YADKINVILLE — Each year members of the community gather to celebrate another year of service and being able to provide free medical care for adults who are low-income and uninsured through Grace Clinic’s ministry.
This year, the gathering had a new venue as the Elkin-based clinic chose to celebrate in Yadkinville, rather than the traditional Jonesville. The move was an effort to reach farther into the counties it serves — Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin.
Steve Newman, chairman of the Grace Clinic of Yadkin Valley Board of Directors, praised the volunteers who are at the clinic, which operates three days a week, daily to help patients and the staff.
“They are very, very important,” he said. “Grace Clinic wouldn’t be open today if it weren’t for volunteers. They serve a lot of roles, a lot of positions that had actually become in some cases almost like an actual job, but they are there daily … to help patients, help staff.”
As one of the highlights of the evening, Newman presented the Lynn Sloan Barnes Award to two volunteers, JoAnn Collins and Jane Casstevens. Casstevens was unable to attend the dinner.
Collins said she has been volunteering with Grace since its inception at the Tri-County Health Resource Center in 2005. The award is named in honor of the late Barnes, who with support from Dr. Stephen Erlandson and the Rev. Ralph Shipp, founded the clinic, which initially began at Elkin First United Methodist Church as a voucher system for needed prescription medications.
Today, Grace Clinic serves more than 400 patients, but Newman said there are still a lot of people in the service area unaware of the ministry’s assistance. He shared a story of a man in the area who is diabetic and needed insulin, which can cost from $450 to $900 a month, and how Grace provided that medication for the patient.
Each year, patients are asked to share their stories of how Grace has helped them, and this year Vincente Vazquez and his wife, Maria Pena, shared their appreciation for the staff and assistance from Grace.
Vazquez, who moved to the area from California, said he is diabetic and requires insulin. He shared how fortunate they were to find Grace Clinic, how kind the staff was and willing to always help them.
“Thanks to God we find Grace Clinic,” he said. “We are very happy. They trying to help us the most they can.
“We are very grateful for everything they’ve done for us in the past,” Vazquez said.
His wife, translated through Vazquez, also expressed her appreciation to the staff and doctors at Grace Clinic.
Another long-time patient, who asked to not be identified, shared his story as well. He shared songs with the group that came to him as they expressed how he felt about Grace and how it had touched his life, allowing him to care for his parents and still receive his own needed health care.
He said his experience with Grace Clinic has been “life changing.”
“When you are without insurance, there is a sense of vulnerability,” he said, as he broke into singing “God will make a way.” “He made a way not only for me, but countless other people on a journey. Grace Clinic is that practical expression of the heart of God for His people.
“Grace Clinic has meant so much to me. It’s hard to put into words what a ministry like Grace Clinic means,” he said. “We all get to a point where we need help. Grace is a safe place, a happy place.”
Newman noted that the board for Grace Clinic will have a new look for 2017-18. The board lost member Betty Taylor, who was named executive director of the clinic, and is losing the Rev. Mark Barden, who will be moving to Shelby to pastor a church there.
To fill those two positions, Elkin attorney Cynthia Gonzalez and Chris Hughes will be joining the board.
Taylor, the executive director, said Grace provided more than 2,000 free office visits during the past year. In 2016, Grace spent about $235,000 providing care for patients and that was possible thanks to grants and donors.
“The clinic in conjunction with its partners provided $1.1 million in free prescription medications to our patients,” she said. “All services including medications as well as laboratory and imaging services donated by Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital totaled $2.2 million.
“We spent $235,000, but we generated $2.2 million. That’s a return of more than $9 for every dollar spent. This does not include referrals to Baptist Hospital, we have people going every week,” she said.
“More than 20 volunteers provided 2,800 hours of service last year,” Taylor added. “We could not open our doors without these dedicated volunteers.”
For more information on Grace Clinic of Yadkin Valley, visit graceclinicnc.org or call 336-835-1467.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.