WTFC works to make life more fair

Published 8:35 pm Thursday, April 4, 2013

By Ellen Saunders


On a Halloween night when I was 6 or 7, I learned a lesson about fairness.

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Sitting on the living room floor admiring my pile of candy, I heard my mother answer the knock on the door. I hadn’t realized that we had run out of candy for trick-or-treaters until my mother swooped over my candy, gathering pieces for the children at the door. I sat, stunned, thinking, “That’s MY candy. That’s not fair!”

Just as quickly, I knew that my mother was right. What wasn’t fair was that I had a pile of candy and the children at the door did not. My mother made it fair by sharing my candy with the other children.

Seven years ago, a single-mother friend of mine who worked every day as a housekeeper to support herself and her daughters became ill. She was too sick to work, didn’t have a doctor and refused to go to the emergency room because she knew without insurance or money to pay for her care, the result would be a bill collector knocking on her door.

I quickly learned about the many residents of Western Tidewater who had to choose between buying groceries for their families or life-saving medicine for themselves. I became consumed with the realization that this wasn’t fair. It’s not fair that I have access to health care and many hard-working people do not. It’s not fair that I don’t give a second thought to scheduling my annual mammogram or having a prescription filled.

I also learned about a group of outstanding physicians, nurses and concerned citizens who were working to establish a free healthcare clinic in our area. It was an honor and a privilege for me to volunteer with them for several years as the Western Tidewater Free Clinic became established and opened its doors in 2007.

During the last five years, the clinic has provided care to more than 2,800 patients through more than 48,000 clinic visits. More than 59,000 30-day supplies of medications with a retail value of more than $11 million have been given to patients.

Many of these patients would not be alive today if they had not received care at the Free Clinic, and yet there is a waiting list of over 150 people.

Until I was asked to write about what motivated me to become involved with the clinic and why my husband and I continue to support the clinic financially, I hadn’t realized that my understanding of fairness began when I was a child. My mother showed me what was fair.

The Western Tidewater Free Clinic and the 53 other free clinics in Virginia make every effort to make life fair, too.

Ellen Saunders is a former WTFC Board member and current volunteer and committee member. For more information and details on other services available at the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, call or email Miriam Beiler, executive director, at 923-1060, ext. 7001, or The clinic is located at 2019 Meade Parkway in Suffolk.