What started with people in the community seeing the needs of others has now been serving the residents of Saline County for two decades. To honor that milestone the Christian Community Care Clinic will hold a celebration and open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 17, at 220 W. South St. in Downtown Benton.
"The Christian Community Care Clinic is a clinic for the medically uninsured in Saline County," said Barbara Elrod, a volunteer and registered nurse who works in discharge at the facility.
The free clinic works to either meet the medical needs of its patients or help them find the care they need.
It boasts an X-ray machine, EKG machine, pharmacy and a lab. Elrod said they have many patients who need to see a doctor, but they also have many patients who simply come to refill their prescriptions.
The clinic takes place in the Community Care Clinic location from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month. Elrod said that is the only time the pharmacist and doctor will be there.
She added that on a typical clinic night the pharmacy fills 250 to 300 prescriptions and the doctor sees 20 to 30 patients.
The funding for the clinic comes from grants and donations. Elrod said there are 10 churches with Sunday School classes that donate, plus churches also provide meals each month for the volunteers.
"As a human, I think we need to each have access to some medical care," Elrod said.
The clinic began when nurses and doctors in the community saw there were people in the with medical needs and no insurance. Saline Memorial Hospital was seeing many of those in the emergency room.
Elrod added Saline Memorial has been a big supporter of the clinic since it first opened.
The first clinic opened in a building two doors down from its current location that the organization rented from the hospital for $1 per year.
Elrod said the clinic helps Saline Memorial by keeping patients out of the ER and the hospital helps the clinic with testing.
"They are good to us," she said.
Saline Memorial was also one of the places that donated the clinic's first computers. Walmart donated shelves and a computer. Another company donated the software the pharmacy needed.
The volunteers held their first clinic Sept. 14, 1999, after a mock clinic to be sure they were ready earlier in August. At the time, the clinics were the second Tuesday and fourth Thursday of each month.
The old building deteriorated to the point they needed to relocate. Elrod said at that time Benton Utilities was moving to its current location so they asked the city of Benton to remodel the old utility space for the clinic. The clinic now rents its space from the city for $1 per year.
The AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company donates medicines to the clinic and audits it on a regular basis.
Director of the Pharmacy Patti Vance said the pharmacy is always busy when its open. It is staffed with a pharmacist and several volunteer pharmacy techs. Vance said they have people from all careers who take the test to be licensed as a pharmacy tech to help — from lawyers to sales people.
Elrod works with other nurses to discharge patients after they visit the doctor to ensure they have what they need and how to use any medical equipment they need. If they need a test or something that the clinic cannot offer, the nurses work with them to get the patients what they need.
The clinic has two staff members on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays to take calls for appointments at 501-776-1703 and to take care of administrative work.
The clinic is only for those ages 18 and older. Elrod said anyone younger should have access to ARKids through the state.
The Christian Community Care Clinic also fills backpacks with food to send home with children in need on weekends at Ringgold Elementary Schools. Last year, it sent 1,750 food bags throughout the year. It also provided personal care bags with hygiene and first aid items for those who use the Churches Joint Council on Human Need. The clinic also provides lice shampoo to all the Saline County schools.
The clinic is always in need of volunteers, according to Elrod. Anyone interested should reach out to the staff.
Elrod said many of the clinic's supporters have never actually been in the building.
"We want people to see what we are all about and remind them we are here," she said.
During the 20-year celebration and open house there will be finger foods available. Staff and volunteers will walk guests through a typical patient visit. Elrod hopes to have doctors and volunteers on hand for supporters to meet. The clinic will show pictures from its 20-year history on the clinic TVs.
The clinic will share information and volunteers and staff will be available for questions.
Elrod said during its 20-year history the Christian Community Care Clinic has been able to provide $25 million in value to its patients.
She would like to see people attend the open house and support the work the clinic is doing in the community.