Matthews free clinic nets $80K grant

Gift gives boost to nonprofit searching for a larger home

by Josh Whitener

It’s been clear for years that the Matthews Free Medical Clinic needs more room to treat the rising number of uninsured local residents. And thanks to an $80,000 gift from two organizations the nonprofit is getting closer to moving day.

Presbyterian Hospital Matthews and Matthews-based Elevation Church recently presented the grant to nonprofit staff. Both entities will give $40,000.

Clinic staff and volunteers are, of course, elated.

“Thanks to Elevation and Presbyterian (hospital), our plans to expand are more of a reality,” Amy Carr, the clinic’s executive director, said.

The clinic at 113 N. Ames St., which offers free medical care to qualifying individuals ages 6 to 64 with no health insurance, is in a donated about 1,400-square-foot house that has served the nonprofit since its 2004 opening. With only eight rooms, the clinic has enough space for two exam rooms, one restroom, a small office, a kitchen that doubles as a break room, a lab and a pharmacy the size of a walk-in closet.

The recession and a subsequent rise in unemployment has meant a dramatic increase in clinic patients, officials say. When the clinic opened in 2004, the center treated about 600 individuals. From 2008 to 2010, the number of patients treated grew from about 1,400 to more than 2,500 each year. In 2011, clinic staff and volunteers handled 3,061 patient visits, Carr said. During the clinic’s Uninsured Day Feb. 18, the staff and volunteers treated 101 patients for free, including 96 area residents who had never been to the clinic before, Carr said.

“In the pharmacy, we also do diabetic counseling,” Carr said. “There are times we even use the kitchen for counseling. Every area doubles as something else.”

To expand, the clinic will be looking to relocate to a different facility. Carr said the clinic isn’t yet sure how much it will cost or even whether they will plan to buy or lease. “We’re open to all possibilities,” she said. “It’s an ongoing search.”

The clinic will, however, remain close to downtown Matthews and public transportation. “We don’t want to be remote,” Carr said.

Carr also said the expansion will hopefully allow the clinic to increase the services it offers, so patients who have limited means of transportation don’t have to travel somewhere else to receive other types of treatment.

Primary care, orthopedic treatment and a women’s clinic are already available to patients. Dental treatment is offered four times a year to clinic patients.

Except for a full-time executive director, a full-time nurse manager, a part-time office manager and a part-time medical assistant, the clinic’s staff is entirely volunteer-based. Doctors, nurses and other individuals donate time and effort to treat patients and handle the day-to day tasks to keep the clinic in operation.

The clinic relies entirely on donations and grants to operate. Two major fundraisers are held each year – a golf tournament in the spring and a dinner auction in the fall. In addition to these fundraisers, the clinic also receives support from businesses, churches and individuals in the area.

Elevation Church, which recently volunteered 300 service hours at the clinic as part of its annual LOVE Week, was excited to be able to use a portion of its tithes and offerings to help the nonprofit.

“The relationship between Elevation Church and Matthews Free Medical Clinic has been growing for some time, with many Elevation Church staff and volunteers involved in volunteer work there,” Tonia Bendickson, outreach director for Elevation church, said. “Knowing the clinic’s need to expand, one of our pastors, Josh Blackson, has been working with Roland Bibeau at Presbyterian (Hospital) Matthews to forge this partnership.”

Bibeau is the president of Presbyterian Hospital Matthews and part of a community health alliance committee that has partnered with the clinic on multiple occasions. Bibeau worked with the hospital and Elevation Church to match whatever amount Elevation could bring to the table, creating one large grant for the clinic.

“The health clinic needed a shot in the arm of funding so it could continue with its mission,” Bibeau said. “It’s always nice when you have the opportunity to give back to the community in such a special way.”

Want know more?

Find more information about the clinic, including ways you can help, online at or call 704-841-8882.

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