February 08, 2022
Midland Radio donated two-way radios to Open Arms Free Clinic ahead of its annual Gala Event in December.
We spoke with the Executive Director and Volunteer Coordinator about the mission, event, and how two-way radios have made a difference.
Founded by Father Dan Sanders in 2012, the Open Arms Free Clinic provides free medical services to residents in Walworth County, Wisconsin.
“He had a vision during the Great Recession because he had witnessed so many people not having basic access to healthcare. He wanted to motivate the community to change that," Executive Director, Sara Nichols said.
The clinic opened up its doors on November 7, 2012 and treated its first patient on December 6, 2012.
When the clinic first opened, Nichols said there were 13,000 people in the county without medical insurance. After the Affordable Care Act was implemented, that number went down to 8,000 people without insurance. Nichols said without the free clinic, many with chronic diseases cannot find the necessary treatment.
“For a person that has diabetes, if they don’t have health insurance in a household of four with a total income of $54,000 or below, that person would pay out of pocket close to $17,000 to treat their diabetes.”
While there are 15 full-time staff members that work at the clinic, all medical providers are volunteers. There are a total of 200 volunteers.
“Volunteers stepped up to help- nurses, doctors, pharmacists, dentists, community supporters," Nichols said.
Nichols said the clinic could not run without the help of volunteers.
“Some of them are retired and some of them are still working so they fit it into their schedule. Some are also seasonal and when they're in Walworth County, they want to help out.”
Since its start, the clinic has treated over 4,000 patients with over 30,000 visits.
The clinic has also expanded beyond primary medical care to include dental, vision, behavioral health, medications, and lab services.
“We’ve been able to expand as the need expands, but also as the support continues to grow," Nichols said.
Like many medical service providers, the Open Arms Free Clinic worked to make sure the most vulnerable were as healthy as possible as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic raged on.
“Our patients are very vulnerable meaning that they’re working very hard and to not be able to work due to being sick with Covid was a huge fear. It still is," Nichols said.
The clinic also had to make adjustments, like taking patient enrollment online.
The Open Arms Free Clinic also aided the larger population, becoming a community testing site. OAFC was able to complete 500 tests in six hours.
Because of the impact of the pandemic on Walworth County, the National Guard was called in to help.
"We ended up asking if we could be a vaccination site and were approved in March of 2021. We have over 2,500 vaccines in arms to date and we’ve continued to expand on that," Nichols said.
The Open Arms Free Clinic runs on grants and donations.
The Kikkoman Foods Foundation gave the first grant of $15,000.
Father Dan then had a luncheon where he asked for private donors.
The clinic hosts a gala every year in an effort to secure further funding from private donors.
Open Arms Free Clinic also relies on competitive state grants.
To donate to OAFC, go here.
The Open Arms Free Clinic hosted its annual Gala Event on December 3, 2021 at Grand Geneva Resort.
The gala was attended by 80 lunch guests and 300 dinner guests.
“People still wanted to gather, but also wanted to be sensitive of the space," Volunteer Coordinator Cortney Shiroda said.
The gala is also a way to celebrate the treatment of the first ever patient on the first Friday of December.
This year OAFC raised $100,000.
Midland Radio donated several packs of the LXT630X3VP3 Two-Way Radios to the organization to use at the gala.
“The room we hosted the event in was huge. It’s very hard to be in multiple places at once. When we had the radios we were able to radio back and forth when there were questions or concerns," Shiroda said.
Those working the event also used Midland's headsets in order to communicate discreetly.
“We love that we have the ear pieces. It was so discreet and lovely that we didn’t even notice it was being implemented," Nichols said.
The clinic plans to use the two-way radios in its day to day operations.
“Our building isn’t huge, but it’s big enough where you can’t just yell across to someone else when you need them. We will definitely be implementing them in our day to day operations," Shiroda said.
While the team is still figuring out how to best use the two-way radios, they know the radios will make a big difference.
“When we had to pivot to curbside medication dispensing, pass through vaccination clinics, drive thru testing, every single piece of equipment just builds our capacity to provide care.”