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In 1992, the Cedar Rapids Free Medical Clinic (CRFMC) opened its doors to see patients for a few hours two evenings a month. By the time a year had passed, they had seen and treated 126 patients at no cost. The team of bootstrapping volunteers was finally seeing their dream realized. They had found a way to provide free care for their neighbors in need.

As the clinic grew, a more permanent staff was required to meet the need CRFMC had identified in Cedar Rapids. This is where our dedicated CEO’s story begins. Darlene Schmidt had spent her career as an office nurse and devoted a significant number of volunteer hours to the clinic since it opened in 1992. Perfectly suited for the position, she was hired as Clinic Director in 1995. It was the first paid position within the organization and it led to a myriad of organizational changes for a clinic that was growing by leaps and bounds with each passing year.

In 2002, in order to seek broader community support for the uninsured, Darlene along with Dr. Galbraith started Community Health Free Clinic. That same year, the philanthropic Hall­Perrine Foundation was getting ready to celebrate its 50th birthday and planned to do something special for the Cedar Rapids community in commemoration of their milestone. They began reviewing grant requests to find the perfect special project.

After presenting a grant request and business plan for a brand new clinic facility, CHFC leadership learned the Hall-Perrine Foundation had selected them as the winner. Typically, the foundation provides 50% of the funding for a given project and requires the organization to match the donation. But for this 50th birthday celebration, Hall-Perrine elected to donate the total $1,480,000 sum required to build, equip and furnish a new clinic facility. And the good news kept coming. In another grand collaborative gesture, the Jane Boyd Community House and Four Oaks leaders offered land for the building site immediately adjacent to JBCH. Ryan Construction built the facility at cost.

In February 2004 our beautiful new building stood tall, ready to serve those with nowhere else to turn for medical, dental and prescription services. As the need in the community continued to grow in the following years, CHFC added an eye clinic in 2007 for patients suffering from eye disease. By 2011, a generous donor gift allowed the organization to purchase a second facility to host the growing Prescription Assistance Program and administrative support staff.

To date, we have provided nearly 500,000 free medical, dental, vision and prescription services to more than 50,000 uninsured or underinsured patients in the greater Cedar Rapids Community. This work is done by our staff, our board, our officers, our donors and, of course, our more than 200 active volunteers. Our volunteers have provided more than 367,000 hours of their time, valued at more than $24 million.

From high school students to distinguished veteran physicians, we are grateful for every minute and every dollar our volunteers and donors have spent making Community Health Free Clinic a vibrant place offering hope and healing to those who need it.