• Gabriel Donio

Gov. Murphy stops by Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers


Governor Phil Murphy (left) and  SJFMC President and CEO Linda Flake (right) with Ximena Pesantez. Pesantez received her COVID-19 vaccination shot at SJFMC on April 30. (THG/MarySusan Hoffman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

A moment that seemed to bring together so many aspects of the current New Jersey experience occurred in town on the afternoon of April 30, 2021.


New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s large black SUV pulled up to the front doors of the Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers facility at Augusta Professional Center on the White Horse Pike (Route 30) in Hammonton. He was greeted by SJFMC CEO Linda Flake and other top administration of the federally qualified healthcare center. Inside the building, the governor, who was on his way to Atlantic City to receive his own second vaccination shot, spoke with people who were receiving their shots. Some spoke English; others spoke Spanish.


At that precise moment inside Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers, based in Hammonton, New Jersey, our corner of America and the world was a microcosm of what is happening everywhere.


“One must be at home someplace to feel at home every place,” the minister and mystic Howard Thurman wrote.


Hammonton is our home, but for a small town, we seem to receive a significant amount of attention from the world at large, especially the political world. In the span of a couple of days, Governor Murphy and Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew both stopped by, albeit for different reasons.


Even during a pandemic, or perhaps because of it, Hammonton and the healthcare facilities, organizations, churches, schools and businesses stand out and receive recognition from visiting dignitaries.


Take Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers—they are based in Hammonton, known throughout the Garden State as an agricultural community. SJFMC owns its building in the Augusta Professional Center and takes up a significant amount of square footage for its corporate headquarters in the One White Horse Centre building at the corner of the White Horse Pike and Route 206. They also have facilities in the following locations: Atlantic City (two locations, including a Women and Children’s Health Pavilion); Burlington; Buttonwood; English Creek; Pleasantville; Salem and a mobile medic.


Linda Flake has been SJFMC’s CEO for more than 25 years and is one of the most capable corporate leaders I’ve seen. That remark is based on first-hand experience. I’m proud to say I am a former SJFMC board member. It’s been exciting to watch their growth. Flake and her team have built their success on serving the needs of their patients. Here is the SJFMC mission, from their website:


“The mission of Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers (SJFMC) is to provide and promote effective, culturally proficient, high-quality primary, secondary, specialty, preventive, behavioral health and dental care services for residents and migrant seasonal farmworkers in Southern Jersey regardless of their ability to pay and to eliminate barriers to care based upon race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender, national origin and residential status. SJFMC will provide this care in a competent, compassionate and empathetic manner,” the SJFMC website reads.


Now SJFMC’s mission includes administering vaccinations. There are other healthcare facilities and businesses providing vaccinations locally as well, including AtlantiCare, MediLink, Walgreens, ShopRite, Bellevue Drug and Walmart.


On April 30, the governor of New Jersey stopped by SJFMC in Hammonton for a visit to view how their vaccinations were being administered. It was another proud moment in the long history of SJFMC. It was also a moment that illustrated where we were as a town, a state, a nation and a world. Murphy spoke to both moments during his visit.


“It’s a big deal. This is one of New Jersey’s great communities. The South Jersey Medical Center community has always been there and done a great job. And just seeing some folks getting vaccinated, in this case with their second shots, I’m heading across the county to get my second shot after this. It’s a big day. A big deal … We’re going to take some pretty aggressive steps. As long as the COVID numbers keep going down in the right direction, and they are, thank God, and as long as the vaccinations continue to be supplied by the feds and taken up by our residents, we’re going to be able to open this up and have a great Jersey summer,” the governor said in front of the Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers facility at the Augusta Professional Center in Hammonton last week.


Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.