There were several eloquent speakers at the annual meeting and 10th anniversary celebration for the Grace Clinic of Yadkin Valley Thursday night, but the one who moved everyone to tears and received a standing ovation said only a few words.
Robert, who asked that his last name not be used in this story, is in his 60s and was one of the patients seen at the low-income medical clinic at 170 Claremont Drive in Elkin last year. While walking to the podium, he told the 80-plus people gathered in a fellowship area at Grassy Creek United Methodist Church that he wasn’t much of a public speaker.
“I came to Grace Clinic on April Fool’s Day of last year,” Robert began. “They helped me keep my sugar under control and got it way down … My weight dropped 60 pounds, and my cholesterol is down …”
“In front of God and everybody, I’d like to thank you,” he said, his voice breaking. “I don’t normally ask for help.”
“Excuse me,” Robert said as he started to cry, “but you were all there when I needed it. Thank you.”
Executive Director Hugh Quinn commented on Robert’s testimony once everyone had stopped applauding and sat back down. “Folks, that’s what Grace Clinic is all about,” he said.
Steve Newman, chairman of the Grace Clinic of Yadkin Valley Board of Directors, opened the nonprofit’s annual meeting by recognizing the staff, volunteers, board members and Quinn, who started work on March 2.
“When we were here a year ago, we had been through a very difficult time,” he said, “and we knew that without every one of your prayers and support, we would not be standing here tonight.”
Newman said Quinn, who retired from the American Red Cross after 35 years of service, possesses amazing leadership skills. “I am proud to be associated with Hugh,” he said. “He is doing very well.”
It was the late Lynn Sloan Barnes who started what was then known as the Tri-County Health Resource Center, Newman said, along with help from Dr. Stephen Erlandson and the late Rev. Ralph Shipp. “I wish I had had the opportunity to have known her,” he said.
In a “Year in Review” PowerPoint presentation, Newman showed a photo of the reception area at Grace Clinic of Yadkin Valley, pointing out the “Amazing Grace” inspirational word decor stand on the front desk. “Like the song,” he said, “it’s an amazing organization.”
Newman shared what he said is a strong personal belief with the board members, staff, volunteers and other guests at the annual meeting and 10th anniversary celebration. “Health care should never be a privilege,” he said. “I personally believe that health care is a right of everyone.
“We should not live in a society where if you have money, you live well, and if you don’t have money, you don’t.”
Last year, Newman said 448 patients were treated at the clinic, many of them seen multiple times for a total of 1,765 visits. “We have served a lot of people,” he said, “but I still feel like as Christians and human beings … until we reach everyone that we need to reach in this community that needs our services, then our job is not complete … until we serve every single individual that needs our services, we still have a job to do.”
Newman shared another statistic from last year that he described as “absolutely mind-blowing.” The 47 people who volunteered at Grace Clinic last year provided 4,000 hours of service, he said, averaging out to about 90 hours per volunteer.
Some of those volunteers included board members, Newman noted, who along with the six paid part-time staff members go above and beyond the call of duty. “That’s what we as Christians are supposed to do,” he said.
In other business, board member Phyllis Qualheim, who chairs the personnel committee, presented an award to outgoing board member Jane Reynolds for her service since the clinic was started 10 years ago. She also recommended Dr. Barbara Todd, former superintendent of the Yadkin County Schools, to fill her slot. Todd was approved by a unanimous vote by the other board members.
Newman praised Reynolds, who he said was serving as board chair when he was first appointed as a member. “She is a very giving, very caring person,” he said.
Erlandson, a board member and one of the three founders of the low-income medical clinic, reviewed its history for guests. “It has been a great privilege to be part of Grace Clinic for 10 years …” he said. “We’ve had our ups and we’ve had our downs, but we’ve always come through with the help of our volunteers and the grace of God.”
There are a lot of bad things happening in the world these days, Erlandson, “but there are many good things in the world, too, and Grace Clinic is one of those good things.”
Later in the meeting, Newman presented Erlandson with the first annual Lynn Sloan Barnes Exceptional Service Award. Newman received a plaque, and a second plaque will be put up in the Grace Clinic of Yadkin Valley office with space available for the names of annual recipients for the next 11 years.
Also at the meeting, the Rev. Will Eads, guest speaker for the event, talked about the importance of integrated health care in treating patients at Grace Clinic. For the past year, he has participated in initial patient assessments with Physician’s Assistant Mary Keller as well as talking with them on followup visits to see if they would benefit from counseling as well as medical services.
“Think about how many more people are being helped …” he said. “Integrated care takes away the whole mental health stigma. They’re just coming to the doctor.”
Kathy Chaffin can be reached at 336-258-4058.