“Change is the essence of life; be willing to surrender who you are for what you could become.”
That was the theme Wednesday, Aug. 5 at the Madison County Health Partners’ (MCHP) Free Clinic 10th Anniversary Dessert event, held at the St. Patrick Parish Center in London.
The event, attended by about 85 people, served as an opportunity for the clinic to thank its donors and volunteers, as well as an emotional farewell to an era, as the clinic has begun transitioning to its new role.
The clinic will cease to exist in the coming months, following the announcement in May that Rocking Horse Community Center, based in Springfield, will merge with the clinic to create an enhanced community health center.
The move was made possible after local leaders won a $650,000 competitive federal grant.
The location, expected to be open by Aug. 30, will serve as a primary care center for the first year, and add behavioral care in the second year.
Rocking Horse will continue to serve the same patients, and more. The partnership will allow the organization to provide primary care access to both uninsured and insured. Additionally, the free clinic previously only accepted Madison County residents, but Rocking Horse has no residency restrictions.
However, under the new operating model, volunteers will no longer be needed in the same capacity because Rocking Horse will have a full-time staff for its broader services.
Melissa Canney, the clinic’s executive director and the newly named director of operations for the new center, asked guests to share how volunteering at the clinic has enriched their lives.
“What is the gift you have received from the clinic?” she asked.
Canney began with herself: a lifetime of inspiration, and the experiences with the patients, she answered.
Elaine Ewald, a member of the MCHP board of directors and baker extraordinaire for the evening, said Canney has been a gift to the organization. She said hiring her was “the best decision” the board ever made.
Another gift is the joy of not having to turn down patients due to finances, she said.
“You don’t have to bill. You don’t have to tell people that they can’t have services they need because they don’t have the money, and it’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s the gift of feeling what we were offering was great.”
Volunteer Dr. Jack Starr presented a clock to Canney to “remember all the time you spent.”
Others sharing inspirational stories included newly hired nursing coordinator Courtney Higgins-Varner, Sue McClelland and Gary Peters, who told the crowd his wife Ruth loved the clinic.
The evening concluded with Canney making a plaque presentation to Rocking Horse Center CEO Chris Cook. Cook said he was “looking forward to taking the mission, and showing you what we can do with it.”
The plaque stated:
Madison County Health Partners Free Clinic
has served as a gift to our community and to the lives it touched,
its patients, volunteers, donors, board members and staff.
MCHP gave hope and healing. MCHP gave friendship and kindness.
MCHP gave trust and respect. MCHP gave to those in need.
The gift of the MCHP Free Clinic will forever be in our hearts.
Andrea McKinney can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.
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