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2022 NCAFCC awards, Bernstein award recognize outstanding colleagues

April Cook

Once in a while we get the chance to take a step back from our day-to-day challenges and celebrate our colleagues who are making a difference for free and charitable clinics across North Carolina. We had the opportunity to do just that recently as we honored three outstanding peers – Peter Le, Ken Rousselo and Lyn Jenkins – at our annual members’ meeting Sept. 21 and we’ll celebrate again next week when the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation recognizes our former CEO Randy Jordan with a prestigious award for his dedication to improving health outcomes.

Here are the details:

Spirit of Free and Charitable Clinics Award

The Spirit of Free and Charitable Clinics Award is unique in that it is given by the NCAFCC staff to an individual who has distinguished themselves by the spirit of their service to their patients and community. The pandemic presented challenges for all of us, but when COVID-19 vaccines became available, the winner of the 2022 Spirit award responded in extraordinary fashion. Peter Le, executive director of St. Joseph Primary Care in Raleigh, launched his own vaccination crusade and by March of 2021 had facilitated the administration of 2,700 vaccine doses, including 800 in one week alone. Peter has endured great personal challenges throughout his life but draws on his strong faith and never allows his own struggles to deter him from his mission.

To put Peter’s accomplishment into perspective, by the end of 2021, his clinic had administered more than 7,000 doses of vaccines, nearly a quarter of the total number of vaccines provided by our entire membership up to that point — with razor focus on reaching those most vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. Peter’s efforts have not been confined to St. Joseph Primary Care: He has reached out to many NCAFCC member organizations, hospital systems and health departments to hold communitywide vaccination events. There is a reason Peter is fondly known as “Graceman” among those who have seen him overcome adversity and loss to reap great rewards and make a profound impact on the community he serves. His indomitable spirit and belief in the power of grace, his unwavering dedication to serving with a Samaritan heart make him well worthy of this award.

Don Lucey Award

The North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics established this award in 2001 in honor of Don Lucey, who for more than 35 years has been a champion for improving the state of health care in underserved populations. In 1985, he helped start the Open Door Clinic in Raleigh, one of North Carolina’s first free clinics, which continues to provide free medical care to the uninsured across Wake County. Don also helped establish the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics, now known as the North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics and served as its first president. The association’s board selects the winner from clinics’ nominations to recognize influential leaders and volunteers from the free and charitable clinic community.

This year’s winner of the Don Lucey Award is Dr. Ken Rousselo, an optometrist who has volunteered his services at the Samaritan Health Center in Durham for the past 12 years. During this time he has provided more than 1,000 eye exams, always treating patients with the utmost kindness and respect, while also operating his own fulltime practice. In addition, Ken has worked with a local community college and the lab he uses in private practice to provide eyeglasses to patients. He has also been instrumental in helping Samaritan Health Center expand its optometry practice, providing guidance on equipment purchases and serving as a model for five other optometrists who now volunteer alongside Ken. Due in large measure to Ken’s dedication, the number of eye exams provided by the clinic increased 62% from 2010 to 2021.

Outstanding Leadership Award

The association introduced a new award this year, the Outstanding Leadership Award, to honor a clinic leader who has gone above and beyond not only with their own clinic but has made significant contributions to the work of the association as well. The winner of the 2022 Outstanding Leadership Award is Lyn Jenkins, executive director of Community Care Clinic of Dare. Lyn’s work on behalf of her clinic alone is impressive. After securing a $570,000 federal appropriation for a new dental clinic, she and her staff and volunteers have been working to bring the project to fruition and begin providing dental care before the end of the year. Community Clinic of Dare also has a pharmacy in the planning stages and is implementing health equity initiatives funded with a grant from NCAFCC and our great partner Blue Cross NC.

She has worked tirelessly for the association, too, serving as region representative for Regions 5 and 7, helping coordinate our quarterly region representatives’ meetings, participating in both the pharmacy networking group and food insecurity roundtable, and serving on the NCAFCC Annual Survey Committee. And, as of the vote at this year’s annual meeting, Lyn is now a newly elected member of the NCAFCC board. As Janet Jarrett, executive director of the Albemarle Hospital Foundation Community Care Clinic and one of Lyn’s closest Region 7 colleagues says: “Lyn leads by example, inspiring team members to take smart risks and to drive positive change. In a time of doing more with less, establishing and executing each mission and managing projects this way, Lyn ensures everyone understands that every contribution, regardless of how small it may seem, has incredible value.”

FHLI Bernstein Awards

While it’s a privilege for me to recognize our member clinics’ staff and volunteers, I’m equally delighted to share that former CEO Randy Jordan will receive the 2022 Jim Bernstein Community Health Career Achievement Award from the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation (FHLI) at its Annual Bernstein Dinner Oct. 6 at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill. The award, named for FHLI’s late founder and first president, James D. Bernstein, recognizes individuals who are invested in improving the health of their community or region and embrace the foundation’s values and whole-person, whole-community approach to health. FHLI has been an important partner and ally to the association in our drive to improve health care in rural areas across the state, and we are proud beyond words that the deserving recipient of the 2022 award is one of our own.

Randy has exemplified the characteristics of a true leader these past six years. He increased our footprint in the safety-net arena by fighting to ensure we had a seat at the legislative table when decisions were being made regarding the uninsured and underinsured. Randy and our association’s legislative advocate, Jon Carr, succeeded in securing two significant appropriations from the General Assembly, totaling more than $27 million, to help clinics continue treating patients when the pandemic dramatically reduced financial and volunteer support. The relationships he built with other safety-net organizations have also increased awareness, not only about who we are as free and charitable clinics, but about how important we are to the safety net in North Carolina. I’m happy to report Randy will continue serving our cause as a volunteer with the Bernstein Fellows program and as community co-lead of the Uninsured Work Group as part of the North Carolina State Health Improvement Plan’s Community Council.

To Randy, Lyn, Ken and Peter, congratulations and thank you all for your dedication. You are an inspiration to all of us and improving the lives of countless patients across this state.

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Vecinos expands mission to serve western N.C.’s broader uninsured, low-income community

When Vecinos opened its doors in 2004, the clinic’s charter was clear: Offer bilingual primary and mental health care to Spanish-speaking migrant and seasonal farmworkers in North Carolina’s eight western counties. But when the pandemic hit, the unmet needs of the region’s wider uninsured, low-income population – and specifically the Latinx community – became too great to ignore.

Vecinos began doing more community outreach – outside the scope of its charter – and before long its board recognized the need to update the organization’s mission to expand patient eligibility and provide “culturally appropriate health and wellness services for the uninsured Latinx community.”

There were only two problems: Vecinos’ small, donated space on the campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, where the clinic was providing outpatient services to about 700 patients a year, was already maxed out. And Vecinos knew its patients already faced significant barriers to accessing healthcare and other services.

The solution: Along with a group of nonprofit bilingual healthcare and social service providers, Vecinos is spearheading the construction of a $5.6 million “Community Health Hub” in the Macon County seat of Franklin. When it opens in early 2024, the Latinx community will be able to receive primary and specialty healthcare, mental health services, oral health care, housing assistance and legal and domestic violence/sexual assault support services.

Marianne Martinez, executive director of Vecinos, said it didn’t make sense to simply build a larger stand-alone clinic, considering the gauntlet of obstacles her patients faced in obtaining healthcare services – language barriers, lack of transportation, lack of child care and other issues. What would lead anyone to believe Vecinos’ patients didn’t have similar problems accessing other services?

“Rather than opening a clinic by ourselves, we pulled together a coalition of partners that we’ve worked with for years and we said, ‘We would like to set up this new clinic and we’d like you to be partners in it,’” Martinez said.

The group closed in late June on a 15,000-square-foot building in downtown Franklin and in July launched a capital campaign to fund the $1.6 million purchase price for the building and an estimated $4 million in renovations that will be required to upfit the building to accommodate medical and dental facilities. Dogwood Health Trust in Asheville provided a bridge loan for the project.

Vecinos will have seven exam rooms in the Hub, and Martinez expects the clinic will be able to accommodate 2,000 patients in the Hub’s first full year of operation in addition to those Vecinos is now serving in Cullowhee. Sister NCAFCC member Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic in Cashiers will have space for four dental operatories, enough capacity to add nearly 300 patients a year. Vecinos and Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic will continue to provide care at their current locations.

In addition to Vecinos and Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic, partners in the Community Health Hub include the 30th Judicial District Domestic Violence-Sexual Assault Alliance, El Centro Comunitario of Macon County, and Pisgah Legal Services. The Hub will also have “flex space” available for use by other nonprofits serving the Latinx community.

Just like all of North Carolina’s free and charitable clinics, Vecinos was forced by the pandemic to pivot in order to meet community needs – in 2021 alone serving 8,559 community members in addition to its regular patients with COVID vaccines, education and masks. The expanded access to healthcare and other social services that the Community Health Hub will provide promises to have a positive and perhaps profound long-term impact on the health and well-being of western North Carolina’s uninsured, low-income Latinx community.

Visit the Newsroom at www.ncafcc.org to read the extensive media coverage of Vecinos’ ambitious plans.

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Annual meeting spotlights health equity progress, challenges

The annual meeting of the North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics Sept. 21 underscored the momentum building around efforts to ensure equitable treatment of all patients who seek care from NCAFCC member clinics.

CEO April Cook recapped the progress that has been made in the year since the Association launched “Our Journey Toward Health Equity,” and keynote speaker Victor Armstrong, former chief health equity officer for the State of North Carolina, outlined a roadmap to creating a culture of equity.

Retracing the origins of the initiative, Cook noted that the Association had been collecting data on chronic disease outcomes – primarily diabetes and hypertension – from member clinics for over a decade for the purpose of benchmarking NCAFCC members against other safety net organizations.

Two years ago, the Association began drilling deeper by reporting patient health outcomes by ethnicity and race. The results were an unexpected wakeup call.

“To an organization that promotes the ideals of equal treatment for all patients, many clinic leaders were surprised to see that our outcomes did differ between races and ethnicities,” Cook said. “This prompted a new discussion that equal treatment doesn’t necessarily mean equitable treatment.”

The revelation led to the retention of consultant The Alexander Group and formation of a 29-person Health Equity Task Force, which spent six months organizing conversations around the topic and developing recommendations on next steps.

One of those led to the hiring of Alice Mae Jackson, who joined the Association in August as director of development and health equity. Jackson is building out an ongoing health equity strategy set to roll out to clinics in January.

The efforts of the Association and member clinics are attracting attention, including a story published Sept. 29 by the North Carolina Health News.

Achieving health equity requires an intentional effort despite the fact that nearly everyone can agree on the goal of “everyone having the ability to live their healthiest life and achieve their full health potential,” said Armstrong, who currently serves as chief diversity officer for Recovery International in Charlotte, a provider of self-help training for mental health and wellness.

“Where it becomes difficult is in operationalizing equity, and part of the reason it’s difficult is because you are trying to embed equity into an inequitable system,” Armstrong said. “What happens is that every decision you make – with every policy decision, with every programmatic decision – you are either leaning into equity or you are perpetuating inequity because we start from a foundation of inequity.”

The other challenge of embedding equity, well known to NCAFCC’s member clinics, is that aspirational goals can quickly become a “nice-to-have” amid the often overwhelming demands of running an organization day to day.

Armstrong outlined three fundamental building blocks for creating a culture of equity in an organization:

  • Identifying the disparately impacted groups
  • Including the voice of those who have been impacted/marginalized in strategizing solutions
  • Measuring the outcomes of mitigation strategies

Armstrong also presented a three-pronged strategic framework for creating a culture of equity that includes earning and sustaining trust, embedding equity in your own organization and providing accountability for the outcomes of equity initiatives.

In measuring progress on equity, Armstrong cautioned against looking at results from an organization-centric perspective and instead encouraged those pursuing health equity goals to seek feedback from impacted groups to see if the efforts are making a difference to them.

“There always exists a temptation to compare the current state of things to the past state of things and celebrate how far we’ve come, rather than compare your current state to my current state and recognize how far we have left to go,” Armstrong said. “Feeling like we’ve made some incremental progress does not make marginalized people feel like they have achieved equity or that they are on the road to equity.”

Click here to listen to April Cook’s comments and Armstrong’s presentation in full and view the archived recording of the 2022 NCAFCC annual members’ meeting.

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Get Ready for the Biggest Giving Season of the Year


If your clinic just launched its fiscal year a couple of months ago, you are about to complete the very first quarter of your fundraising plan with fall just arriving. What’s so terrific about fall? Well, let’s just say it loud enough for all to hear: “It’s the biggest Giving Season of the year.”

The excitement that comes with gearing up to engage new donors, touching the hearts of your longtime supporter, and expanding your clinic’s reach even further into your community in just a few short months takes on a unique intensity all its own.

If you and your fundraising super team are at the close of your fiscal year, stay focused and ready to wrap up strongly with a dynamic end of the year campaign. You’ve got the right team with you – your board, staff, volunteers, and that super crew of peer-to-peer, fundraising-savvy major donors – all ready to go. If you’re in your last fundraising quarter, with your eye on closing strong, that means definitely meeting or exceeding your fiscal year’s revenue goal in a big way.

Wherever you are in your annual funding acquisition platform – at the start of your fiscal year or rolling to its close – get ready. Roll up your sleeves and prepare to invite your neighbors, old and new, recurring and lapsed, to share in your compassion for your clinic’s mission during the Giving Season.

First things first: Check your Rollout Calendar of fundraising activities and the expected goals. Don’t relax until you’ve assessed your workload ahead for each revenue stream with that gift range calculator. You need to know where you are going as well as how to get there. So, right after you check your expense budget for each fundraising activity, follow with calculating your projected prospects’ pool for all of your “Giving Season” activities so that you’ll have a “mathematical” awareness of revenue expectations. Along with the expected number of gifts, on average, that you may receive in donations, the chart will reveal how many friends and neighbors you will need to contact to achieve your goal.

If you already have roughed out your Rollout Calendar, great! You have set a timeline from now through December that your fundraising team knows from your briefings. They also can see all the fundraising activities you are about to launch, the date the activity will begin and the date for closure. The last tools for your fundraising team are the implementation steps for their assigned fundraising activities. The team knows the revenue goal, the fundraising activity, the prospect pool needed, the timeline, and the steps to achieve success.

Just as important as that roll-out calendar is Communications/Marketing. Recheck your case for support, revise it in a highly donor-centered way. Revisit your brand identity (1) inside your clinic, (2) among your staff, (3) for your patients, and as the distinctive recognition for your mission in the community. Create the “look” for the Giving Season that captures the spotlight for your unique story. Utilize your website, your social media, e-blasts, videos, local radio and television stations (in-kind, of course), local businesses, and billboard advertising to “stand out” with uniform and distinctive messaging about your clinic’s extraordinary commitment. Tell your story your way and make it memorable. By the way, you are probably multitasking right about now, handling communications/marketing simultaneously while managing your fundraising teams!

Continuously monitor your gift chart, your fundraising plan’s activities, and revisit that roll-out calendar, rearranging dates for communications/marketing as needed to capture impact in proximity to the major holidays inside the Giving Season. Numerous Fundraising Methods and Techniques are utilized to secure your revenue during the Giving Season, and here are some of these key tactics:

  • E-fundraise to your current database of donors. Do so often with interesting stories and incremental gift amounts through to the close of the year.
  • Release direct mail solicitation drops for new donor acquisition as well as current donor appreciation. Include a customized second mail drop for board alumni, along with major and distinguished, recurring donors.
  • Host virtual, hybrid or in-person events, with underwriting and sponsorships from the business sector.
  • Stage your own crowdfunding campaign or participate in the phenomenally amazing Giving Tuesday.
  • Launch holiday toy, food, or coat drives to capture the community’s participation and bring donors right to your clinic.
  • Facilitate an end-of-the-year campaign to lock in those major donor/planned giving supporters who wish to make a substantial gift at the close of the year or establish a comprehensive donor relationship.

September 2022 is now behind us with November through December rapidly approaching. The Giving Season comes once a year, which makes this time so important for the many who want to help your clinic on behalf of those in need of healthcare. Definitely, the significance of the Giving Season is in one word, life-changing.

Alice Mae Britt Jackson is director of development and health equity for the North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. Reach her at alicemae@ncafcc.org.

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