Thrift store, warehouse transformed into a mobile medical center as inner-city clients receive free health care
By Bill Brewer
The Ladies of Charity headquarters in Knoxville was transformed for a second consecutive year into a temporary medical center to serve the uninsured and underinsured.
And based on responses from patients and health-care providers, the Remote Area Medical clinic hosted by the Ladies of Charity on April 7 continues to be a success.
The Ladies of Charity-RAM clinic doubled the number of dental professionals on site to treat patients from last year, and the clinic treated 274 people with free dental and vision care.
Ten dentists and three eye doctors provided 140 tooth extractions, 43 fillings, 45 teeth cleanings, and 145 eyeglasses during the daylong event at the 120 W. Baxter Ave. facility.
A team of dental hygienists and dental assistants treated patients in another 10 chairs, and eye specialists made glasses available on the spot to most of the eye patients. Remote Area Medical supplied a mobile van with equipment to make eyeglasses, so patients could receive glasses with the correct vision prescription while they waited.
Also, more than 100 volunteers assisted in the effort over a two-day period.
“It went really well. We certainly served more people than we did last year, and we served them better,” said Susan Unbehaun, Ladies of Charity executive director. “We were able to provide people their eyeglasses while they waited. We had double the number of dentists, and a majority of them are parishioners in the Diocese of Knoxville.”
The Ladies of Charity initiated the RAM clinic last year to help mark the nonprofit organization’s 75th anniversary. And again this year they transformed their headquarters, which houses administrative and counseling offices, a retail thrift store, and a warehouse to receive and distribute goods, into a health-care operation.
Even with the larger number of volunteers to treat the Ladies of Charity clients, the demand for services still was high. Mrs. Unbehaun said the dental and vision physicians began seeing patients at 6 a.m. on April 7 and the last dental patient was treated at 6:15 p.m.
The Ladies of Charity received assistance from Knights of Columbus Holy Ghost Council 16523, which prepared breakfast and lunch for the patients and volunteers and also provided translators so the Spanish-speaking patients could communicate their needs to the volunteers. Olive Garden restaurant donated the dinner. Also assisting the Ladies of Charity was the Diocese of Knoxville Office of Hispanic Ministry as well as student hygienists from Roane State Community College and volunteers from Chattanooga.
As the Ladies of Charity and Remote Area Medical grow this annual clinic that serves mainly people in the vicinity of downtown Knoxville, they also hope to grow the donor base that helps cover the clinic costs.
Mrs. Unbehaun noted that the 2018 clinic’s total cost was under $3,000 for $103,000 worth of services performed.
“We had three major donors this year: Dr. John and Ashley Coulter, Tom and Patricia Shannon, and Michael and Barbara Stahl. And an All Saints parishioner, Mr. Michael Gibson of Holiday Inn Express, donated hotel rooms for the clinic,” she said, noting that the rooms are needed for service providers traveling from out of town.
With two clinics under their belt, the Ladies of Charity intend to continue providing the free service to people in need.
“We are going to do it again next year. We will have to address the need for more parking because of the increased demand. Other than that, everything went smoothly and we are all set for next year. We are very pleased. It turned out really well this year,” Mrs. Unbehaun said.