August 30 the French 500 Free Clinic celebrated its third anniversary
of operations. Coincidentally on this same day, the Clinic treated
its one thousandth patient, Alina Colwell. Below is the text of the
talk that I gave after the clinic during the little celebration attended by our volunteers, friends, and local dignitaries. It received front page coverage in the August 31 issue of the Gallipolis Daily Tribune. Please note the post script or epilogue to the talk at the end of it below. Following that are the closing remarks of the President of the French 500 Free Clinic, Dr. Mel Simon. But first view a videotaped testimony of a patient and description of the clinic for an overall view. Simply click on http://vimeo.com/44178623.
Paul Sebastian and Betty Horan on the left and Dr. Mel Simon on the right with Alina Colwell, the one thousandth patient served at the French 500 Free Clinic which coincided with its third anniversary.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE
FRENCH 500 FREE CLINIC
all started with an idea in February 2009 while conversing with Dr.
Mel Simon when he was preparing for his annual medical mission to his
country of birth, the Philippine Islands. He has organized 29 of
them since 1985. I recalled how the American Maryknoll missionaries
would organize parishes in Peru and set up small clinics for the poor
with donated equipment and medications under the direction of an
American lay volunteer nurse or nun. She would do the work of a
nurse practitioner under the supervision of a Peruvian doctor. I
wondered: “Would that model of a neighborhood clinic work for the
uninsured in Gallia County who cannot afford medical insurance?”
That would be a lot more efficient than a bureaucratic trillion
dollar government program and fill a great need.
presented the idea to Dr. Simon and he jumped on it as the prime
mover in making this idea a reality in Gallia County. He called a
number of his friends, especially from the Rotary Club to attend an
organizational meeting. A number of our volunteers are Rotarians who
have a real spirit of community service. We elected officers, made
assignments, formed committees, and we were on a new enterprise,
never tried before in Gallia County and surroundings. We established
by-laws for our fledgling organization and Shirley Doss obtained for
us our official status as a non-profit corporation under the laws of
the state of Ohio, exempt from federal income tax under Section 501
(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Joanne
Elliott RN, her husband, and Tony Gallagher visited other clinics in
the area and obtained ideas.
received donations of equipment, medications, and working capital
from different community organizations and individuals. The greatest
material help of all was that Dr. Mel and Lydia Simon, his building
manager gave us the use of half of their Hillcrest Clinic rent free
that their daughter-in-law, Dr. Tess Simon previously occupied. That
meant an ideal building in which to work. Yet with all of that, our
enterprise would never have gotten off the ground without our core of
dedicated volunteers.......doctors, nurses, and other professionals,
such as Kay Allbright, a social worker sent by the Area Agency for
the Aging; Rev. John Jackson who does counseling for us. for
Gallipolis Daily Tribune occasionally gives us coverage even on the
front page, thus a big help in attracting patients, donors, and
volunteers. Before the last Thursday of every month, Bette
Horan and Polly Wetherholt, our publicity arms, make sure that the
newspaper reminds the
community of our clinic with a little blurb.
By August 2009 we
received our first patients and our venture was off and running.
Elliott, our secretary, was really our Chief of Staff and office
manager who kept things going in the Clinic...... having set up a
system for receiving patients and record keeping, a small pharmacy,
and assigning volunteers, whose help with it all was indispensable.
Tony Gallagher has been a real go getter with administration and
obtaining donations. Bonnie McFarland RN, so involved in Holzer's
outreach to the community, arranged for the hospital's collaboration
with diagnostic tests and blood work. Jan Davison, as treasurer,
paid the bills and kept the books. With the approval of Ken Payne,
the Vice President of Finance of the Holzer Medical Center, Pat Clark
audits our books to assure effective accountability to our donors.
Karrie Swain Davison of the Holzer Health System Marketing
Department, did a great job in putting together our brochure despite
being so busy with their merger.
heart of our mission and its operations is the doctors and the nurses
who assist them. Many physicians have helped, but Doctors Mel Simon,
Dick Simpson, Nabil Fahmy, Jimmy Nuggud, and Reid Brubaker have been
particularly faithful. Dr. Jolie Bitner, our chiropractor, was very
popular, especially among the Amish, who spread the word in their
community. A few specialists, as Dr. Thomas Blodgett, have treated
our referrals in their offices or are willing to do the same. Among
the nurses, Beverly Voss, Carol Curry, Connie McGlothen, Evangeline
Gagucas, Debbie Beagle, and Jaga Sebastian usually came. Active full
time nurses such as Sandy Walker would come whenever they could.
Barbara Epling, Lydia and Remy Simon were almost always there to
help. Ohio Valley Home Health helps with taking vitals, i.e.,
medical history. There are many others who have also contributed.
Forgive me if I slighted anyone. So you can see how so many
wonderful people make our Free Clinic work.
passed another major milestone today. Just over an hour ago the
Free Clinic treated its one thousandth patient in its three years of
operations. At each session we treat as many as 46 patients for an
average of 28 each afternoon. We would like to expand and be open
once a week, instead of once a month. But that depends upon
community support in donations and demand for our services. Most of
all we need more doctors to volunteer whether active or retired.
Doctors are the most difficult to recruit. Help us to spread the
this type of community health care be a model for counties
everywhere since there is a certain power and synergy in the people
of the Community working together and mobilizing its own resources to
solve its common problems instead of depending upon inefficient,
bureaucratic, and impersonal multi-billion dollar programs of
paternalistic Big Government.
you so much for all of your help and support. It is each and
everyone of you who make this opportunity to serve our community
possible. May God bless all of you and your work.
Post Script. In my talk I completely overlooked the most important factor of all in our work. I thanked everyone except God. From the very start in February 2009, we begin and end each clinic and each meeting of our Executive Board with a prayer. Many if not most of our volunteers are motivated by their deep Christian Faith......from Baptist to Lutheran to Catholic. They believe that every person has a tremendous dignity because they are created according to the image and likeness of God. Anything we do to neighbor we do to Christ as the Gospels point out. Faith based organizations and people of faith have made our communities and our Country great from its very founding. We pray to God for His help and guidance, but when success comes, we tend to congratulate ourselves and take all of the credit, forgetting that our successes ultimately come from God. I am the most guilty with such ingratitude. Thank you Lord for all that you have done for our free clinic.
For more details on the history of the French 500 Free Clinic with photos, click on any of the following:
-1st Anniversary 2010: http://www.mydailytribune.com/view/full_story/9234124/article-French-500-Free-Clinic--Year-of-service-to-Gallia-Co--celebrated
CLOSING REMARKS ON THE 3RD ANNIVERSARY - 30 AUGUST 2012
Dr. Mel Simon, President of the French 500 Free Clinic addresses local dignitaries and community members at the occasion of the Third Anniversary of the Clinic. Later he presented certificates of appreciation to the doctors, nurses, and other volunteers who have served.
By Dr. Mel Simon
IT IS A UNIVERSAL LAW THAT
WE HAVE TO GIVE BEFORE WE RECEIVE. AS A FARMER MYSELF I KNOW THAT WE
MUST PLANT THE SEEDS BEFORE WE REAP THE HARVEST. THE MORE WE SOW, THE MORE WE
REAP. AND GIVING TO OTHERS, WE FIND OUR
SELVES BLESSED. THE LAW WORKS TO GIVE US BACK MORE THAN WE HAVE SOWN. THE
GIVERS’ HARVEST IS ALWAYS FULL. (UNLESS OF COURSE THE WEATHER GO AGAINST IT)
WE AT THE FRENCH 500 FREE CLINIC UNMISTAKEABLY PONDER TO CHART FOR THE FUTURE
AS WE ARE ON THE THRESHOLD OF ASSESSING WHERE WE ARE TODAY. I AM REMINDED OF ONE GREAT AND ELOQUENT AMERICAN, ADLAI STEVENSON WHEN HE SAID “WE CAN CHART OUR FUTURE CLEARLY AND WISELY
WHEN WE KNOW THE PATH WHICH HAD LED TO THE PRESENT.”
IT IS THEREFORE ESSENTIAL FOR
ALL OF US TO LOOK BACK AND AS WE DO THAT, I RECALL THAT WINSTON CHURCHILL ONCE
SAID, “THE FARTHER BACKWARD WE LOOK, THE FARTHER FORWARD YOU ARE LIKELY TO
SEE.” BUT WE AT THE FRENCH 500 FREE
CLINIC ARE YOUNG AND FLEDGLING AND WE NEED NOT LOOK FARTHER BACK.
THAT BRINGS US TO
VISION IS THE GIFT OF SEEING CLEARLY
WHAT MAY BE. VISION EXPANDS OUR HORIZONS. THE MORE WE SEE, THE MORE WE CAN
ACHIEVE, THE GRANDER OUR VISION, THE MORE GLORIOUS OUR ACCOMPLISHMENT. FOR THE COURAGE TO FOLLOW OUR DREAMS IS THE
FIRST STEP TO OUR DESTINY.
AND SO MY VISION FOR THE FRENCH 500 FREE CLINIC FOR THE
FUTURE: FIRST, TO BE ABLE TO STAND UP ON ITS OWN PHYSICALLY AND
FINANCIALLY IN ORDER TO CONTINUE ITS GREAT HUMANITARIAN GOAL AND ENDEAVOR TO
HELP THE SICK AND UNINSURED; AND SECOND, TO ADD MORE CLINIC DAYS AS WELL AS
ANCILLARY SERVICES IN ORDER TO EFFICIENTLY USE ITS FACILITY.
AND THIRD, TO ADD MORE VOLUNTEER PHYSICIANS AND PERSONNEL. WILL
THESE BE POSSIBLE? YES.
ON ITS OWN? NO.
WILL IT NEED RICHES AND WEALTH FROM OUTSIDE? YES. BUT EQUALLY
IMPORTANT, THE OTHER KIND OF RICHES AND WEALTH PROFOUNDLY LIE WITHIN
US, NOT IN MATERIAL POSSESSIONS. FOR
WE AT THE FRENCH 500 FREE CLINIC, OUR
REAL RICHES AND WEALTH LIE IN OUR HEAD, HEART, AND SOUL. AND
THE SATISFACTION COMES FROM APPRECIATING WHAT WE HAVE. FOR WEALTH WITHOUT ENJOYMENT IS LITTLE
CONSOLATION. OUR REAL PROSPERITY LIES IN BEING THANKFUL.
SO IN THE FINAL
ANALYSIS, WE ARE
THANKFUL TO GOD OUR SAVIOR AND ALMIGHTY FOR WHAT WE HAVE, FOR WHAT WE ARE ABLE
TO DO, AND FOR WHAT WE ARE ABLE TO DREAM OF. AND WHO KNOWS THAT SOME DAY,
SOMEHOW, SOMEWHERE, WE WILL BE ABLE TO REACH THAT DREAM AND VISION WITH THE
HELP OF OUR ALMIGHTY GOD’S GRACE.
AND NOW IT IS MY HONOR AND PRIVILEGE TO AWARD THE FOLLOWING CERTIFICATE S OF RECOGNITION.
French 500 Free Clinic celebrates third anniversary
From the Gallipolis Daily Tribune Front Page of August 31, 2012 and its website at www.mydailytribune.com
Stephanie M. Filson
Managing Editor, Gallipolis Daily Tribune
1 month ago
| 10462 views | 0
Mel Simon, one of the founders of the French 500 Free Clinic, spoke
briefly to the crowd of community members and dignitaries during
Thursday’s anniversary event. Simon also presented certificates of
appreciation to the doctors, nurses and volunteers that have helped to
build and sustain the popular practice.
McFarland, Director of Community Wellness and Outreach for Holzer
Health System, and French 500 Free Clinic volunteer Barb Epling cut and
serve cake beautifully decorated by the Parkfront Diner.
French 500 Free Clinic unveiled its new logo during the
anniversary event held in honor of its opening August 27, 2009.
GALLIPOLIS — With well over 1.5 million uninsured residents in the
state of Ohio, there lies an often unspoken but great need for free or
inexpensive medical care — especially among rural, often underserved
communities. In 2009, a local but worldly professor pitched an idea to a
longtime local doctor and medical missionary to develop a plan to
provide such a service right here in Gallia County.
the French 500 Free Clinic celebrated its third successful year with an
open house celebration that honored the many who have helped make that
dream of community service a reality — an accomplishment emphasized when
the staff helped the Clinic’s one-thousandth patient just an hour
before the event began.
The concept of a free clinic for
uninsured Gallia Countians came when, in early 2009, University of Rio
Grande professor Paul Sebastian relayed the idea to Dr. Mel Simon when
he was preparing for his annual medical mission to his native country —
the Phillipine Islands. Simon has organized 29 such missions since 1985.
to Sebastian, Simon took a lead in driving the project and contacted
friends, Rotarians and other volunteers in an effort to get organized.
The group elected officers, formed committees and established bylaws,
and under the direction of Shirley Doss, obtained official nonprofit
The French 500 Free Clinic was opened in August 2009,
with the support of community donations, in the former office of Dr.
Tess Simon, at its current location on Hillcrest Drive. That office
space was generously provided free of charge through the generosity of
Dr. Mel and Lydia Simon, who own the building.
mission is clear: to provide comprehensive medical care at no cost to 18
years or older uninsured patients in Gallia County.
held Thursday served as a way for Simon to recognize all of the many
volunteers who helped get the ambitious project off the ground. It also
served as a springboard for the nonprofit into its future — and Simon
and the French 500 Board have a very clear vision for it.
is the gift of seeing clearly what may be. The more we see, the more we
can achieve,” said Simon. “The grander our vision, the more glorious
Simon said his vision for the free clinic includes three main goals:
For it to be able to sustain itself physically and financially in order
to continue its humanitarian goal and endeavor to help the sick and
• To add more clinic days and ancillary services in order to efficiently use its facility.
• To add more volunteer physicians and personnel.
heart of our mission and its operations is the doctors and nurses who
assist them,” said Sebastian, “but Doctors Mel Simon, Dick Simpson,
Nabil Fahmy, Jimmy Nuggud and Reid Brubaker have been particularly
faithful.” He also named Dr. Jolie Bitner and Dr. Thomas Blodgett
as partners, and praised the many nurses who support the volunteer
effort month after month.
“At each session, we treat as many as
46 patients and an average of 28 patients,” said Sebastian. “We would
like to expand and be open once a week instead of once a month, but that
depends upon community support in donations and demand for our
“Most of all, we need more doctors to volunteer, whether active or retired,” he added.
free clinic is open on the last Thursday of each month from 1 to 4
p.m., excluding holidays and inclement weather severe enough to close
area schools. The French 500 Free Clinic is located at 258 Pinecrest
Road, Gallipolis. Fore more information, call 740-446-0023 or email