Dear Free Clinic,

Oh how you will be missed. It was a sad day on Friday, Dec. 18, when your doors were permanently closed after 30 years of serving the health care needs of the vulnerable in our community. You were beloved by so many, including patients, volunteers, donors, staff and board members.

Your work was challenging and stressful though you had the best clinical and office team anywhere. You could tell that for some, it was a calling. You saw patients get a job because their diabetes was under control. You saw grandmothers able to continue caring for their grandchildren because they got the medication they needed for their COPD. You wept when a mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. You rejoiced with every dental patient who was relieved of pain when a bad tooth was pulled. And you celebrated when a local dentist went further than expected and helped you secure dentures.

You provided thousands and thousands of medications worth millions of dollars that would otherwise be unaffordable. You embraced volunteers knowing these people were your backbone. You appreciated all the staff and you had their backs. You were grateful for the partnerships with the hospital, specialty providers, and labs for the uncompensated care they provided. And you understood that it was the community’s financial generosity that gave you the resources to do your job.

You danced when a grant got approved. You appreciated board members for their wisdom and service knowing they put patients first in their decisionmaking. You valued university students and understood the importance of giving training opportunities to future health care providers. You were careful with your resources so they could serve as many patients as possible.

You couldn’t believe it when volunteers actually thanked you for letting them serve. It was you who felt grateful. You saw key staff and volunteers become family and act like family with the bickering and disagreements as well as the care and love. You were respectful of everyone and enjoyed having patients from so many cultures.

You altered the course of thousands of lives. You gave hope. My beloved, what will we do without you? Thank you for being the lifeline for so many for so long. I will always miss you.

Affectionately,

Elly Swecker, clinic director 1999-2007

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