Blessed are the Merciful

Sometimes function follows form. Glorious eddies of color cascaded over the master of ceremonies. He was baptized in a prismatic pool that tumbled from the stained glass window above. The arms of a risen Christ bent downwards as the speaker’s voice drifted upward. “We have accomplished a lot, we really have. An idea that was only a dream two years ago is now a reality. Many are being helped and there are so many to thank.”

Grace Lutheran Church was the setting for the annual board meeting this past summer of Henderson County’s first free clinic, the Volunteer Medical Resource Center. The pride and appreciation in the voice of the opening speaker, Executive Director Jim Robbins was unmistakable. The pride and exhilaration in the audience was palpable. Two years before, two of the most caring physicians in our community, Dr. Russ Sacco and Dr. Irwin Perlmutter hatched the idea of a free clinic to serve those most in need with the least means to afford it. “Free” is not a word that is greeted enthusiastically in many corners of our profit driven health care system but they persevered until they opened a small sparse clinic in the old abandoned East Flat Rock Elementary School. Idling slowly, their anchor hit solid rock with the partnership of Dr. Colin Thomas and the addition of Jim Robbins as executive director. Next aboard came Dr. Stephen Crane who any reader of the Times-News Letters to the Editor section will recognize as a truly compassionate human being.

Dr. Crane writes of Jim Robbins, “Your infectious enthusiasm, complete commitment to the mission, and tireless efforts to find the “win-win” solution has propelled the organization forward through an amazing first year. That, coupled with your resolve despite having nearly every door slammed in your face that could be slammed during the first months-Who’d have thought that selling bibles door-to-door all those years ago would in fact be a cagey career move?!” With the support of our four major medical organizations and a volunteer board of directors, the Volunteer Medical Resource Center opened it’s doors on December 13, 2001 at 506 Park Hill Court.

“Infectious enthusiasm, complete commitment to the mission” now extends to many charitable souls. I counted on their volunteer roster 90 individuals and 10 medical associations from every corner of our community. What a tribute to Dr. Sacco, Dr.Irwin Perlmutter and the human spirit. One of those volunteers who answered the call was Diane Stepkowski. She greeted me on a recent visit to the clinic with an infectious enthusiasm that seems to permeate the entire place. Her answer to my question “Why?” also is reflective of the clinic’s mission, “There was a need in the community. It was the personal appeal--to just help. I had a real heartfelt feeling when I heard it was for people who really couldn’t afford it.”

Chris Bailey RN knows the need. “I have 30 years of critical care and ER experience, so I know there is a need. In 15 years of home nursing care, you get to see the patient with their families so you get to see how great the family’s needs are as well. You can see health problems that are not being met…diabetics who go without insulin because they can’t afford it or chronic illnesses like asthma that go untreated…Because they can’t get help, they don’t seek help…Our clinic is not serving the Medicaid/Medicare or private insured population. We are serving the underinsured and the uninsured. We are serving the working poor, those who are making $1000-$2000 per month before taxes…We are not the new clinic in town doing the new thing. We are augmenting the services that are already here. We work with all four health care providers to maximize their services as well as making referrals to all community agencies. Without us, for some people, there is only ER which is high cost care.” Jim Robbins adds, “There are resources for indigent care, but with all the resources-- there aren’t enough resources. Even we have to turn away patients ourselves. We are just trying to contribute to the total picture.” In fact, VMRC had to turn away 5 patients in need after seeing 25 patients the Thursday before I wrote this column.

What is so impressive about the facility is that there is no hint of a second class clinic for second class citizens. It is nestled among a group of attractive professional medical offices off Fleming Street and is comfortably furnished. According to Ms. Bailey, “Dr. Crane wanted a high quality clinic that he would be proud to bring his family to.” It is a pleasure to report that he has accomplished that mission.

Physician care is now limited to Thursday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m. at the clinic’s main office and on Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. at the Rescue Mission’s Good Samaritan Clinic. (Phone: 697-8422) The VMRC has also added a diabetes clinic Monday nights from 4-8 for management of chronic diabetes and is nurturing a fledgling volunteer dental clinic. This intrepid group is also researching the feasibility of a low-income pharmacy assistance program.

What greater goodness they will be able to share with their fellow man will depend on the generosity of our community. Several millennia ago, the Great Healer was beseeched by a suffering leper with the words, “Lord, if you just want to, you can make me clean.” Christ’s simple reply, “I want to.” resonates in the hearts and hands of the workers at the free clinic-They want to.

To my readers: If you ever wonder if I get comments on these columns, I do occasionally. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Email Eva

*The opinions stated in this page are those of Ms. Eva Ritchey and do not necessarily represent the views of CyTech Computers & Internet Solutions, Inc.
Talk to Eva
Community Alerts

California Good
December 2001

Give Pigs a Chance
November 2001

Sandra Walker
October 2001

August 2001

Cytech Computers, Inc


WNC Guide
P.O. Box 816
Flat Rock, NC 28731
(828) 692-5177

| WNC Attractions | WNC Business | WNC Entertainment | WNC Healthcare |
| WNC Lodging | WNC Real Estate | WNC News & Views | WNC Lifestyles | Home Page |

©1996-2004 CyTech Computers & Internet Solutions. All Rights Reserved.