By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
Earlier this year, Remote Area Medical (RAM), a nonprofit organization from Knoxville, Tenn., announced that it would be coming to Gadsden next year to provide a free health clinic to locals on March 27-29, 2020, at Gadsden City High School.
The clinic will offer free, high-quality dental, vision and general medical care that includes dental cleanings, fillings, teeth x-rays, tooth extractions, eye exams, prescription eyeglasses made on-site, gynecological exams and general medical exams.
The East Central Alabama Area Health Education Center (AHEC) is community host for RAM. AHEC aims to “increase the quality, diversity and distribution of healthcare professionals especially in rural and underserved areas.” The AHEC district office in Gadsden serves 16 Alabama counties.
“We were trying to think of a way that a lot of students could experience the rural patient and the rural need at one time, that’s when we came up with this rural immersion weekend, which is the RAM clinic,” said AHEC executive director Angela Anderson. “It all started with students.”
In order to make the free health clinic a success, locals have been working to raise funds and secure volunteers. Progress has been made on both fronts, but there is still more to be done. Only about $3,000 remains to be raised to reach the clinic’s goal of $58,000.
The next step to secure about 400 volunteers. For the clinic to be as successful as possible, about 150 medical volunteers and 250 general support volunteers are needed. General support volunteers will set up the clinic, direct traffic and parking, register clients, direct clients to the proper clinic areas, serve food to volunteers, pack up the clinic and clean up the parking lot and school after the event.
According to promotions coordinator Mark Condra, about half the needed volunteers have signed up so far.
To generate more volunteers, a community-wide meeting for all area churches will be held at Gadsden State Community College’s Beck Conference Center, located at 1001 George Wallace Drive in Gadsden, on Monday, November 18 from 5:15 to 7 p.m.
“The game plan here is to reach out to our local faith community, the local churches,” said Condra. “At the meeting, we are going to present some ways other churches can get involved.”
In addition to recruiting volunteers from church communities, hospitality committee members Pudden McArthur and Ann Inzer will be seeking churches to sponsor seven large meals that includes breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and to help provide paper products, snacks, beverages and other refreshments.
“Part of our arrangement is that the local host group will provide all the meals and provide housing for volunteers and students,” said Condra.
Churches do not have to provide the entire meal. McArthur and Inzer are pre-pared to coordinate churches to provide different portions of the meals.
“Churches can go together to provide a meal, say if one church wanted to do a casserole or meat and another church could do maybe salad or vegetables and bread,” said Inzer. “We can find something for any church to do.”
“If we have a small church that couldn’t do a meal, there’s plenty of opportunities to bring things like bottled water, granola bars or fruit,” said McArthur.
A larger list of recommendations for donations will be distributed at the meeting.
“We are trying to divide a big task and break it down into manageable pieces,” said Condra. “At the meeting the churches will be given the information and will be asked to go back to their own churches and pray and consider to what degree they want to be involved. We are asking them to pray, to volunteer in any function, to donate food and products and to sponsor a meal, either a portion or all of it or whatever part that they are capable of doing.”
The hospitality committee is also seeking churches or other volunteers to prepare “goody bags” for the patients that attend the free clinic. The “goody bags” will include grooming items, toiletries, food and more.
“Another thing a church can do, if they can’t do any-thing else, they can sponsor some of the goody bags for patients,” said Condra. “We hope to have 1000 patients, so if you could do 25 or even 10 goody bags, that’s another way for churches to help.”
Volunteers that prepare food or goody bags or serve food off-premises do not have to register as a volunteer, but volunteers that prepare or serve food on-site will have to register as a volunteer, as the on-site volunteers will be given badges for security purposes.
For more information or to register to volunteer for the RAM clinic, visit volunteer.ramusa.org. For more information about the meeting on November 18, contact Condra at 205-960-2664.