Before we meet Mrs. Florene Linnen, founder of the Georgetown Diabetes CORE Group and advocate of individual empowerment through community-level health initiatives, lets consider two seemingly contradictory statements.
- Diabetes impacts South Carolinians with increasing frequency.
- Physicians now say we can prevent the diseases onset and reduce its impacts.
So tell us, Mrs. Linnen, if we have the medical know-how to address this life-threatening disease, why dont we do a better job of it?
Its about knowledge, education and empowerment, she says. For so long, people have been living with the myth that diabetes is just a little sugar. I hear that all the time.
Well, its not just a little sugar. Its a disease that we can treat.
If people had the knowledge about what they can do – see the doctor, exercise, rest, proper diet, medication – they could change their lives.
Mrs. Linnen should know. Twenty-one years ago, she learned she had diabetes. Instead of resigning herself to the diseases complications and impacts, which include blindness and loss of limbs, she chose exactly the opposite course.
It dawned on me that there had to be something better, she says. Now, here I am. Its 21 years later. Ill be 61 in three months. I still have my limbs and my eyesight, and I feel really good. My energy is just as good as my childrens.
That, in itself, would be a great story, and an example for others to follow. But theres more. Much more. Married to Herbert Linnen, Sr., for 40-plus years, the mother of seven, grandmother of 12 and great grandmother of four, somehow finds the time to be one of the states leading advocates for health education and personal empowerment at the community level.
Working out of the former Choppee High School, currently being renovated as a one-stop shop for Georgetown County residents seeking health-related services, Mrs. Linnen has become a familiar figure to health care recipients and practitioners across the state. In addition to her work with the Diabetes CORE Group, she is a community health advisor for the REACH 2010, Director of the Health Ministry of the AME churches in Georgetown, and board chairman for the Saint James-Santee Family Health Center. She has appeared on numerous television programs, including South Carolina Educational Televisions Our Health series.
Previously, she worked for 30 years performing community outreach and referral services for the Waccamaw EOC (Economic Opportunity Council).
Her transition to her current calling began in 1997, when two friends asked her if she would like to attend a diabetes workshop and bring relevant information back to her family, friends, acquaintances and community contacts in Georgetown.
From there, I hit the road running, Mrs. Linnen says.
Literally, it seems.
We started with a meeting at my church (Nazareth AME in the Choppee community north of Georgetown), she says. I found out we had 70 diabetics in my church alone. Then we set up a meeting at the Dickerson AME Church in Georgetown. Seventy-five people came out to that meeting. That meeting was a real boost, and we asked ourselves, Whats next?
The Diabetes CORE Group took shape shortly thereafter, raising money through private donations and such fundraisers as a diabetes banquet, attended by over 200 residents and health care providers in March 1998.
Our people were suffering from a lack of knowledge, Mrs. Linnen says.I learned that you can take control and empower yourself with knowledge. We still work one person at a time, trying to educate people so they can help themselves.
Its a hands-on approach that requires personal commitment, an outgoing personality, and what Mrs. Linnen calls a heart for diabetes education.
The Diabetes CORE Group, REACH 2010 we catch them any way we can, she says. Sometimes, my children tell me, Momma, you have no shame. But our idea is to reach the people. The whole concept is caring for the community and educating people.
To learn more:
For more information on the Diabetes CORE Group or any of the other organizations mentioned in this article, contact Florene Linnen at: 843-546-6887.
See the Diabetes section in South Carolinas Biggest Health Problems for more information about diabetes.