Free and Charitable Clinics across the nation depend on volunteers, both medical and non-medical, to be able to provide much needed medical care to the uninsured. The spirit of volunteerism and giving back is truly a rewarding experience, one that is exemplified not only in the large scale NAFC C.A.R.E. Clinics, but in community clinics throughout the country where the underserved are getting access to medical care everyday. Get in contact with your local clinic to see what various volunteer opportunities are available! Not only are medical providers and other medical professionals needed, but non-medical people as well!
Interested in volunteering at a local Free or Charitable Clinic? You can search for a clinic near you at our FIND A CLINIC page to contact a local clinic directly about volunteer opportunities in your area. You can also contact the NAFC for more information by either visiting the CONTACT US page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you a volunteer at a community Free or Charitable Clinic, or have you volunteered at an NAFC C.A.R.E. Clinic? Do you work at a clinic and have a great story to share about one of your volunteers? Send your story and picture to email@example.com today for a chance to be featured on this webpage!
Free and Charitable Clinic Volunteer Spotlights
Penny Goldin - Ithaca Health Alliance and Free Clinic in Ithaca, NY
Penny Goldin is a retired teacher with 35 years of classroom experience who wanted to give back to her community. Five years ago this November was the first of what would become hundreds of Thursday evenings at Ithaca Free Clinic for Penny. She recollects that we were in our original (smaller) facility, that our clinic coordinator was off for the night, our nurse had to cancel her shift for an emergency, and that Bethany Schroeder was filling in as clinic coordinator, nurse, and Penny’s trainer to the ins and outs of the reception desk. She says, “I arrived at 3:00. I thought I was early, but the line of people waiting to be seen was already down the long flight of narrow stairs and trailing out the front door.”
Cut to November, 2012. Penny still volunteers at reception at IFC (she has a real desk now) and keeps Thursday nights running smoothly. She knows the rhythms of the shift, “the potential for a crazy rush at the start or the slow starts that end in a crazy rush.” Penny knows many patients by name, and makes sure everyone is welcomed and that the business end of reception goes smoothly. “I love being part of the Free Clinic and all it stands for. I love seeing our patients come in anxious and ill, then leave with a smile and a heartfelt thank you."
Ken Kling - Ithaca Health Alliance and Free Clinic in Ithaca, NY
Physical disability hasn’t kept Ken Kling from making a difference in our community. After a 25-year career, disability rendered Ken physically unable to work and battling depression. Then he discovered that helping others was one of the best ways to take care of himself. In Elmira, NY, he volunteered at an addiction recovery home and with programs for senior citizens. After he moved to Ithaca, the Health Alliance was his first choice of where to volunteer. In his application, Ken described himself as “the ultimate paper pusher,” and he’s lived up to that claim. More so, he has helped out in every part of IHA’s operations. Among his other contributions, he does laundry weekly, handles phone calls, conducts follow-ups for Free Clinic patients, supervises fundraising mailings, staffs shifts after last-minute cancellations, represents us at community events, and even covered for our administrative coordinator when he went on vacation. Ken does it all with good humor and keeps everyone laughing. Asked why he chose the IHA, Ken says it’s “because we’re doing something about a problem that nobody else is.” He says that he’s been given an opportunity not only to help patients, but to work with many great people who he admires for their dedication to the wellbeing of all. “I appreciate that the Alliance gives me a chance to use the skills I developed in my working life, and to feel like a normal person.” The appreciation is mutual, and Ken’s work invaluable.
Dr. Kashinsky - Free Clinic of Simi Valley in Simi Valley, CA
Dr. Kashinsky worked at Kaiser Permanente as a family physician until he retired 5 years ago at age 64. He first came to the Free Clinic of Simi Valley after he helped start the residency physician program at Kaiser Permanente in Woodland Hills, California. “Dr. Kash” as he is called by the Clinic staff, helps to supervise 6 students each year as they go through the year-long residency program. “I came to the Free Clinic of Simi Valley because the doctors were talking so highly of this place.”
Since Dr. Kashinsky retired from Kaiser, he has continued to volunteer at the Clinic weekly, supervising the physicians. “The students are fun and eager to learn. I’ve really enjoyed working with them.” Dr. Kash thinks the residency program is essential for physicians to complete, “Medical school does not give them enough of the hands-on experience they need. This program allows them to experience the people part of medicine.”
The Kaiser residency program is not the only thing keeping him volunteering at the Free Clinic, he says “the patients need me. And the staff here is wonderful. I feel comfortable helping people here.” When he started volunteering with the Free Clinic of Simi Valley, Dr. Kash heard from many patients about unemployment, loss of assets, etc. “Things are turning around in the eyes of the patients. I am a part of their journey and I am happy to hear things are getting better for folks.”
“My impression is the community is quite generous. More so than other communities. The Free Clinic of Simi Valley exists because of the grace of this community.” Dr. Kashinsky is a very important volunteer at the Free Clinic of Simi Valley and we are grateful for his dedication.
Amirsalar Eslami - West Virginia Health Right Free Clinic in Charleston, WV
As a future physician I truly enjoy volunteering at West Virginia Health Right Free Clinic in Charleston, WV because I can provide a much needed service in my community while learning from some of the most compassionate and superb medical providers who share the same passion and vision for giving back. I believe that by volunteering anyone can contribute to our current healthcare crisis and reinforce the concept that our healthcare should always be a RIGHT regardless of all other factors. I am truly blessed and privileged to have the opportunity to serve the uninsured and the underprivileged population of my community and will continue to do so in my professional career. I will finish with a short poem from the 13th century Persian poet Sa'adi whom I believe said it best when it comes to mankind unity regardless of social barriers and labels:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation: of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
The other members uneasy remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The title ‘human’ you cannot claim.
NAFC C.A.R.E. Clinic Volunteer Spotlights
Witnessing firsthand the enormous disparity in America’s healthcare system is a powerfully moving experience. On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in 2009 in New Orleans; in 2010 in Charlotte; and in 2012 in Dallas as a medical student, I saw the same story play out before my eyes. Patients, thousands of patients, from all backgrounds and walks of life streamed through the doors of our civic center clinic. Some have lived with little or no access to healthcare. Others, though insured, were unable to meet copay’s and deductibles needed to obtain routine healthcare. While medical issues varied from routine, to serious, to critical, one thing remained constant–everyone was in need.
Being part of the team of compassionate volunteers dedicated to meeting those needs is rewarding in ways beyond words. Many times over at these clinics, I have witnessed relief of sometimes years of suffering, which still brings me to tears upon reflection years later. I vividly remember one young woman around age 16 whose lifelong vision problems had caused her great difficulty at succeeding in school. She put on her first pair of prescription eyeglasses, made on-site at the clinic. For the first time, she was able to see clearly, to read the words on a sheet of paper clearly, to finally see her mother’s face clearly after sixteen years. Her face betrayed her disbelief that the glasses were hers to keep. With assurances from fellow volunteers, the disbelief in her face faded as a flood of gratitude so heartfelt washed over her that her knees buckled, sinking her to the ground weeping tears of joy along with all those around her.
For most people, an opportunity to create this much positive change in the world comes once in a lifetime. For a CARE Clinic volunteer, the opportunities walk through the door all day long. How could anyone pass that up?
I first heard about the NAFC CARE Clinics on an MSNBC call for support and immediately signed up to join the Kansas City clinic. I remembering being happy to discover that, having no medical background, I could still help people access much needed medical care. I wasn’t sure whom I expected to see using the clinic, but I was surprised to meet the wide variety of patients in line for the clinic to open that day.
I met a recent college graduate who didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford the medical check-up required to started his new job; a mother who came to have her children seen by a doctor and was moved to tears when we told her she was welcome to see a doctor that day too, something she hadn’t been able to do in years; a health care worker who worked several part time jobs at hospitals, but had no access to healthcare himself; as well as many others.
These patients aren’t a segmented part of our society looking for something for nothing. They are our family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. They are proof that the fight for affordable and accessible access to health services isn’t over. And they are why I will be at the New Orleans convention center, joining hundreds of medical and non-medical volunteers from all over the country, to continue to make sure all of us have access to healthcare.
Having retired from the Department of Defense School System in England and having completed our self-sustaining little mountain retirement home, my husband and I thought “What’s next?” My husband Jim had volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans in 2007 and shortly thereafter we learned of a health clinic that would be offered there, and they were looking for volunteers. Perfect! We jumped at the opportunity.
My career had been as a registered nurse in various fields of medicine but I wanted to try something different. I volunteered for a non-medical spot. From the get-go I was fascinated by the idea of medical personnel seeing so many people in a convention hall in one day: How could it possibly be organized to accomplish such a feat? What services would be offered? How would it flow? How could I fit in?
Well, it took no time at all to find my niche. Many things impressed me right off the bat: the organizers, the volunteers, the optimism, the joy on one side and the amount of under-insured and uninsured people on the other, the sheer number of folks wanting to see a doctor, so patient, so humble, so appreciative, so real.
I wasactually blown away by the number of people who were standing in line to get in to see a doctor. I was back in the United States after 20 years and I couldn’t believe it. This didn’t happen in the UK. This didn’t happen in Puerto Rico. Everyone there had access to health care. EVERYONE.
After New Orleans I knew I wanted to be a part of this National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, the C.A.R.E clinics and have only missed one and hopefully will never miss another. My volunteer position has made me appreciate what I have—health care—and has also given me a glimpse at the number of Americans who do not have health care. It has angered me. It has made me call politicians. It has made me care. It has made me act and has made me vocal. I am so grateful to be a part of a huge team of caring individuals whose goal is to help fellow human beings get health care with dignity and respect. This team doesn’t say no. Every member is there to find solutions, to make it work, to offer hope and to do it with a smile and open arms.
I am a lucky woman to be a volunteer with this team.
It was nine months ago, with 30 Covance colleagues, that I headed to Dallas, Texas, to volunteer with the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics’ C.A.R.E. Clinic for the first time. Our team included doctors, a pharmacist, paramedics, nurses and translators, and we joined another 1,000 volunteers for the event. We knew about 1,200 uninsured or under-insured patients would show up for the one-day “pop-up” clinic that the Covance Charitable Foundation had sponsored; we also knew that local free and charitable clinics were ready to receive our referrals once the pop-up clinic closed its doors.
Words cannot do justice to what happened during the eight-hour clinic. Nearly 1,300 men, women and children were given medical help. Most patients looked a little nervous. Some were in tears. You quickly learn that the emergency room is where many of the patients receive their healthcare, when the pain they have is too much to bear.
I’m sure you can imagine the enthusiasm of Covance’s 35 volunteers as we sponsor C.A.R.E.’s New Orleans “pop-up” clinic on July 3. I know a great deal of good work will be done.
“Be in the moment,” I was told during training. “Take your time and listen to the patients.” And listen I did. “There’s always one patient whose story breaks your heart,” I was told. Mine arrived one hour into the clinic. The details hardly matter. His tears flowed, then mine. His story illustrated the power of the human spirit when faced with devastating adversity. His positive attitude to life was astounding. It also reminded me how quickly someone’s personal circumstances can change, and how easily any one of us could find ourselves in his shoes.
All 31 volunteers I traveled with had their own stories, each more potent than the next. We forged new and valued friendships, and together we ended up helping nearly 1,300 of the neediest people in Dallas that day.
I want to leave you with this thought: an eight-year-old girl was waiting in line with her parents for a pediatric check-up. There was no wait for the ophthalmologist, so a colleague and fellow volunteer suggested that she get her eyes tested. But the girl was scared of the machine, and her parents couldn’t afford glasses, so what was the point? The volunteer gently persisted, explaining that all prescription glasses were free, and that the test wouldn’t hurt at all. So, she got a vision test. It didn’t hurt. She did need glasses. And they were free.
While by no means the most powerful or dramatic story of the day, it was a perfect example of the simple acts that were happening all around us. That particular volunteer, because of his gentle encouragement, allowed that little girl to go back to school on Monday and read her books clearly for the first time in years. It was nothing short of a life-changing event.
Having spent most of my adult life as a soldier, one thing I know is that life is not just about you, it’s about “the team.” For me the team is America, and a lot of Americans have been left behind. The Army was very good to us as a family. When my wife faced a serious medical crisis, the Army went into overdrive to provide the care and support she (and we as a family) needed. I’ll always be beyond grateful for the way we were treated and the great medical care she received.
Sadly, many Americans don’t have this kind of health care and support. I shudder to think what would have happened to us had we not had access to excellent medical care through the Army. Bankruptcy at a minimum. And the possibility of a much worse outcome. Because when you don’t have access to quality care, you’re at the mercy of whatever crisis you face and a bureaucracy designed to minimize risk and maximize profits.
My wife introduced me to the NAFC. Always a person who gives of herself, she volunteered at the Little Rock clinic and was hooked. After she travelled to clinics in New Orleans, taking our teenage son, and North Carolina, we volunteered as a family at the Dallas clinic. The sheer number of people needing help, and the gratitude they had for NAFC being there for them, was incredibly moving for me. But while I felt good for giving, what I received back from those we served far outweighed my contribution. The smiles of the people there for help, the gratitude they had for knowing that other Americans cared, that was the prize. It reinforced for me how great the need is, and my place is to be there whenever possible. Because when someone on the team is down, you reach down, extend a hand, and pull them up.
That’s what Americans do.