Thanks to Obici for health commitment

Published 9:02 pm Saturday, April 17, 2010

It is hard to imagine that one man could have lived so well and yet have his extraordinary legend extended in a new home in the heart of downtown Suffolk.

As the Western Tidewater Free Clinic enjoys its new home, in large measure a result of the generosity of the Obici Healthcare Foundation, the Foundation’s new offices strike me as a tangible tribute to the legacy and innovation of Suffolk’s most famous entrepreneur: Amedeo Obici, founder of Planters Peanuts.

Obici’s gifts to the Suffolk community can be summed up in access to health care, prevention of illness and healthy living.

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A trust built Louise Obici Memorial Hospital, which is now Sentara Obici Hospital. It appears that, just as he would have wished, the Obici Healthcare Foundation has become the steward of his legacy and vision for providing access to health care and other health improvement opportunities for all of our citizens, especially the most vulnerable.

There is neither better testimony to this generosity nor any more grateful recipient that the WTFC. The clinic offers its deepest thanks to OHF for its stewardship in carrying Obici’s legacy forward.

The members of WTFC’s founding committee — a core group of concerned health care professionals, local business people and philanthropists — were motivated to improve the lives of the uninsured and create stronger, more caring and healthier communities.

The clinic was established when the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community, through focus groups, heard the accessible health care for Western Tidewater’s vulnerable uninsured was a prime need.

These founding volunteers envisioned a place where those who qualified would be served with respect. They envisioned a corps of professional paid staff and volunteers: doctors, dentists, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, physical therapists, counselors and other professional working together to create this health home.

With a shared purpose and financial support from OHF and others, Western Tidewater Free Clinic is a stand-alone, non-profit organization with its own independent board of directors.

Now housed at 2019 Meade Parkway in a newly-renovated 8,230-square-foot building, it continues to serve the uninsured citizens of Western Tidewater. As of December, WTFC was home to 1,300 unduplicated patients. The number of services, visits and referrals continues to increase for an ever-expanding estimated 23,000 citizens who qualify for free care in this service area.

It is only through the foresight and dedication of the current OHF board and staff that this vision is now a reality. It will take the continued support of OHF, WTFC and citizens throughout Western Tidewater to sustain the wonderful beginnings of Amedeo Obici’s gifts of access, prevention and healthy living.

WTFC offers its heartfelt thanks to the OHF and its leadership for this health home as the Foundation settles into its own new home.

Virginia Savage is president of the Western Tidewater Free Clinic.