More than 20 years ago, the Lackey Clinic was operating once a week out of a room at Rising Sun Baptist Church in the Lackey area of York County. It was run by Jim and Cooka Shaw, who wanted to provide health care to the disadvantaged residents of the area.
The couple would put out a sign every Thursday that said "Free Medicine."
They've long since ditched the sign and expanded facilities as the clinic now serves more than 2,000 patients a year for medical needs including diabetic counseling, pharmaceutical services, dental services, behavioral health and family medicine.
Aside from 30 full- and part-time staff members, the clinic is run by volunteers. Everyone from doctors to dentists to administrators donates their hours to assist those who need health care.
Lackey Clinic began because of the Shaws, but it has continued running thanks to a group of more than 460 volunteers. For that reason, the Lackey volunteers are the Daily Press Citizens of the Year for 2016.
Yorktown's Lackey Clinic is staffed by more than 400 volunteers, who have been named the 2016 Daily Press Citizens of the Year. The clinic's volunteers and staff will be honored 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Newport News Marriott at City Center during the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities Peninsula Humanitarian Awards.
Clinic staff and volunteers will be presented the award at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Newport News Marriott at City Center during the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities Peninsula Humanitarian Awards.
The center will honor Alonzo R. Bell, Jr., William R. Ermatinger, Guy G. Levy, George E. and Mary K. Wallace, and Raymond W. Walsh with its humanitarian awards at the event.
"We are absolutely elated," said Kim Spencer, Lackey's director of volunteers. "There's a lot of wow moments here."
There have been so many "wow moments" for the clinic, the Shaws were recognized as Citizens of the Year in 2007.
Volunteers and patients
Spencer divides the volunteers into three groups: medical, nonmedical and community organizations. The latter includes churches, civic groups, businesses and Eagle Scouts.
The clinic also brings in students from Christopher Newport University, the College of William and Mary, Thomas Nelson Community College and other higher ed institutions. For Lackey, that means training the next generation of health care providers by allowing the students to work in the pharmacy and assist physicians as medical scribes logging charts, among other roles.
"That's just another way the clinic supports to the community as we support the next generation," Spencer said. "They bring such an energy to the clinic."
When people are interested in volunteering at the clinic, Spencer will meet with them or talk to them on the phone. If they have medical training, it's an obvious decision. For the nonmedical group, Spencer finds out their strengths, interests and schedule before placing them.
"Our volunteers are our fuel and heartbeat," Spencer said. "It's very important to me they have a good volunteer experience here. I'm trying to make sure they're placed in the correct position."
This is not the first time the Citizen of the Year award has gone to a group of people. The most recent was in 2011 when the Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park earned the honor.
"Every year we try to pick a citizen who's representing something good about our community. Who's trying to make the world a better place," said Marisa Porto, Daily Press publisher and editor-in-chief. "It's uplifting to know so many people want to make others' lives better. They do everything in that facility."
In 2016, the volunteers logged close to 22,000 hours of work, Spencer said.
One of those volunteers is Harry Borbe.
A retired hospital administrator, Borbe volunteers twice a week as a jack-of-all-trades manager of the facility. He keeps the physical plant in shape, fixes anything that's broken and even has dressed as Santa.
"I tell people who start working here, 'If you're not getting more out of it than you're putting in, then something is wrong and you've got to find out why,'" Borbe said.
"We just enjoy doing this as a ministry to others."
Stan Yeatts was one of the first physicians recruited by the Shaws. An OB/GYN who worked with Jim Shaw at Riverside Medical Group, Yeatts said he has seen multiple shifts in what type of patients the clinic treats.
When he started volunteering, Yeatts said, most of the patients he treated were from the surrounding area. As the recession hit, more people who lost their health care came in. Now, he said, immigrants from all over the world are using the clinic's services.
"That's been the beauty and amazing provision of the Lackey Clinic," Yeatts said. "It's really met a need."
It's done so while facing its own challenges.
In 1996, Lackey moved a half-mile down the road from Rising Sun to the Charles Brown Community Center, located in the park of the same name. A year later, Jim Shaw — a pulmonary specialist who died in 2015 — was diagnosed with bone cancer. The clinic closed for a few months, but the Shaws began to recruit and expand in that time, according to Daily Press archives.
Cinder blocks and rust
The community center didn't have much space. Yeatts and the gynecological team could only perform regular exams. If a patient had a serious issue, a referral to another medical provider had to be made.
"It was basically a cinder block building and makeshift kind of exam area," Yeatts said. "We did the best we could."
Borbe remembers those days well.
"On Monday morning we had to take things out of the closet — tables and chairs and desks — and set up the clinic, then put them back in the closet," he said, as the community center was still a mixed-use building for the area.
When the clinic moved to its current location, services expanded beyond annual check-ups.
"It all started with a simple approach to health care," Yeatts said. "As the need increased and population increased, so do the support of the staff. We're able to do more and more with patients."
In 2003, Yeatts and the rest of the Lackey team made the move to the clinic's current location, on Old Williamsburg Road in York County. The 10,000 square-foot space has 10 medical rooms, a pharmacy and five dental rooms.
The latter is thanks to a local dentist.
Josh Lachine has been with the clinic since its earliest days. The York County dentist heard Jim Shaw speak about the clinic one day while it was still operating out of a classroom.
He was hooked.
"I took in the vision about why he wanted to start the clinic," Lachine said. "His passion resonated with me."
After the clinic moved to its current location, Lachine was able to help start the Lackey Dental Clinic in 2004. It opened about three Fridays a month and ran out of one dental facility.
Close to $40,000 in dental services were provided that first year of operation. Today, it's about $400,000, according to Lachine.
"The first few years we were seeing growth that was somewhat outpacing our ability to keep up with. We used legal notepads and would have a waiting list of two to three sheets," Lachine said. "I never predicted it could be as successful as it's been."
As more people used the dental services, Lackey was able to add more dental rooms, eventually totaling the five in use today.
"It's fulfilling a need that wouldn't normally be served. People are cared for that wouldn't have any other options," Lachine said.
He's just one of the hundreds of volunteers keeping the clinic up and running.
About the Award
Each year since 1989, the Daily Press has recognized men and women whose efforts make the Peninsula a better place to live and work. Whether it is tackling poverty, reaching out to youth or keeping our neighborhoods safe, recipients define the values of citizenship. The award is accompanied by a $1,000 donation by the Daily Press to the charity of the honoree's choice. The 2016 honorees will be recognized at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Newport News Marriott at City Center during the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities Peninsula Humanitarian Awards. For more on the winners, visit inclusiveva.org/humanitarian/peninsula and dailypress.com.
Where: 1620 Old Williamsburg Road, Yorktown.
Info: lackeyclinic.org or 757-886-0608.
A walk-in clinic is scheduled for 5 p.m. every Thursday.