Chaldean community is
doing just that as it seeks to develop its
own version of Project Chessed.
The first Walk for Project Chessed will step off at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 25, at
Oakland Community College Orchard Ridge Campus in Farmington Hills. Enter
from Farmington Road, south of 12 Mile. On-site registration starts at noon.
Register online at www.walkforchessed.org or call (248) 592-2318. Proceeds
will go toward client necessities like medication (including insulin and asthma
inhalers), eyeglasses and durable medical equipment (like home oxygen and
post-operative neck braces).
King Of The Mild Frontier
eep in the family film archives
is a picture of my brother, Mike,
in the spring of 1955 wearing a
coonskin cap on a visit to Plymouth Rock.
It was the recent death of Fess Parker,
of course, that stirred up this memory of
how the Davy Crockett craze swept the
country that year. It overwhelmed even the
Parker, a strapping fellow of 6-5 or
so, looked nothing like the real Crockett
who, as we all remember, was born on a
mountaintop in Tennessee. Original Davy
was kind of short, and if he ever wore
coonskin it was probably to heighten the
dramatic effect when he rose to speak in
Congress. Yet the images are inextricably
linked in our minds.
But even Plymouth Rock is not what
it seems. The identity of this boulder is
based on a vague 18th century descrip-
tion given by an elderly gentleman whose
grandparents landed with the
Mayflower. He also said that
Tom Brady would never make
it with the Patriots.
In the 1920s, when the town
decided to leap into the tourist
business, the Rock was irrefut-
ably recognized as this one,
covered with a stone canopy,
and that settled that.
So many objects, especially
when it comes to historic trav-
el, share this fate. A bunch of
prominent local citizens who,
in the words of Noel Coward,
"know how Caesar conquered
Gaul and how to whack a cricket ball" call
the shots. More often than not they land
way off the pitch, but the tourists come
and the festival goes on.
Some of these results are kind of
strange. I once visited Toledo, Spain,
and the tour leader earnestly
informed us that she was now
going to show us El Greco's
"Burial of Count Orgaz:' It was,
she said, the third greatest
painting in the world — the
other two being knocked off by
Rembrandt and Michelangelo.
I wanted to ask is whether she
was using the AP or USA Today
poll of voters, but forbearance
won the day.
I also came across a tirade by
a member of the British House
of Lords in which Sir Nicholas
Winterton demanded separate
train seating for legislators, well apart
from the hoi polloi.
"They are a totally different type of peo-
ple said Sir Nick (as distinct from Saint
Nick). There's a lot of children; there's
noise; there's activity. I like to have peace
and quiet when I'm traveling."
Oh, so do I, your Lordship. So do I.
That's why I prefer driving my own car
and keep those wretched urchins at bay.
Robert Benchley once assured us that
traveling with children is the equivalent of
traveling third class in Bulgaria. And, he
said, there is nothing lower than that.
But I recall again my brother in his
coonskin cap. Sure, there were fallacies
in the historic narratives he received but
between the cap and the Rock he was a
happy kid. My dad always made sure to
throw in a dollop of history wherever we
Why don't more parents feed their kids
a little history as they travel?
George Cantor's e-mail address is
April 1 - 2010