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Free health screenings, family activities featured at Monastery Fall Festival

An unidentified girl enjoys the petting zoo at the Monastery Fall Festival in 2011.

An unidentified girl enjoys the petting zoo at the Monastery Fall Festival in 2011.

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Crowds peruse the booths at last year's Monastery Fall Festival.

For their second annual Fall Festival, the monks at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit have decided to put into action one of their basic tenets -- service to the community.

The service comes in the form of a health fair that offers free health screenings and a cadre of health care professionals to conduct the procedures and provide advice on what patients should do with the results.

The health fair is one component of the more extensive Monastery Fall Festival, set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 29 on the grounds of the monastery, 2625 Ga. Highway 212 in Conyers. The festival offers an array of family activities, food and crafts, as well as a series of lectures on the environment throughout the day.

Brother Callistus Crichlow of the monastery worked closely with local doctor Mike Manning. Manning said the medical community, including Rockdale Medical Center, responded favorably to his requests for participation.

"There are a lot of people who are uninsured and have lost their jobs and this is some way we can reach out to them," he said.

The health fair screenings will be in the areas of vision, dental, dermatology, bone, feet, spinal, depression, body mass index and blood pressure. Participants can also opt for free blood draws which will test for prostate cancer, blood chemistry (indicating the function of organs), hemoglobin A1C (to measure blood sugar), and lipid panel (which checks cholesterol).

Crichlow said more than two dozen health care professionals -- general practitioners, psychiatrists, dermatologists, nurses, dentists, optometrists, chiropractors, massage therapists -- will serve in the health fair.

"We wanted to be holistic and cover all the bases," Crichlow said.

Family fun is another focus for the festival. Kids can enjoy the pony rides, petting zoo and hay rides. Parents can explore the marketplace which sells Abbey Store products such as crafts, jewelry and books, as well as monk-crafted food products like fruitcake, fudge and biscotti.

Environmental experts will speak at the festival's Good Earth Lecture Series. Topics include butterflies and dragonflies, the natural diversity of the monastery grounds, the American Indian history on the land of the monastery, local plant life and the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, of which the monastery is a part.

Crichlow said the original impetus behind last year's first fall festival was to draw people to the new Monastic Heritage Center which features museums, a gift shop, a bonsai and garden center, and cafe.

The first festival drew 2,000 people. Callistus expects even more visitors this year.

"The health fair may have a life of its own and depending on how it turns out, we may not combine it with the fall festival and make it two separate things (next year)," he said.

To learn more, click on the Monastery Fall Festival link at www.trappist.net.