The Taylors Free Medical Clinic saw a patient who was addicted and needed inpatient treatment to remove her from her current situation. The clinic helped her find a program, at which she thrived. At the patient’s graduation from the treatment center, families were invited to watch the ceremony and hear patients’ testimonies. But instead of inviting family, the patient invited the clinic’s executive director, Karen Salerno, and one of the clinic’s nurse practitioners.
“It’s so rewarding to have someone invite you into their life,” says Salerno. “That’s special about what we offer here.”
The clinic, which was founded in 2005 and completed an expansion in July 2017, is a faith-based clinic that serves the medically unserved in Greenville County. Last year, the clinic provided more than 4,500 patient visits, averaging 130 per week, and dispensed more than 19,000 prescriptions to individuals who otherwise would not be able to afford medical care. Specialties such as dermatology, gynecology, orthopedic, and chiropractic are offered in-house.
But more than the medical care, it’s the personal touch Salerno and her team offer that makes all the difference. The clinic looks like any other medical facility in the area, and patients are treated just like a paying patient in a traditional practice.
“The overall environment is that this is a place we cared enough to make nice, and they’ll be treated with dignity and respect here,” says Salerno. “They really notice that.”
Salerno says that her team’s mission is to become a part of their patients’ lives and families. The clinic is often the first call patients make when something catastrophic happens: an eviction, a death in the family, a job loss. Although the clinic doesn’t provide those services, patients know that the clinic can steer them toward an agency who does.
The clinic has reciprocal relationships with nonprofits and medical facilities across the county. Greer Memorial Hospital performs all the lab and diagnostic testing for free, while Pathology Associates does specimen testing and analysis. Local eye doctors donate blocks of appointments for the clinic’s patients, and the Lion’s Club helps them get glasses, if needed.
Salerno says that Greenville Health System is extremely generous. If they have a “frequent flier” who uses the emergency room often for non-emergent reasons and the patient doesn’t have a medical home, they will refer the patient to the clinic. That trust is validation of the clinic’s mission and standing.
“It’s nice when you’ve earned the respect of your peers in the community,” says Salerno.
The clinic has a small full-time staff, and is mainly run by volunteers. There are currently 650 volunteers on the books. They range from licensed professionals, such as physicians and pharmacy technicians, to those who provide administrative support, send out mailings, or help clean the clinic. And there can never be too many hands on deck.
The clinic operates by appointment-only. The main reason is to respect the dignity of the patients so they don’t have to wait for hours and beg to see a doctor. However, scheduled appointment times also ensure that volunteers aren’t overworked and don’t burn out.
“It’s always a challenge to have enough volunteers,” says Salerno.
As with any nonprofit, there’s also the challenge of funding. Because it’s a faith-based organization, the clinic does not accept state or federal funds. The overwhelming majority of funding for the clinic’s operating budget instead comes from individuals, at 73 percent, with 19 percent from foundations, and eight percent from local churches.
The clinic is keenly aware that donors have plenty of choices as to where to invest their money, and they make sure that the bulk of funds—82 percent—goes to client services and programs. Potential patients are screened for eligibility; they must be residents of Greenville County, have no health insurance, and must meet the federal poverty guidelines. In addition, all patients are re-screened annually to make sure that care is reserved for those who truly need it.
“Every dollar given for care of our patients is a hard-earned dollar that someone donated,” Salerno says.
The clinic is in the process of starting a foundation to allow for more estate giving and larger gifts. Russell C. Ashmore, Jr., chairman of the board of directors, hopes that having a foundation will help build the clinic’s financial momentum.
“Hopefully some folks will leave money over time so that it could eventually become self-sustaining,” he says.
But no matter the amount of large checks they receive, the most special gifts come from former patients who are back on their feet. Salerno recalls a patient who “graduated” from the clinic—getting healthy, earning a part-time job, which turned into a full-time job with insurance. Every month or so, Salerno will open an envelope with $5 or $10 donation from that patient, who is so grateful for the care they received that they’ve promised to support the clinic as long as they can.
“This is a loving and caring community,” says Salerno. “A lot of communities don’t care about those in need as much as we do.”
Want to get involved?
The Taylors Free Medical Clinic accepts a variety of donations, including:
IRA rollover gifts
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (864) 244-1134. Taylors Free Medical Clinic is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization in the state of South Carolina.
All gifts are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
The clinic is always looking for volunteers:
Licensed professionals: Physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, counselors, and X-ray technicians
To get involved, email the volunteer coordinator at email@example.com.