Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ken's Pharmacy

Today, community outreach was my main priority. I visited some of the local businesses in the Versailles community, introducing myself and letting them know I was at their service. During my quest, I stumbled upon a small pharmacy simply named Ken's Pharmacy, named after the owner/manager/employee (a one man show). The building is encompassed by a rusted iron fence, designed to resemble French design, while chipped crackling paint dress the faded exterior walls. At first glance it looks cold, desolate and barely worth much thought. However, as I walked into the tiny store, I quickly felt hypnotized by the vibrancy beaming within. There were carefully displayed products dangling from every corner, from bright green cough syrup, to glistening silver hand watches. There were people swaying in and out, laughing and pointing at the colorful toys quaintly stacked on the shelves.

The main reason for my site visit was to try and explain to Ken a leasing contract, in which MQVN CDC, had drafted for him and Tulane University’s Medical Center. Apparently, Ken was leasing some of his property to them, with the requirement that they build a medical clinic which would accommodate poor people in the community, based on a sliding scale. Ken explained that there was only one doctor in the entire area, and he felt horrible when people were turned away due to their lack of insurance.

While evaluating Ken’s leasing contract, I quickly realized that he was not going to make any profit on his leasing agreement, just enough to cover the insurance expenses for the property. Curiously, I asked Ken why he was not leasing his property for more, considering that it was worth a lot more and Tulane University could surely afford a higher lease. Ken just humbly replied, “I am doing it for my community.” Being only familiar to the usual profit hungry practices from most business owners, his answer really blew me away.

While talking to Ken, many people entered his store and greeted him as if they had been coming there for years. Most people did not buy anything; however, Ken did not seem to mind. He just genuinely seemed to enjoy the interaction with his fellow community members. At one point, a small boy, no older than 10 years old, came into the store. He was extremely shy, and was looking at his feet the entire way to Ken's counter. The boy was holding a small plastic bag and I was extremely curious to see what he could possibly need. As soon as he reached Ken, his little head perked up, as he unveiled a small trophy with the inscription 4.0. He smiled and quietly whispered, "I got it again." Ken’s then existing smile spread even wider, from ear to ear, as he congratulated the small boy. Then Ken pulled down a large Sponge Bob Square Pants alarm clock off one of his shelves and handed it to the boy and said, “here you go, keep up the good work!” The boys little blue eyes lit up with excitement as he thanked Ken and ran out of the store in delight.

Leaving my site visit today, I felt an extremely warm feeling about Ken and his little humble general store. Even more so, my visit to Ken’s pharmacy gave me a pretty good sense of the dynamics of the entire Versailles community in general. What looks like a small, poor and abandoned community is actually one blessed with something extremely special. It possesses a group-oriented culture that emphasizes community needs over individual rights and interests, where each individual in the community was duty-bound to help everyone in their community make Versailles not only a community, but home.

No comments: