AVON PARK - Compassion is more than just a word to Stacey Leveridge, a certified navigator and Medicaid specialist at Central Florida Health Care Inc., who has earned a reputation for his dedication and contribution to the community.
On Jan. 25, Leveridge received a "Community Service Award" from The Agricultural and Labor Program (ALPI). The nonprofit organization, headquartered in Winter Haven, honored Leveridge with the South Florida regional award for his efforts to obtain energy assistance for low-income families and his participation in their health and energy fairs.
"Once patients come in for healthcare service, I refer them over to ALPI for their utility services, rental assistance, and other services that they need," Leveridge explained.
"We are a one-stop shop at Central Florida Health Care," he said of the private, nonprofit health corporation located at 950 County Road 17 A W. in Avon Park.
For more than 40 years Central Florida Health Care has been providing primary and preventative health services to clients in Highlands, Hardee and Polk counties, with programs for men and women's health, prenatal care, pediatrics, migrant care, chronic care, pharmacy, dental and patient education.
"Central Florida Health Care started in the '60s providing services that are accessible and affordable, quality care for the community. We have realized there is more to healthcare than someone just walking in, being seen by the doctor and getting a prescription. Health is about having access to quality food, and electricity is important," said clinical operations manager Gregory Okwengu.
"We are very proud of the fact Stacey has been recognized by ALPI, a community partner that seeks to address those issues," Okwengu said.
"It was a great experience. There were 400 to 500 people there. ALPI CEO Delores Johnson presented the award," said Leveridge of the awards dinner held at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando.
After graduating from Sebring High School in 1986, Leveridge attended Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona, then went to work in the banking industry.
On Feb. 4, 2008, he took a job in the marketing department of Central Florida Health Care. He became a Medicaid specialist after that department closed in 2009.
Now, he advocates for over 100 clients a month as a navigator, helping them obtain Medicaid, food stamps, energy assistance and with enrollment in the Affordable Care Act.
"The process online is still lengthy. We continue to do paper applications," said Leveridge of the new mandated health insurance. He added that after enrollment forms are mailed, clients are contacted by the federal health care marketplace to finalize the process.
One of Leveridge's clients, Sebring resident Cardenia Wilson, has been relying on his expertise for the past six years to help her understand all of the programs available to assist her.
"Yes, he has helped me very much. He gives me information I don't know," Wilson said.
Leveridge said he is "aggressive about getting the job done" when working for the people he has come to consider family.
Another facet of Leveridge's life is his "side hobby" as an entrepreneur with an eye for fashion. He owns Stacey's Fashions, a line of men and women's clothing with suits, dresses, hats, purses and accessories.
Leveridge is also actively involved with his church, Bountiful Blessings Church of God in Sebring.
"That's my life," said Leveridge, who is on the church fundraising and finance committee, assists the pastor and leads the male choir, The Men of Judah.
"We used to have a smaller church across the street, but we were blessed with the funds to build this," he said motioning to the Pentecostal worship center and gymnasium located at 820 Martin Luther King Blvd.
"I entered this world August 20, 1968 to serve, and I will exit this world knowing I did just that," said Leveridge with a smile.