Terrie Cross, executive director of the Applachian Life Quality Initiative (ALQI), tells a story of a man who attended the last Remote Area Medical clinic in Scott County three years ago.
“A man came to the 2011 clinic needing false teeth,” Cross says. “He had lost all his teeth a couple years before and he told the volunteer that he could eat his food okay . . . but he wanted to be able to smile.
“Someone spoke to him as he went out the door, asking, ‘How did it go?’ He flashed the biggest smile he had given anyone in the past two or three years.”
While dentures will not be offered when RAM visits Scott County again later this month, that story underscores the primary purpose of RAM: it’s a mission where people help people, providing medical and dental services to the underprivileged in a rural community; services that are essential, but services that might otherwise be unobtainable.
“This is such an amazing gift we are being given for our residents in our county,” said Stacey Kidd, executive director of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce. “To a mom who wants her children to be able to smile without being ashamed and to be healthy and feel like they are just like all the other kids, you will never realize what the spirit of volunteerism means.”
Founded by former “Wild Kingdom” TV host Stan Brock, RAM is headquartered in Knoxville and is dedicated to providing medical care to people around the globe.
In the years since the organization’s inception, free care has been provided to almost 200,000 human patients, veterinary care to 54,000 animals, and the combined monetary value of that care is more than $15 million.
RAM will be making its eighth visit to Scott County on June 21-22, when Scott High School will be transformed into a free dental, vision and medical clinic for those who need the services.
Dental fillings, extractions and cleanings, vision checks and eyeglasses, and medical exams will be among the services rendered at the clinic — which, as usual, will feature local medical providers who volunteer their services working along-side RAM’s medical professionals, and a whole host of local volunteers who help assure that things go smoothly.
Kathy West is chairperson of this year’s RAM clinic. She said that volunteers are not only still being welcomed, but that they are greatly needed. It takes hundreds of volunteers to make the event a success. Those interested in volunteering can call 569-2677 or email email@example.com.
Exactly how many patients will be seen at the June 21-22 clinic remains to be seen. There is a limit, and inevitably some patients will be turned away. But one thing is for sure: the need for the services offered at the clinic is not in decline.
At the first RAM clinic in Scott County — held in the Nicks Creek community in October 2003 — a total of 367 patients, including 34 children, were assisted. A total of 68 volunteers donated their time at the event.
At the January 2011 clinic at the Boys & Girls Club of Scott County, a total of 758 patients were served, with 378 volunteers on site.
The dollar amount of services rendered at the clinics has grown from $56,545 at that very first clinic in October 2003 to over $300,000 at the January 2011 clinic.
By far, the No. 1 service needed is dental work. At the January 2011 clinic at the Boys & Girls Club, there were 1,239 tooth extractions and 172 fillings performed among 439 patients.
ALQI — Scott County’s largest 501(c)(3) organization, providing or assisting a wide variety of services — has been chiefly responsible for helping coordinate the clinics and urging RAM back to Scott County since that very first clinic in 2003.
“The patients at the clinics almost always thank the volunteer who has given them assistance,” Cross said. “It is very heartwarming to see the appreciation in their eyes.”
In addition to providing medical and dental assistance to Scott County residents who would otherwise be unable to afford those services, some of the past RAM clinics have also benefited Scott County financially by assisting with medical services for inmates of the county jail. At the second RAM clinic, held at the Scott County Airport in February 2004, then-sheriff Jim Carson bused a number of inmates to the airport — in their striped jail uniforms — to receive care. Volunteers treated them along with other patients who showed up to receive services.
For Cross and her staff of volunteers, the primary chore isn’t necessarily to make patients aware of the clinic; it is almost a guarantee that hundreds of patients will await RAM’s services when the weekend of June 21-22 rolls around. The biggest chore is making sure enough volunteers are on hand to make the event a success.
To that end, it is a team effort. West’s oversight of the clinic is assisted by ALQI staff member Katie Garrett. Tilda Bowling oversees the food, which includes seven meals for each volunteer. Dr. Danny Chacko assures that there are enough professional volunteers on hand to handle the caseloads. Wayne Hughes works with RAM and assists with logistics. Tracey Jeffers and John Tate oversee parking. And Cross is in charge of raising the $15,000 needed to cover the costs of having the clinic in Scott County.
Businesses and organizations also get involved. Grand Vista Hotel in Huntsville donates some rooms and provides low rates for others so that volunteers from outside the local area can be housed. Appalachian Ministry Center in Winfield pitches in, housing 40 volunteers. Some local residents even open their homes and guest houses for volunteers.
The above article is part of a monthly series, "Tales of a 3-Star Community," presented by the Industrial Development Board of Scott County on the first edition of each month. Interested in volunteering? See more information on page B5 of this week's print edition or e-edition.