CHFC History >>> Review our history milestones
In 1992, when it became apparent there was need in the community for primary medical care for a growing number of uninsured working people, two family physicians and two nurses established the first free medical clinic in Cedar Rapids. Volunteer nurses and physicians were recruited to staff the new Cedar Rapids Free Medical Clinic (CRFMC) held in donated space in Jane Boyd Community House. This geographic location was ideal as it was close to both hospitals, near the center of Cedar Rapids and not far from public transportation. In-kind donations of basic equipment, examining tables and disposable items helped get the clinic ready. Limited laboratory tests and x-rays were donated by both hospitals and radiologists. Two local pharmacies arranged for deeply discounted medication needed to supplement donated drug samples. Initially, hours of operation were limited to first and third Mondays of each month from 4:00 to 7:00 PM.
Numbers of persons needing medical care increased rapidly. In 1996 His Hands Ministries (HHM) was formed as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation doing business as Cedar Rapids Free Medical Clinic. Its mission was dual: medical care for the underserved while changing lives for Christ. In that same year, growing need for a clinic director resulted in recruiting Darlene Schmidt, an experienced primary care office nurse, as the first employee. Schmidt’s past experiences as office nurse, a leader of volunteers, added to her altruistic spirit, deep religious faith and infectious optimism worked wonders in recruiting volunteers and developing clinic services.
Schmidt’s tireless personal efforts to find funding for purchase of medication and operations led to receiving a key grant from the Jesse Ball DuPont Foundation with the help of St. PiusX Parish. Under her leadership, a very valuable “Prescription Assistance Program” was developed thanks to major efforts by Sara Fishel and Mary Stearns, both volunteer nurses.
By 2000 it became apparent that the space in Jane Boyd Community House could no longer suffice as a permanent home for the Clinic. HHM’s board of directors chose to continue its dual mission while limiting hours of operation and operations budget. A dual philosophy among volunteers developed: one to maintain the HHM/CRFMC mission and another to seek broader community support as a secular organization. An amicable separation occurred allowing HHM/CRFMC to open in a new location while maintaining its mission.
Following the separation in 2001, Dr. William Galbraith and Darlene Schmidt recruited a talented board of directors and special advisors to develop an adequate clinic facility with greater possibilities for finding operating funds, both short and long term. A 501(c)(3) qualified, not-for-profit Community Health Free Clinic (CHFC) was established. By a most fortunate coincidence, or as some believe an answer to prayers, the philanthropic Hall-Perrine Foundation had reached its 50th anniversary. Its board of directors wanted to do something special for the greater Cedar Rapids community as a gift celebrating this milestone. After CHFC presented a grant request and business plan, The Hall-Perrine Foundation elected to give $1,480,000 without matching funds to build, equip and furnish a new clinic facility: The Birthday Gift! In another grand collaborative gesture, Jane Boyd Community House (JBCH) and Four Oaks leaders offered land for the building site immediately adjacent to JBCH with a quid pro quo that JBCH would use some basement space in the new building under a 99 year lease agreement between the organizations. Ryan Construction of Iowa built the facility at cost, affording a building with considerable increased quality and value.
“Operation Wellness” the first capital fund drive for operating and maintenance funds surpassed its goal. An “agency endowment” was established as a first at Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation in the same year. The philanthropist William B. Quarton decided to include CHFC in his estate plan and at his death left a generous legacy for future operating costs, as he liked to say “in perpetuity.” During Clinic construction, visionary Schmidt decided a Dental Clinic was necessary to care for the many appearing with severe dental disease. Two practicing dentists, Drs. Nancy Hart and Joann German Wahle, volunteered to plan a two chair dental service accommodating free dental care. “Operation Healthy Teeth” was the successful funding campaign to secure dental supplies and materials. Again, building costs and equipment was partly funded by Hall-Perrine Foundation via a matching grant.
In February 2004, a brand new, wonderfully equipped and debt free CHFC facility offering medical, dental, pharmacy and social services was opened. Free care is afforded by 600 volunteers and a few paid employees. In 2007, ophthalmologist Dr. David Muller and his wife Amy led the planning, equipping and recruiting volunteer professionals to staff a new Community Health Eye Clinic which was opened in February of 2008 in the Clinic basement space. The Mullers, The Hall-Perrine Foundation and Maxine Welch were major funding sources for constructing, furnishing and equipping the Eye Clinic.
Following the Great Flood of June 2008, St. Luke’s Hospital furnished temporary space at 860 2nd Avenue to house the “Prescription Assistance Program” and support office space. This has freed up needed space for clinical care of patients in CHFC’s building.
In 2009, honoring its two co-founders, a Galbraith Schmidt Society was announced at the Celebration for Volunteers Dinner. This Society will recognize a select group of members who donate permanent gifts and bequests in the form of a legacy to support the work of the CHFC, now and forever. One may become a charter member by declaring gifting intentions before the end of 2009. A special brochure is available for this type gift.
The essential work of Community Health Free Clinic is possible only as a result of the generosity of innumerable people: individuals and organizations. CHFC volunteers, its board of directors, officers and staff rejoice in being able to serve those in need of the free services offered to those who are uninsured, underinsured or underserved. We are grateful for the collaborative efforts as well as the innumerable monetary and in-kind gifts of many which allow the Clinic to provide these free services in East Central Iowa.
Your support will assure the Clinic can continue its mission!
William B. Galbraith, MD, MACP
Co-founder and Past-president of the Board
Darlene Schmidt, LPN
Co-founder, CEO and Executive Director
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Mission: To provide Medical and Dental care to the uninsured and under-served
of East Central Iowa through model Community Partnerships.
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