Hundreds of volunteers, doctors, dentists, opticians and optometrists, nurses, technicians, and ordinary citizens, some from out-of-state, but most of them from our own region, joined together to bring free medical, dental, and vision care to over a thousand people. The “pop-up” clinic arrived on semi-trucks, and a team of volunteers sprang into action to have everything set up by Thursday afternoon. There was no talk of divides, only offers of help and gentle instructions given with patience and respect. The medical areas were set and area not-for-profits set up booths in the hallway to share information on available programs and services.
There was a palpable sense of community and gratitude for the opportunity to help those who needed help the most. Once the clinic was set up, most of the volunteers went home or back to their hotels to get a good night’s sleep while a few stayed to begin to welcome the people seeking care. Numbers were given out on a first-come-first-served basis beginning in the wee hours of the morning. Then, the wait began for the clinic to open a 6am.
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading was there giving books to the children in attendance and sharing information with parents about Vroom, a FREE app which gives tips for brain-building activities parents can share with their children.
It was difficult to tell who was feeling the most gratitude, those seeking care, or those in a position of being able to provide care for others. I witnessed lawyers working side-by-side with truck drivers; retired professionals partnering with high school students to pass out meals; English speakers finding non-verbal ways to connect with those who did not speak English; and smiles shared freely between everyone.
Remote Area Medical provided healing dental, medical, and vision services, but perhaps the greatest healing happened in the hearts of everyone in attendance.
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