Dr. Bill Releford, right, distributes face masks and hand sanitizers to a local senior citizen. (Courtesy photo)

As the coronavirus rapidly enveloped the country, Dr. Bill Releford prayed for God’s direction to help the African American community in the greater South L.A. area.

Releford, who founded the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program, requested God’s guidance in using his skills and talents to reduce the occurrence of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, in Black people.

In response to Releford’s request, God gave him a tangible solution – distribute free sanitizers and face masks to the community, which is what Releford did on March 27. Joined by members of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, he and the men distributed more than 200 masks and hand sanitizers to local senior citizens. Broadcaster Dominique DiPrima and KJLH Radio also aided in publicizing the event.

Explaining his motivation to action, Releford said, “My assignment is to help reduce the legacy of health disparities in this nation. Everyday I pray for strength, courage and wisdom in this effort. As a healthcare advocate, it was becoming clearer by the hour that effective and credible preventive messaging regarding the pandemic was not getting to the African American community.

“On top of all of this, you have run-away conspiracy theories on social media claiming that Black people are immune to the virus. That was it for me. I decided that I would not simply sit on the sidelines and watch my people suffer,” he declared.

                                 Dr. Bill Releford (Courtesy photo)

The recipients willingly accepted the items, said Releford, and he plans to conduct another distribution on Friday, April 3, at 212 East Regent St., in Inglewood. In addition, several partnering barbershops in Los Angeles have offered to giveaway facemasks and hand sanitizers as well.

For the past 34 years, Releford has practiced as a podiatric surgeon specializing in amputation prevention and wound care. A longtime member of Brookins-Kirkland Community AME Church, he founded the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program in 2006. Over the years, the initiative has screened more than 30,000 African American men for diabetes and high blood pressure in over 750 Black-owned barbershops across the nation.

“The Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program is the only national barbershop-based health advocacy organization in the country,” said Releford. “Our mission is to screen and educate over one million men by the year 2025.”