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Volunteers keep care coming at Free Clinic of Southwest Washington

Health care provider increases services, looks forward to May fundraiser

By , Columbian staff writer
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Daniel Salazar, patient care coordinator for the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington, checks in a patient at the clinic located at 4100 Plomondon St.
Daniel Salazar, patient care coordinator for the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington, checks in a patient at the clinic located at 4100 Plomondon St. (Photo contributed by Pam Knepper) Photo Gallery

The Free Clinic of Southwest Washington, a Vancouver-based organization that provides free health care services for people who are uninsured, is gearing up for its largest fundraiser of the year, which is slated for May 5.

The annual Sam Beall breakfast fundraiser — named after the organization’s founder — went virtual last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will be held virtually this year as well. The organization hopes to raise $40,000 at the event, a needed boost after an arduous year for health care providers.

“It’s been an interesting year for the clinic with COVID,” said spokeswoman Pam Knepper. “It finally looks like we’re coming out of it, but as a health care provider, we’re mindful of keeping everyone safe.”

Health care services provided by the clinic, at 4100 Plomondon St., are made possible by the organization’s some 300 volunteers — doctors, nurses, dentists and more who offer their services free of charge.

The organization serves roughly 6,500 uninsured patients a year, according to Knepper.

The organization saw a reduction in volunteers throughout the pandemic, Knepper said. Many of the organization’s volunteers are retired health care professionals, and some had to pause their services to avoid risking exposure. Now, as COVID-19 cases are beginning to abate, many volunteers are returning, and the clinic is offering increased services.

Free dental clinics were available in February, and more will be available in March. On March 3, 8 and 17, tooth extractions will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Fillings will be available on March 8 only. For additional information about the free dental clinics, visit freeclinics.org or email Edward@freeclinics.org.

Between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, free COVID-19 vaccinations and COVID-19 at-home tests are available at the clinic, with no appointment necessary.

In 2020, the Free Clinic celebrated its 30-year anniversary, but celebrations were muted as the clinic responded to the pandemic. In July of 2021, the clinic welcomed its new Executive Director Rebecca O’Brien after its former Executive Director Ann Wheelock retired in June.

While the organization is looking forward to its fundraiser in May, it is also planning smaller fundraisers throughout the year. For example, the organization raised some $500 at a recent fundraiser held at Beaches restaurant.

“We’ll have some other charity events later on in the year as we hopefully come out of this pandemic,” Knepper said. “It will be so nice to be able to hold those events again.”

The clinic is always in need of more volunteers. For those interested in volunteering, visit the clinic’s website at freeclinics.org/volunteer. If you are interested in donating to the clinic, visit freeclinics.org/your-support/donate-online.

“The Clark County community has been wonderful about their dedication in supporting us through this time,” Knepper said. “Donations are always something that we’re very grateful for, and they always go toward providing medical services for uninsured patients.”

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