“The Helpers” of Arlington Free Clinic

There was a day in March when I waved goodbye to the office to work remotely for the foreseeable future. That day,the women I’m used to seeing in business casual clothes and cute hairstyles had on scrubs with fitted long-sleeve t-shirts underneath and sneakers. Their hair was pulled back in buns and their accessories were N95 masks and exam gloves as they greeted patients and took their temperatures before they entered the Clinic.

That morning, a retired volunteer cardiologist over 70 years old, came in part way through our staff meeting. The week before he had committed to seeing one patient in-person for follow-up care. He arrived with gloves and a mask on and stayed in the far corner of the waiting room until the patient arrived. He would be the first – not the last – to raise his hand and offer to help AFC any way he could as we entered this pandemic. That afternoon, I sent an email to all 450 of our volunteers explaining new protocols and next steps. I asked those willing to help remotely to self-identify so I’d know who to reach out to in the coming weeks. I was almost immediately inundated with folks offering their time whenever we need them.

In the days and weeks that would follow, I have had the privilege of communicating remotely with those who Fred Rogers called “the helpers.” Folks who have plenty going on in their own lives – adjusting to telework themselves, homeschooling children, and managing their own stress related to all that’s going on – but who have still taken the time to reach out and remind me that they’re available.

Providers have offered to learn a new telemedicine system and have made themselves available for phone consults with staff. Interpreters have signed up to be on-call for patient calls and translate fliers and signage.Volunteer pharmacists have added shifts to their schedules and learned our software so they can fill prescriptions without staff, if needed. Nurses are making calls from home to check on patients and ensure that all feel seen and cared for. Individuals and local businesses have provided morale-boosting lunches for our clinical staff who need to work onsite, and when a local florist had to close their doors, they arrived at ours with bouquets of beautiful flowers to lift spirits.

With unknowns changing not only from day-to-day, but hour-to-hour, our volunteers have been the stable force AFC can rely on. They are the foundation that allows us to provide free, high-quality care in normal times, and they have enabled us to continue caring for those who are most vulnerable to being overlooked and forgotten during this crisis. When it would be easy to say, “I need to look out for me,” they have instead said “What can I do to help?”

Kate Nadeau, Director of Volunteer Resources

Read our entire 2020 Spring Newsletter.

President’s Message
Dental Update
Adopting Telehealth at AFC
Meeting Critical Non-Medical Needs
Caring for the Mind & Spirit
Check-in Calls: AFC is Here to Help!
Clinical & Program Updates
Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Matching Grant Opportunity
A Note from a Supporter