Twenty years ago, Pastor Henry Taliercio of Hempfield said God spoke to his heart about the need for a free health care clinic for residents of Westmoreland County.
He held fast to this vision and on Sunday will see it come to fruition with the grand opening of the Majesty Care Clinic at 116 E. Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg.
There will be a bike ride fundraiser beginning at the clinic at noon followed by an open house from 2 to 4 p.m.
The clinic will offer family practice and chronic disease control to county residents ages 19 to 65 who don't have medical insurance and fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Pastor Taliercio founded the clinic and also serves as associate pastor at Word of Life Church in Hempfield and senior pastor of The Father's Heart Ministries Inc., a Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation center for men and women, in Penn Borough. With his busy ministry schedule, he sought the help of church members George and Kathy Vollrath of Hempfield two years ago to get the clinic up and running.
Pastor Taliercio said the Vollraths embraced the idea and quickly hit the ground running. They attended the National Association of Free Clinics convention in Charlotte, N.C., where Mr. Vollrath said they fell in love with the concept and got hooked on the idea of doing something for others in their community.
"When you talk to folks that need these services, they just tug at your heartstrings, and you know that it's something they really need and they're going without," he said. "It motivates you to keep going because you know that there are people out there that are sitting at home worrying about their diabetes, worrying about their hypertension, or not taking their blood pressure medication because they can't afford it. How can you not help?"
While at the convention, they met a representative from the Empowering Church Healthcare Outreach Corp., a consulting firm that helps churches plan and launch medical clinics. Consultants from the corporation met with the Vollraths and a small group of volunteers to help establish the clinic and continue to follow up with weekly phone calls and periodic visits.
What started with a handful of volunteers two years ago has since grown to more than 70 volunteers, including 25 physicians who have gone through the lengthy process of getting credentials and privileges required to volunteer at a free care clinic.
"People are coming out of the woodwork that just want to be a part of this because it's so neat and so necessary," Mr. Vollrath said.
Most of the clinic's medical equipment was donated by Excela Health and came from Jeannette District Memorial Hospital, which closed in 2011. A few doctors donated medical equipment as well.
Mr. Vollrath, who now serves as the clinic's executive director, said the patient base is comprised of more than 25,000 people who live in Westmoreland County and do not have medical insurance.
"These are the people that are really working hard but they are just meeting their bills," he said. "They're putting food on the table, they're paying their utilities, but that's it. There's no money for healthcare."
In addition to basic healthcare, Mr. Vollrath said the clinic will offer well-woman care and screenings; patient education classes on healthy lifestyles and disease prevention and management; pre-employment evaluations; and treatment and management of chronic diseases.
They also have partnered with local labs and pharmacies that have agreed to offer free or discounted lab services and medications.
Mr. Vollrath said ultimately the vision is to be a full-service health center and expand into dental, vision, and chiropractic care and other social services.
Pastor Taliercio said the opening of the clinic is timely and that he has garnered much support from the healthcare industry, politicians and the community.
"It's unbelievable how many people are getting behind this thing," he said. "It's exciting to see what God promised 20 years ago coming to pass."
Majesty Care Clinic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Matching donations can be made today through the Westmoreland Gives Day of Giving at www.westmoreland.pittsburghgives.org.
For more information, visit www.majestycareclinic.org.neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland
Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.