More than $10,000 raised for Community Free Clinic

January 30, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Antionette Ayers of Hagerstown places a bid for an item at the Wine and Cheese Silent (and Lively) Auction to benefit the Community Free Clinic Sunday at The Gourmet Goat.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Greg Nearchos was enjoying seeing some familiar faces and perusing the various items up for auction Sunday afternoon at a fundraiser for the Community Free Clinic at The Gourmet Goat in downtown Hagerstown.

“I was the recipient of service many years ago at the clinic,” said Nearchos, 51, of Hagerstown.

A student with a part-time job and no benefits, Nearchos turned to the clinic for help with a back injury, he recalled.

“I was able to go and receive services that was beyond anything I could have imagined,” Nearchos said, adding that the clinic has a place in his heart.

Clinic officials hoped to double the $5,000 raised at the inaugural Wine and Cheese Silent (and Lively) Auction at the restaurant last year and succeeded with a tally of $10,135, Clinic Executive Director Robin Roberson said after the event. There also were several people who pledged to make donations, she said.

Roberson called the event’s success “awesome” and “amazing.” “It’s such a community effort to pull this together,” she said.

The 249 Mill St. clinic does not receive any state or federal funding, Program Director Adam Roberson said last week. Half of the clinic’s income comes from grants, another 25 percent from corporate and individual giving, and the remaining 25 percent from fundraisers and community events like those held Sunday, Roberson said.

Approximately 30 medical providers volunteer at the clinic, which also has 13 paid employees and about 30 lay volunteers, Roberson said.

The clinic had 15,000 patient visits last year and has about 4,000 active patients, Roberson said. The clinic serves Washington County residents who do not have any health insurance.

The clinic is “truly the last resort for people who have no other place to turn,” he said.

The clinic’s patient load has increased since 2008 because so many people have lost jobs and their health insurance, Roberson said. At the same time, donations have gone down, he said.

This month the clinic has continued to see a large number of new patients as people saw their insurance coverage end in 2010, and are trying to find a way to get their medications and continue their health care, he said.

Robin Roberson said Sunday that the clinic also has seen an increase in acute visits in January, registering nine new patients for acute care on one day alone. Those are patients who typically would go to the hospital emergency room, she said.

Roberson said she didn’t know why the clinic had a spike in acute-care cases, but the clinic might have been easier to get to for some people, she said.

Many people who live downtown don’t have their own cars, so they depend on public transportation, and some of them can’t afford the public transportation, she said.

In December, Washington County Hospital closed in downtown Hagerstown — not far from the clinic — and Meritus Medical Center opened east of Hagerstown.

About 125 people attended the fundraiser, the proceeds from which will help with patient care, Robin Roberson said.

Among the items in the lively auction were an orange handmade lounge chair donated by Studio Niche, an Oriental rug donated by Manny’s Oriental Rugs & Gallery, and a weeklong timeshare in Kissimmee, Fla., donated by Fran and Michael Newman, said Paul Deputy, co-owner of The Gourmet Goat.

Hagerstown resident Linda Seibert was interested in the timeshare. She has been to Kissimmee, which she described as wonderful, beautiful and warm.

Seibert said she attended the restaurant’s fundraiser for the clinic last year and returned to support a good cause.

She’s never been a client of the clinic, but Seibert said there were times when she was without health insurance, so it’s great the community has such a clinic.

Clinic nurse Bruce Brooks, 57, of Hagerstown, had his eye on a wide white Italian leather chair donated by EK Living for the lively auction, but Brooks said he’d have to see what the bidding competition was like.

Brooks attended Sunday’s event with his partner, Charlie Kline, and friends Jodee Gadreau and Vivienne Jensen.

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