(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 22, 2017)
Detroit, MI – After hearing from a woman who was able to have access to insulin though the free health clinic, Dr. Chris Popp told the audience at the FernCare annual dinner, “She said ‘you guys paid for my medication.’ I have to correct her because we did not pay for her medication, YOU guys did that.”
The donors in the room were proud to see the fruits of their gifts as three patients from the clinic told their stories. Over 400 patients received free healthcare in 2016 because of the hard work of volunteers and the generosity of those who donated to support the clinic.
There were 3,200 phone calls for health related resource information, 2,300 prescriptions written and dispensed and over 700 lab tests provided in 2016. Over 250 patients were enrolled in a health insurance program through the year. And this was accomplished with volunteers giving over 5,500 hours of their time.
Laurie Martini was one of FernCare’s patients who never expected to need a free health clinic.
“I went to FernCare clinic last year. I was laid off from my job and lost my insurance. I have diabetes and I went a couple months without my medication and got very sick,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect. Is this some cheesy place? How will they treat me?”
Martini explained that everyone in the clinic “took time to really see me and help me.”
“They don’t patronize you. They feel like they will help you no matter what.”
Another patient, Jama Niang, attended the dinner with her English as Second Language coach Cheryl Feit. Feit explained that she’d been tutoring Naing and started to notice her being run down and sick. Naing did not have health insurance. Feit sprang into action, making phone calls and trying to find a doctor who might help “There was a 3 ½ month wait for a clinic in Detroit. But then I found out about FernCare,” Feit said.
After doing tests they determined that Naing had high blood pressure and was anemic. The right medical care has helped her get back on track.
Dr. Popp noted that in some cases people who are immigrants are afraid to seek help for health issues because of distrust over systems, and some are not eligible for insurance because of immigration status.
The third patient, Queen Barnes, shared a similar experience of finding herself without health insurance and in need of blood thinning medication. While she was grateful for the help, she focused her speech on the fact that FernCare is a collaborative effort of people who come together to help others. “There were a few people that sat down and decided what project to do next… They worked on it and worked on it, and it began to grow up. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a team to do a project.”
It took an immense amount of planning and fundraising before being able to hold the first clinic session in August 2010, held in a makeshift office inside the Kulick Community Center. They grew to having their own office, thanks in huge part to Credit Union One who leased them the space for nearly nothing.
FernCare’s biggest challenge is that the building they were in for years had been sold, and they moved to a new office where the rent is more of an expense. The fundraising continues, as it always will, because free healthcare has costs including rent at the new location.
One point of pride, shared by President of the FernCare Board Ann Heler, is that the move went so smoothly that they did not miss any clinic session. She thanked the many volunteers who helped in the move, as well as Steve McCool and Andy Shaue of the Detroit Carpentry Apprentice Program whose students did much of the necessary renovation work to prepare the new space for patients.
The Annual Dinner at the Great Lakes Dossin Museum is the biggest fundraiser of the year, as well as one of the most enjoyable. With silent auction items placed among displays of nautical equipment and Detroit history, and of course great food, attendees were able to enjoy a unique night out and mingling with other FernCare donors.
There were also awards given. Bob Parrish was recognized as a “Friend of the Board” for his help in strategic planning. Natalie Melnick was the Clinic Non-Medical Volunteer of the year. And Christine Rainey, PharmD got two awards, one for being the Clinic Medical Volunteer and the other for putting in the most volunteer hours.
FernCare is located at 751 E. 9 Mile Road, Ferndale, MI 48220. For more information call (248) 677-2273 or visit their website at www.ferncare.org. Donations are also accepted online though their website.