Executive Director of Volunteers in Medicine, DeLeesa Meashintubby stands next to a plaque of the local clinic’s founder Sister Monica Heeran. VICTORIA STEPHENS/THE CHRONICLE
SPRINGFIELD – You might call the building fairly nondescript, with an aging blue metal overhang, residing between other buildings ranging from a truck-rental outlet and local convenience store. Just a consignment shop, among other retail businesses on Franklin Boulevard in the Glenwood area.
Oh, but you’d likely never guess what you’re really seeing, what lies behind the brick-and-mortar building with donated clothing and other goods inside.
”We’re starting to let the community know that we are here,” said DeLeesa Meashintubby, executive director of Volunteers in Medicine.
You see, Volunteers in Medicine is a non-profit that offers a wide variety of health care – and even has specialists on-site. And get this: They have a pharmacy on-site and there is no charge for a medical visit or for the pharmacy.
Not your everyday average consignment shop, to say the least.
”Most of our clients are uninsured or underinsured,” Meashintubby said. ”Some have insurance but they have high deductibles. And then we have over 200 specialists in the community that see our patients for things we can’t handle here, who will take care of our patients for little or no cost.”
The clinic serves about 1,500 patients.
”This has been a labor of love,” Meashintubby said. ”We depend on private donations, funding, grants and special events.” Last year, clients collectively donated $20,000.
Meashintubby explained that the charity had lost donors due to death and attrition, and an idea for the consignment shop emerged as a new revenue channel. ”We need to sell something … that is where Our Sisters’ Closet came in,” Meashintubby said.
The boutique got its name as a play on Volunteers in Medicine’s local founder Sister Monica Heeran, ”but then all of us women sometimes have sisters that have something in their closet that we like to grab and wear sometimes,” she said. ”So we just thought it would be kind of fun to say Our Sisters’ Closet, by going in we can find something.”
Our Sisters’ Closet took nearly eight months to get up and going, and is run by volunteers. Meashintubby said donations from the community have given them a ”high-quality inventory.” She said some volunteers at the clinic also volunteer at other thrift stores and gave them valuable tips. And they received $4,500 in start-up inventory from South Coast Hospice in Coos Bay. But she said mostly the donations have been from the community.
Pearl Buck and their team of volunteers also help provide volunteer services at Our Sisters’ Closet. They have provided assistance such as sorting through items and preparing them for sale. Their efforts along with other individuals and businesses have made the boutique a community-wide effort to support Volunteers in Medicine and the valuable services it offers. Donations can be brought directly to the boutique.
Vouchers are available for $5, $10, $15 and $20 to give out to others. ”There are a lot of people with needs,” she said. ”We are here to help with that as well.”
The Volunteers in Medicine concept began in Hilton Head, South Carolina, by Dr. McConnell in 1993. It has broadened into a series of free clinics, run by volunteer medical personnel throughout the country. In Lane County, Volunteers in Medicine started through the efforts of Sister Monica Heeran in February 2001.
Prior to that, Sister Monica had been the CEO for Sacred Heart and PeaceHealth. Sister Monica, is now in her late 80s and lives at Sister Mary’s on the Lake in Bellevue, Washington. ”When she was here she was the executive director, she was our chief fundraiser, all of that,” Meashintubby said.
Sister Monica had been the executive director of Volunteers in Medicine Clinic of Lane County until 2012 until Meashintubby, who has a bachelors degree in Healthcare Administration and a number of specialized certifications took over its direction. Meashintubby worked her way up from working in the front office.”I’ve been almost everything in this organization, I started out as the front office coordinator then I became the volunteer coordinator and then became the senior operating officer, kind of like the clinic manager, but it is titled senior operating officer and then the executive director,” she said.
Originally the clinic was in a PeaceHealth building on W. 11 St. from Feb. 1, 2001 until July 2010, when it moved to its current location at 2260 Marcola Road, Springfield. ”We outgrew that one and that was a PeaceHealth building as well,” she said. ”Then we moved to this PeaceHealth building.”
”They are one of our biggest donors, to help fund our clinic, we rent the building from them they help us with our database,” she said. ”They really do a lot to help us; they are one of our largest donors. We’re not PeaceHealth; we’re a stand alone clinic, but without PeaceHealth’s help there is a lot we could not do.”
The clinic has one paid medical director and two part-time medical staff and the rest are volunteers. This includes about 48 doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists and respiratory therapists. Nurses, RNs, LPNs, medical assistants, phlebotomists and lay volunteers are on top of that, for a total of 325 clinic volunteers. The clinic has behavioral health therapists on site, so if a patient is stressed or if they are in crisis mentally we can do a ”warm hand-off” she said.
Our Sisters’ Closet is at 4245 Franklin Blvd. next to the DariMart. Store hours are Thursday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It accepts clean, new and gently used items such as clothing, shoes, small electronic devices and small appliances in good working order. Housewares, books, dishware, decor and other items are also welcome. Our Sisters’ Closet can not accept large appliances or pieces of furniture at this time.
Besides Our Sisters’ Closet, Volunteers in Medicine has two main fundraising events each year. One Fine Day ladies luncheon and auction held in April and Swingin’ Summer Nights held in August, which includes dinner, music and dancing with bids taken auction packages. One Fine Day has been going on for 15 years and has raised $3 million dollars over that time. Swingin’ Summer Nights had been held at wineries previously and is currently held at Shadow Hills Country Club.
To volunteer at the resale store or with the clinic contact Susie Bates at 458-205-6365. Both medical and non-medical volunteers positions are available at the clinic.
The Volunteers in Medicine clinic serves patient populations in all of Lane County as well as neighboring areas of Harrisburg, Monroe and Drain. To see if you qualify for services call (541) 685-1800 to schedule an eligibility appointment.