FernCare Free Clinic Director Ann Heler Recognized by Points of Light

FernCare Free Clinic Director Ann Heler Recognized by Points of Light

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 20, 2019)

Ferndale, MI- FernCare Free Clinic Director Ann Heler inspired people across the nation on Sept. 18 when she was named the Daily Point of Light, a series that focuses on increasing volunteerism across the country.

The post shared how FernCare got started, and how it’s grown to be an ongoing community-wide effort to provide healthcare for those that don’t otherwise have access.

“Ann Heler was sitting around a kitchen table with a group of her fellow service-minded friends, wondering out loud together what project they could take on to benefit their Michigan community. An offhand comment led to a lightbulb moment about the need for a free health clinic for citizens unable to afford healthcare. Despite the fact that none of them had any experience in medicine, the group opened their first clinic within four years of their initial discussion. Over a decade since that meeting, Ann has now served as the co-founder and Executive Director of the FernCare Free Medical Clinic for the past nine years,” wrote Points of Light’s Morganne Mallon.

In her interview with Mallon, Heler talked about how FernCare provides medical care, plus additional services like acupuncture, dietician consultations, counseling, and a wellness coach.

“There’s a big belief at the clinic that all these things are super important and we have to help people understand that they are really, really valuable. You really can make healthy decisions and help get to where you need to go and help lessen the use of medications,” Heler said.

The clinic operates with three part-time staffers and a crew of volunteers, including herself, 110 in all.

“I like to talk about it, I like to talk about the people and great patients,” Helerr told Mallon. “But it’s really sad that we have to use free clinics in this country for medical care. There’s about 1,400 free clinics in the whole country. Michigan has 49 clinics and they’re all over the state. The fact that we have not found out a better way to take care of healthcare issues and to take care of our country’s health — we just have to keep working on it. We just have to keep talking about some alternatives and other kinds of things we can do.”

Helping the patients and working with all the volunteers is a source of inspiration for Heler. She told Points of Light “There’s no reason to come here, you know, nobody twists their arm, nobody begs, I don’t follow them around crying. They volunteer. All of these people, they all have licenses, they all have certificates, everything that is required by the state of Michigan to work in a clinic. They see people who are licensed by the Michigan Board of Health. The clinic, we maintain our license, our pharmacy license, we’re clean to Michigan’s hospital standards. Our clinic matches any clinic or hospital in the state of Michigan. So it’s not just people coming in with a donut in one hand and willing to sit down with you in the other. No, this is a real clinic. These people come after working all day or all night and they continue to do the great work they do. They’re incredible.”

Points of Light is based in Atlanta, GA and was founded by former President George H.W. Bush.  The website is a calling for people to step in and help.  “Now more than ever, people are looking within themselves to find the inspiration, creativity, and sustained energy to make change. The key to unlocking the light within us is to ensure that people feel empowered to act on their unique desire to stand up and say, “I can help.” Our challenge: How can we create a society where it is easy for every individual to take action and accelerate change within their community and around the world?”  Heler is one of 6,000 people so far honored by the organization as a Point of Light.

Heler has brought recognition to FernCare and other important efforts through the years, including as a 2015 WONder Woman.  She was instrumental in helping pass the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, as well as serving on the Ferndale Housing Commission and more.

Read the full interview at PointsofLight.org

Learn more about FernCare Free Clinic at http://www.ferncare.org

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