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Free Clinic gala honors volunteers

March 11, 2001

Free Clinic gala honors volunteers



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

Community Free Clinic honored two outstanding volunteers for their time and commitment to helping Washington County's uninsured during a gala Sunday.

Carol Mendelsohn was named Volunteer of the Year for her work in organizing the Potters Bowl fund-raiser for the clinic and Dr. Edward Ditto III was named Provider of the Year for donating his medical services, said Jeffrey Downin, clinic executive director.

Charles McGinley, who sits on the Community Free Clinic Board of Directors said Mendelsohn was chosen for her leadership abilities.

The annual Potters Bowl raises more than $5,000 each year, which is vital in keeping the clinic operating, said Downin.

"Plus, she's there every Thursday," said McGinley. Mendelsohn regularly works as a receptionist at the clinic, he said.

Since retiring from private practice, Ditto has put in numerous hours at the Community Free Clinic, said McGinley.

Keynote speaker Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, secretary for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, called volunteers like Ditto and Mendelsohn unsung heroes.

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"They're a wonderful example of giving," he said.

Speaking during the cocktail hour during the celebration at the Ramada Inn and Convention Center, Benjamin said programs like Washington County's Community Free Clinic are needed, but rare in the state.

Without free health clinics, many Marylanders would die of their ailments, said Benjamin, who was appointed by Gov. Parris Glendening in 1999.

As secretary, Benjamin oversees an agency with more than 10,000 employees and a $4.2 billion budget. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene includes 24 local departments throughout the state, and operates facilities for the chronically ill, developmentally disabled and mentally ill.

Benjamin added that the state needs to rebuild its health care system and should start off by addressing a nursing shortage.

Beyond that, efforts need to be made to update record keeping and billing technology, he said.

Community Free Clinic was established in 1990 as an effort to meet the medical needs of the medically uninsured residents of Washington County. In 2000, the clinic registered more than 10,000 patient visits and expanded its patient services in several different categories.

The number of patient visits recorded at the Community Free Clinic in Hagers-town rose to 10,142 last year.

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