Keeping Southern Arizona Healthy for 60 Years

2017 marks the 60th Anniversary of MHC Healthcare. Founded in 1957 as Marana Community Clinic, MHC Healthcare is now a strong, vibrant contributor to the health and well-being of more than 40,000 of our friends, neighbors, and family members in Marana and greater Tucson, Ariz. Get engaged with our online community (sign me up), as we explore how the past six decades of community healthcare in Marana and Tucson have mirrored the evolution of healthcare across the country.


How Can We Help?

In 1957, the world watched Elvis swivel his hips, and Russia’s Sputnik circle the globe. Dwight Eisenhower was President of the United States, North Carolina won the NCAA Basketball Championship, and Dr. Seuss published The Cat in the Hat. Americans were enchanted by Marilyn Monroe, and gasoline was 24 cents per gallon. 

Amid world and national news, science, art, athletics and entertainment, the residents of Marana, Ariz., were addressing an issue of rising concern that was both local and national. Their focus was on the impoverished living and working conditions of Marana’s seasonal farm workers and particularly migrant workers, a population that was key to the region’s economic strength. 

Each fall, migrant workers would arrive in Marana and the rest of Arizona, to harvest cotton, one of the state’s Five Cs (copper, cattle, cotton, citrus, climate), and a vital part of the state economy. In the late 1950s, that equated to harvesting some 600,000 acres of Arizona cotton.

At the time, there were approximately two to three million migrant workers across the country. The workers and their families began their annual journeys each year in the spring, typically from labor camps or housing settlements in the southern states. As the growing season unfolded, they made their way north on buses and trucks, to harvest the country’s produce, including beans, tomatoes, celery, corn, berries, cherries and, most important to Arizona, cotton.   

The strenuous physical nature and inherent dangers of migrant and seasonal farm work, coupled with deficient living and traveling conditions, brought a litany of unique trials to the workers and their families. Among their challenges was access to healthcare.   

The farming families of Marana asked, “How can we help?”

They answered their own question, with the incorporation of Marana Community Clinic on Sept. 26, 1957, as Arizona’s first community health center.  Dedicated to serving resident and migrant agricultural workers and their families, the goals of the clinic were simple and, at the same time, sweeping. The clinic was designed to embrace the community of Marana, regardless of economic circumstances, and ensure a healthier population.

Marana Snapshot

  • 1910: Pima cotton, developed in the Arizona Territory, is released to the market. Its long silky fibers compete with the more well-known Egyptian cotton.
  • 1917: Cotton becomes integral to World War I, in the production of airplane tires and wing covers. North of Marana and closer to Phoenix, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company junior executive Paul Litchfield purchased land, and the company moved to Arizona to cultivate Pima cotton.
  • 1920: Cotton is Arizona’s most popular crop.
  • 1922: With the war over, demand for cotton drops. Cotton farmers face an economic drought.
  • 1937: 215 miles west of Marana, the family of 10-year-old Cesar E. Chavez is evicted from their home near Yuma, Arizona. They move to California, as migrant workers.
  • 1954: The Supima Association is formed, to promote the increased consumption of American Pima cotton around the world. Independent cotton farmers, including those in Marana, take note.
  • 1956: The Town of Marana changes nomenclature: Migrant Workers Camps are now called Farm Workers Camps.
  • 1956: The Community Christian Church, then known as the Marana Community Christian Church, led by Pastor Dave Hedgepeth, helps organize efforts to alleviate the plight of the migrant worker. Marana’s cotton families are also involved.
  • 1957: Marana Community Clinic is incorporated.


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