Free COVID-19 testing is now being offered seven days a week at the George Washington Carver Community Center in Marshall, thanks to a partnership between George Foreman Jr., and Dascena Labs.

“I have a lot of friends and family in the community and I just want them to know that they can go get a test; and if they’ve been exposed or if they have symptoms, to have somewhere to get a free test — with insurance or without insurance,” said Foreman, son of Marshall native and two-time world champion boxer, George Foreman Sr.

The service is available to anyone, regardless of circumstances, to help protect their loved ones and the community.

“My true passion is health disparities and access to everyone,” said Foreman. “For people who don’t have options, now we’re creating an option for them. That’s what we’re doing. I hope this does some good.”

Residents can pre-register online at mycovidtest.me/onsite or register on-site at the community center, located at 2302 Holland St., in Marshall. Testing will be conducted Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The site promises fast and accurate COVID-19 testing. Results will be returned within 24 to 48 hours.

“These are PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and the PCR tests are very accurate,” said Foreman. “Sometimes the rapid tests have inaccuracy, but we wanted to bring a test where it takes 48 hours to get back; and when you get it back you know your results, you can count on your results.”

Jennifer Hancock, director of the Marshall-Harrison County Health District expressed her appreciation to the lab and Foreman.

“We are excited to have Danscena Labs bring free COVID-19 testing to our community,” said Hancock. “This is a valuable tool in continuing to combat COVID 19.

“It is a great investment from Mr. Foreman to seek out Harrison County and help meet this need,” Hancock continued. “We appreciate his team and all they are doing to help keep our residents healthy.”

The drive-through testing site opened last Friday. Foreman’s company, The Culture Equity, assisted Dascena Labs with the hiring of health professionals from the Marshall and Jefferson area to operate the site.

“We opened on (last) Friday. I came in town maybe two weeks ago, got the site, and then we started hiring last week,” said Foreman. “We hired people; we trained Wednesday and Thursday and then we opened on Friday.”

Partnering up

Foreman teamed up with California-based Dascena Labs through his consulting firm, The Culture Equity, of Houston.

“I have an experiential and strategy consulting firm. We service some pretty cool clients. We help them with experiences, digital, strategy and consulting,” said Foreman.

Dascena Labs, who had an FDA approved algorithms for COVID-19, had sought the services of Foreman’s company to help with hiring and setting a culture as they hire.

“They opened a COVID lab and they needed help with hires, so we helped them hire some TSU graduates. We reached out to the head of the science department at TSU to get some alums involved and then get them hired and then we also talked to Brooke Woodard (dean of science) at Wiley. She gave us some names, so I just wanted to create the culture,” explained Foreman.

Since the healthcare client wasn’t familiar with Texas, he sought to help them make some Texas connections.

“I wanted to show them what TSU and Wiley had to offer, along with ETBU,” said Foreman.

Foreman said as they began to help Dascena Labs grow their testing sites in the larger cities, he made the suggestion to venture out to Marshall, his former home.

“Me and my partner started helping them grow their testing sites in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and then went to California, and Denver, Colorado,” said Foreman. “They were really concentrated on big cities, and I said: ‘You know what, what bout Marshall, Texas?’”

Foreman said he thought about Marshall because the town is so near and dear to his heart, and he had many close family and friends, including a professor at his undergraduate alma mater, Wiley College, who had died from the virus.

“Just so many people have been affected by COVID,” said Foreman. “So I’m like if I can just sneak in this healthcare client and what they do and just bring it to Marshall, at least I can say I did something (to help).

“I’m not a big shot at all,” he said. “My dad is a celebrity. I just try to be someone behind the scenes, making power moves. I do a good job in Los Angeles, New York and all these places, but Marshall, those are my people.”

Thus, because of his endearment for the community, Foreman was able to get a site approved for Marshall.

“They were like it’s only 23,000 people and I don’t know if we’re going to get… and I said: “Bring it here. Whether it’s successful or not, that will be on me,” Foreman shared.

Now that it’s here, he wants the community to take full advantage of the free COVID-19 testing to help mitigate the spread of the virus. He’s happy to be able to offer a service right here without having to be billed or travel afar.

“My understanding was if you need a test, you would have to bill it to your insurance and you would have to go somewhere to Longview or something like that or pay cash if you didn’t have insurance, so some people didn’t have access to testing,” said Foreman. “And the school district was telling me sometimes families would call them, on the weekend they might do something and they’ve been exposed and they didn’t have a place to tell the family to go get tested for free. They’d have to drive to Longview or something like that.

“So we’re coming in to provide a solution,” he said. “We hired people from Jefferson and Marshall, so we created jobs, too, in Marshall (at the labs).

“It’s just something I twisted their arm to do and they were happy to do it,” he said of Dascena Labs.

Foreman thanked George Washington Carver Community Center for being willing to be the host site.

“She said she was praying for something like this and we came,” Foreman said of Angelita Jackson, who serves as co-director of the community center with her husband, Kenneth Jackson.

Jackson said she’s glad they are able to make the community center available.

“I’m glad we’re able to serve as the host site,” she said.

Foreman said the site is off the beaten path, but is very accommodating and has the perfect driveway to host the driveway testing. He’s glad to be able to provide service that everyone, especially the elderly can take advantage of, and that the Marshall-Harrison County Health District and school district can now refer people to.

“Now when people ask them, they could point them that way where it’s free, if you’ve been exposed or you have symptoms,” said Foreman.

Foreman said the test can provide some comfort by providing people with accurate results, so they won’t have to wonder.

“My thing is we have so many dear elderly people from ETBU alums, Wiley alums, Marshall High alums and even from Pemberton — all these alums. And we care about them,” said Foreman.

“So, the least we can do is make sure we’re careful not to give to them,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. It’s not to make more numbers in Marshall or shutdown businesses, it’s not about that. It’s about protecting our elderly when we can.”

Foreman said the goal is to offer the site indefinitely, as long as it is used. Not only is the partnership with Dascena offering a great service, but it’s also creating jobs.

“We want it to be ongoing,” he said. “If there’s not a lot of traction, we just don’t want people standing around. We hired. These are good paying jobs.”

“We’ve created a path to get people some healthcare jobs. So when now people from Marshall are working at Dascena Labs, we’ve created a path for them,” said Foreman. “We hired some nurses… but we (also) hire people who can get trained and think about going to school to do that next thing in healthcare and then get exposure.

“So, I really wanted to do something that we’re creating an opportunity for people,” said Foreman. “We don’t want it to go away because this mobile medicine and mobile testing, we’re making sure that the community can touch it and get to it.”

“We may add additional sites eventually, but we have this one at the Carver community Center and they’ve been a real wonderful host,” he said.

Foreman said he’s reached out to the health department, school district, churches and even funeral homes, letting them know the service is available.

“We’re just being that aid to even the business community, so they can keep their businesses open,” he said.

Foreman encourages the community to take advantage of the site while it’s here.

“This is for you. When you don’t feel well, you go there, we’ll get your test and we get the test back and within 48 hours,” said Foreman. “You have us here; use us.”

“Those tests show us that the community is thinking about this and supporting not to spread it and saying hey this is a resource, give it to us, we might as well take advantage of it,” he said. “I can’t say this is a gift from me, it’s a gift from Dascena, but I was campaigning to make sure you all had that gift. And again it’s not about me, I just want people to know about it. I want to give back.”

About George Foreman Jr.

Foreman resided in Marshall from 1995 to 2008. Initially coming to work on his father’s ranch, he was recruited to enroll at Wiley College where he played on the basketball team and majored in criminal justice. In addition to falling in love with the college, he built lasting friendships at East Texas Baptist University where he took summer courses and utilized their training room during basketball season.

Following college graduation, he worked as an intern with then district attorney, Rick Berry. His first job following his internship was as an adult probation officer for Harrison County, working from 1999 to about 2003. During his tenure as an adult probation officer, he attended graduate school, earning a master’s degree in public administration from Louisiana State University-Shreveport.

After graduating from LSUS, he returned to Wiley as an employee, helping with fundraising. After a career at Wiley, he ventured into the business world, helping his father build his George Foreman Grill empire and other businesses. Although Foreman Jr. has been away from the area for years now, Marshall continues to be home.

“I hit the business bug and I left Marshall, but we always go back for family reunions, and just to be on the ranch,” he said. “But I had two kids born in that area. So I love Marshall, had good times, started raising a young family there, so it was good.

“That was some of the best times, working with the sheriff’s office, working with the county clerks, the district clerks, Judge Ammerman to Bonnie Leggat,” he added. “I’ve been gone, but that’s in my DNA. I didn’t go to high school there, but I did my college years and I developed there.

“That’s the community I talk about,” Foreman said of his love for Marshall. “I always try to do positive, and this is what we’re doing.”

Foreman said his true passion is health disparities and access to everyone.

‘“I hope this does some good,” he said. “I don’t have all the answers to problems, but I will wake up every morning to find people who do have the answers.”

}My true passion is health disparities and access to everyone,” said Foreman. “For people who don’t have options, now we’re creating an option for them. That’s what we’re doing. I hope this does some good.”

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