On Tuesday evening, Janet tentatively entered the lobby of Northwest Pediatrics Center. She was greeted by volunteers of Health & Hope Medical Outreach with enthusiasm. She learned that she was the 2,000th patient.
The Health and Hope free clinic has been operating since 2013, and has provided 6,035 doctor visits, but Janet is the 2,000th unique individual. Lewis County has roughly 60,000 adult residents, and nearly one in 30 of them have visited the clinic.
Learning a bit about Janet might offer insights about why a volunteer charity like this is important.
I spent some time with Janet simply listening to her story and learning how she came to be at a free health clinic. She described how she was a public employee in another state with a pension and benefits for nine years.
Until she got hit by a car crossing a street.
While the driver had minimal insurance to cover most of her medical bills, she described how persistent pain and reduced functionality eroded her ability to perform her job. So, she lost it.
A few other turns of bad luck robbed her of her family supports in her state, and she recently moved to the area to be near her adult child. So, she lives in her car in a campground.
Her medical issues continue to debilitate her. She is a bit too young to collect Social Security and Medicare, and too new to the area to be set up with public assistance or even employment. So, she came to the free clinic she learned about online.
Nearly 100 volunteers, mostly from churches in Lewis and Thurston counties, have been attempting to meet the needs of our local neighbors who have burdens which are beyond their ability to carry. We believe that God’s love can be demonstrated by meeting needs and sharing God’s interest in a relationship with people.
Each week on Tuesday evening, a dozen or so “Janets” and a dozen or so volunteers spend time under the roof of our friends at Northwest Pediatrics Center who donate their space. The medicine and laboratory tests and other services patients receive are paid for by hundreds of generous donors who provide funds for such things.
The clinic is able to put volunteers to work and donations to good use. While the government may be able to dole out medical services by some formula and collect taxes to do it, there is something more relational about a team of kind people working together to help neighbors.
If you are interested in volunteering or supporting this work, stop by some Tuesday evening or check out the website www.hhmo.org. Better yet, join our annual summer fundraiser event, a John Denver tribute concert out in the countryside on Aug. 11. Tickets are available on the website.
Finally, Janet’s story is also a reminder of how one health tragedy and a bit of bad luck can dislodge most of us from a place of comfort and self-sufficiency to living in a car and needing a hand with an exceptional burden.
Jami Lund is a founding board member of Health & Hope Medical Outreach and past president. He lives in the Big Hanaford Valley where he keeps bees, talks on the radio and generally works to move the world from what it is to what it should be. Contact him at Jami@JamiLund.com.