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Without funds, free medical clinic in jeopardy

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By Brian Funk, Editor

A clinic that provides free health care to people in need is facing a dire prognosis — without a transfusion of funds in the next month, it may have to close its doors.

The Free Medical Clinic of the Twin Counties has been serving the community for years, and recently moved into its first permanent home on Oldtown Street in downtown Galax.

A recent fundraiser brought in $700, but clinic Executive Director Dina Slusher says $15,000 is needed before July 1 to keep the facility open.

“We need funds to come in immediately or we may be forced to shut down,” Slusher said. “The board halted medication assistance to our patients at our April meeting due to overwhelming pharmacy costs and a decline in contributions. Operating expenses have soared while funds have simply not come in to cover the increase in patient load.”

The state of the local economy has created a twofold problem for the clinic — more people are out of work and in need of free medical care, but plant closings and layoffs also mean that fewer people and businesses are able to donate money to keep the clinic alive.

“The way the economy is today, who knows? It could be you and your family that will need the services of the free clinic,” Slusher said. “Can you imagine what it would be like to have no medical insurance, no way to get needed prescription drugs, no way to get dental care, no way to have help in treating diseases like diabetes?”

Applebee’s in Galax is one of the local businesses that stepped up to the plate to help the clinic. On May 3, the clinic held its first "Flapjack Fundraiser" there.

“The management and staff of Applebee’s who volunteered their time and talents were just great to work with,” Slusher said.

She thanked Applebee’s for its help in serving those without medical insurance. “Those people have no place to turn but to the free clinic. The services at the clinic also help patients find meaningful and gainful employment.”

Slusher said it was touching to watch the young nursing students who volunteered to waitress, hostess and clean up at the fundraiser just one week before their state board exams. “The clinic cannot thank those students enough.”

Slusher said the clinic also appreciates the volunteers and others who joined in when they heard about the opportunity to help and drove some distance to participate.

The clinic was able to raise $700 from the first event, and Slusher said the clinic hopes to double that amount at the next “Flapjack Fundraiser” on June 7. Applebee’s will host the fundraiser on the first Saturday of every month from 7-9 a.m.

The cost is $5 for "all you can eat" pancakes, sausage and coffee.

Slusher said the free clinic belongs to the community it serves, and she hopes people will take ownership of it and help it survive.

“Visit any free clinic throughout the state and you will feel the pride of its residents as you witness true compassion for their neighbors in need,” she said. “You too can have that down deep good feeling one gets from helping people in desperate situations and seeing the difference one can make in the lives of other people.

“A look of utter defeat can be turned into a wide smile,” Slusher said. “The Free Clinic of the Twin Counties needs your help to keep the pendulum swinging from despair to hope.”

How You Can Help

• make a donation or a monthly pledge, leave the clinic money in your will, or purchase an insurance policy with the clinic as your beneficiary

• volunteer as a nurse, office worker, carpenter, electrician, painter, fundraiser, plumber, pastor or medical professional

• keep the Free Clinic in your prayers

Give the Free Clinic a call at 236-0421 to pledge support, or write Free Clinic of the Twin Counties, P.O. Box 1708, Galax VA 24333