Every Saturday a small clinic, tucked away inside the parish hall of St. Joseph Church in Newton, N.C., opens its doors to uninsured people who can’t get medical care anywhere else. The waiting room – once not much more than a storage closet – quickly fills up with people hoping to see the doctor, Dr. Douglas Miller.
St. Joseph’s Good Samaritan Clinic has served more than 4,000 people since it opened 15 years ago. That’s about 20-24 people each Saturday, Miller estimates. The clinic doesn’t
ask for payment; patients may give a $5 donation, if they like.
Miller and Miguel Caraballo, both parishioners at St. Aloysius Church in Hickory, worked together to open the indigent clinic after Caraballo prayed to Jesus, asking for help for the Hispanic community. Caraballo was seeing Hispanics neglect their health because they had no means to pay a doctor or because they could not speak adequate English.
The only place they could turn to was the local hospital’s emergency room.
One day while praying in church, Caraballo says, he heard the word “sacrifice” come from the altar, although no one else was present. His mother-in-law, who worked for Miller, urged him to talk with the doctor.
Miller says he was initially hesitant about the idea of an indigent clinic. He already worked long hours at the local hospital, and he and his wife had 12 children. Volunteer
work wasn’t on his agenda. But in prayer, he realized how the Lord had blessed him
and his family, and it was time to give back in thanks to God.
Now, he says, his medical profession is rewarding, but nothing compares to his appreciative Hispanic patients, who offer up prayers for him and his family. He cherishes their prayers.
Besides Caraballo, Miller is joined in the volunteer ministry by an administrator and
translator, Carmen Morales, and nurses Patty Tucker and Jeanne Gerhardt. Morales, a member of St. Joseph Church who got involved with the clinic early on, said the work fills something that had been missing in her life. Tucker also joined the group early after hearing God’s call. Tucker took charge of scheduling the nurses for each Saturday, and she has been a mainstay of the clinic ever since.
Tucker said she believes health care is a right for all people, not a privilege for some. The church and its pastor, Father Jim Collins, support the clinic, she said, because, “The Church has the talent to make it happen, here or anywhere.”
“The clinic is a good ministry for doctors and nurses. I support it because it is an outreach to the community, especially those who need assistance in medical care,” adds Father Collins.
To volunteer or make a donation, go online to www.stjosephrcc.org.
Printed with permission from the Catholic News Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C.