Community Free Health Clinic
Here for You
By Jodi Harris
Many of us take our health, dental, and eye insurance for granted, but to those who are uninsured, underinsured, or financially unable to pay for healthcare, it can be devastating to be without. Community Health Free Clinic (CHFC) exists to serve the people in our community who cannot otherwise afford healthcare. CHFC provides free medical, dental, vision, and prescription services for people without access to or the ability to pay for healthcare in our community. They never charge for their services and are not reimbursed by the government. They are funded through the generosity of individuals, foundations, corporations, and organizations from our community.
It all began in 1991, when two young physicians and two senior nurses from St. Luke’s Hospital and Mercy Medical Center, saw a need to provide medical care to those who could not afford it. With the help of in-kind donations of medical equipment and disposable supplies, they formed His Hands Ministries (HHM): a Christian based clinic which was located in the basement of the Jane Boyd Community Center (JBCC). In 1995, Darlene Schmidt became the Director of His Hands Ministries and Dr. William Galbraith, was a volunteer at the clinic.
As the number of patients seeking care at the clinic continued to grow, and it became apparent that the space in the basement of JBCC could no longer suffice, a dual philosophy among volunteers developed; one to maintain the HHM mission and another which could seek broader community support as a secular organization.
“Dr. Galbraith and I saw an overwhelming need in the community for a clinic focusing on providing free healthcare, including medications and specialty clinics, to the uninsured and underserved in our community.” Darlene Schmidt, CEO & Co-Founder
In 2002 Darlene Schmidt and Dr. Galbraith founded Community Health Free Clinic and amicably split from HHM. CHFC continued to see patients in the basement of JBCC and began seeking funding to expand the clinic.
In 2003, the Hall-Perrine Foundation celebrated their 50th anniversary and wanted to do something good and long-lasting for the community. They decided to give $1,480,000 without matching funds, to build, furnish and equip a new clinic facility - The Birthday Gift! At the same time, The Jane Boyd Community Center (JBCC) and Four Oaks leaders donated the land adjacent to the JBCC for the new clinic.
In 2004 the new clinic, located at 947 14th Avenue SE, in Cedar Rapids, opened and saw over 5,000 patients in the first year. Those numbers continued to grow reaching over 13,000 unique patients in a single year before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was put in place. Today, CHFC sees about 5,000 unique patients a year. Although the number of patients seen in a year has gone down, the increased cost of healthcare impacts the budget for CHFC. They are also preparing for any changes that proposed healthcare legislation may have on their patients.
“We know that the need for our services never goes away. There will always be people in our community who can’t afford the costs associated with healthcare. We will always be here to serve those in need in our community.” Jamie Henley, Chief Operating Officer
Each year, a diverse network of healthcare professionals, students and community members give their time and expertise to CHFC, providing medical services, administrative support, governance, leadership and fundraising support. CHFC partners with a variety of organizations in the community to provide in-kind services that are beyond the scope of the clinic for their patients. They also partner with local colleges to provide training opportunities for students.
“Our patients would line up around the block to say thank you to the people who make this clinic possible including our providers, volunteers, and donors. The most rewarding thing to me is knowing that I have made a difference in someone’s life by getting them the healthcare they need to live a longer, healthier life.” Darlene Schmidt, CEO & Co-Founder
“I can’t say enough about Darlene and CHFC and all that they do for this community and the people who come through their door. I will be grateful forever because they saved my life by insisting I get a mammogram the very day I came into the clinic.” Vickie Meisinger. Stage 3+ Cancer Survivor.
The Community Health Free Clinic hours are:
Monday 8:00 – 2:00 pm
Tuesday – Friday 8:00 – 10:30 am
To learn more about Community Health Free Clinic, to volunteer, or to make a donation, please visit: