Woodlawn wellness center brings healthcare services to medically underserved community

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A grand opening was held Sunday for a newly renovated community health center on Chicago's South Side.

The center, near East 67th Street and South Champlain Avenue in the Woodlawn neighborhood, is focused on ending healthcare disparities in Black and Brown communities.

"I have long, as a young boy, have loved Woodlawn," said Kurt Akbar Muhammad, co-founder of Salaam Community Wellness Center.

The community is the longtime home to generations of families.

"The neighborhood is, it's my home. It's dear to me," added Woodlawn resident Kelle Martin.

Families and residents are overflowing with pride to make a change in their community, including residents like Muhammad.

"This is my community, so I'm very much interested in making sure that we bring wholeness and wellness, and peace, to this community that's in need of our service," he said.

Together, Muhammad and Dr. Constance Shabazz came up with an idea to provide a new kind of healthcare to an area considered medically underserved.

"We took the responsibility instead of looking for some benevolence coming from outside of the community to be able to bring some type of revitalization to the West Woodlawn community," Muhammad said.

The Salaam Community Wellness Center hosted its grand opening after renovating a once-abandoned building along E 67th St..

"What a symbol of rejuvenation, of a community -- to be able to take something that looks like it was just a throw-away and to now breathe life into it," co-founder Dr. Shabazz said.

The center plans to offer more than typical health care services but a new model of services to address addiction, mental health and social services.

"We are not here to just treat the sickness and disease, but to educate," Muhammad said.

Dozens of people attended Sunday's grand opening, including neighbors who called the center "much-needed."

"We're really excited. It's something positive in our neighborhood and enhances the neighborhood, and it's just overall good for our community," Martin said.

Dr. Shabazz called the new center a true community-built and funded venture, built from local donors and neighborhood partnerships -- ones that are still in need for they hope to only grow this venture to help inspire others like it.

"I look at this as is a project, not just even for Chicago, but a model that hopefully can be emulated, be established and thrive in other communities across the entire U.S.," Dr. Shabazz said.
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