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Community Medical Clinic celebrates 15 years of service

Posted: January 24, 2014 4:50 p.m.
Updated: January 27, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Located off DeKalb Street in Camden, directly behind the United Way/Holsten Center Building and Food for the Soul, is a non-profit 501(c)(3), medical clinic that has been offering free services to the uninsured and underinsured of Kershaw County for 15 years. According to the Community Medical Clinic (CMC) of Kershaw County Resource Development Coordinator Deb McAbee, “the (clinic) was founded in 1998 by concerned citizens who wished to provide healthcare access to uninsured residents. Initially, the clinic’s offices were located in the front of the Holsten Center.”

McAbee said the initial, rudimentary staff consisted of a director, nurse practitioner and pharmacy program coordinator. As the number of patients increased, the need for access also grew, along with the need for additional resources. The CMC’s board of directors initiated a capital campaign to raise $720,000 to build a new facility.

That mission was accomplished through grants, community support and donations, McAbee said.

“It became clear that a strategic plan needed to be developed to provide resources for the sustainability of the clinic,” she explained. “Les Larsen chaired the development committee, which recommended the implementation of an annual campaign. A resource development coordinator was hired in late 2005.”

During the 15 years, the clinic has become the medical home to 1,100 patients with more than 5,000 patient visits a year, McAbee said. She said the clinic provides its patients with medications valued at more than $1.5 million.

“For every $1 donated, patients receive $12.50 in services,” she said.

The most common diseases the CMC’s physicians and staff see are hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma. McAbee said funding from KershawHealth, Kershaw County, the city of Camden, local churches, the United Way of Kershaw County, and additional grants and individuals allows patients suffering from those ailments to receive proper medical care and attention at no charge. The clinic also houses a bilingual interpreter/translator on specific days of the week to assist with patients who are unable to speak and/or understand English.

“Clinic volunteers work tirelessly to provide the best care possible to patients,” McAbee said. “The scope of services and the high patient numbers require both numerous and skilled volunteers. As the demand for medical services and medications continues to rise, there is a corresponding reliance on volunteers to perform these duties.”

McAbee said there are now 200 volunteers including office workers, dentists, physicians, pharmacists, counselors, nurses, educators, chiropractor, diabetes educator, nutritionist and physical therapist helping the CMC and its patients along with a network of specialists in Camden and the Midlands.

The bulk of the clinic’s operations budget is raised by the annual campaign and special events, such as the upcoming Seventh Annual Clinic Classic, McDonald’s 5K Walk/Run and KershawHealth 10K as well as the Camden Family Care 1 mile walk. The entire event is scheduled for Apr. 26.

Since 2005, seven people have served as campaign chairs, including McAbee; her husband, Norm; Harriett Heriot; Jim Burns; Mary Clark; Molly Nettles; and Steve Van Horn. McAbee said the clinic is very excited about its 2014 campaign, headed by husband and wife team Ann Hagan and John Carmichael. Though the campaign has been very successful so far, it still has a ways to go and still requires the community’s support.

“We would not be celebrating our 15th year without the support of this community,” CMC Director Susan Witkowski said. “The donations directly impact the successful outcomes we continue to demonstrate for our patients … Kershaw County residents.”

Witkowski emphasized that the continued excellence of the clinic is directly dependent upon the “support of the city, the county and the community.”

The CMC held an awards program in November to thank its many volunteers and donors, especially recognizing those volunteers who have contributed 15 years of service. Awards were given in the form of cedar birdhouses, representing “homes for soaring spirits.”

Anniversary notes to volunteers written by patients are displayed on the clinic’s lobby. Some of the messages included sentiments such as: “Thank you. You saved my life,” “This is the best and most wonderful place in the world,” and “Thank you for being so kind, considerate and generous with your time and skills. I appreciate everything that you do for me and our community.”

To learn more about the CMC and its various components, visit its website, www.cmcofkc.org, which also includes options for interested donors and/or volunteers.

(For more volunteer testimonials and photographs, click here.)

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