Contribution without measure

Published 10:22 pm Saturday, September 22, 2012

Five years, 2,600 patients and more than 41,000 visits after it opened in a small building on Godwin Boulevard, the Western Tidewater Free Clinic has proved its value to the community beyond any doubt. It has exceeded the dreams of its founders and has surprised even the communities it serves with the commitment of its volunteer and professional service providers.

It was those people — the ones who are at the core of what the free clinic does for Western Tidewater’s poor and uninsured community — who were at the center of the organization’s celebration of its five-year anniversary last week.

The commitment began with a small group that directly worked to establish the clinic, get volunteer professionals and support staff to operate it and then get the word out to the people who would become its clients.

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But the need for volunteers and contributions hardly ended there, and the great testament to the free clinic’s success is the fact that it has grown, moved into a new facility and expanded its services right at the time when the need was greatest. Even in the face of the Great Recession, the clinic has been able to expand to 20 full- and part-time staff members, thanks to the donations it has received from the community and thanks to the many hours of supporting work put in by countless volunteers during the past five years.

It would be hard to measure just what all those donations and volunteer hours have meant to the 2,600 patients who have taken advantage of the clinic’s free services since the doors opened in 2007. Officials put the dollar value of their free treatments at about $9 million.

But the human value is better measured in the joy of those whose lives have been improved through the medical care they’ve received at WTFC. The contribution made by the organization and by the people who make it work has been inestimable. And the community’s appreciation for that contribution is likewise without measure.