In a polite but adamant manner, the trooper pointed out at least three times in the ensuing conversation that I was driving 70 mph in a 55 mph zone. My response was consistently, “Yes, sir.” When he asked whether I was listening to loud music, I pointed as I answered to the CD cover for the Mary Poppins movie soundtrack on the console. When he asked where I was going, I pointed to the cheerfully wrapped birthday present for my 84-year-old mother on the passenger seat and explained she lived in Tuscaloosa and I was going to take her a birthday gift.
Optimistic hopes raced through my brain. Surely the trooper would look at my impeccable driving record, consider the nature of my mission, and cut me some slack. While he processed my paperwork, I turned my face away as several cars passed, hoping no one would recognize me or my vehicle and I could avoid additional shame. When he returned with my ticket his sole parting comment was, “You were driving 70 in a 55 zone.” My carefully thought out response was, “Yes, sir.”
This well-deserved first speeding offense ultimately required 20 hours of community service. However, the imposed requirement opened a door for me as a volunteer at the Hope Clinic in Jasper. Three years later, long after the 20 hours were completed, I eagerly walk through that door one Tuesday night every month.
Open since January 2006, the Hope Clinic provides free medical care to uninsured, chronically ill adults in Walker County who meet the financial requirements. Clinics are scheduled on Tuesday evenings and one Wednesday morning each month.
The staff of five includes the director, two registered nurses, and two pharmacy technicians. Knowledgeable, friendly, and patient, these five provide the stable foundation for an otherwise volunteer operation that has forged an efficient, effective, happy partnership with the surrounding community.
Up to December 2010, the Hope Clinic has provided medical care and prescription medications to about 4,700 patients through the volunteer commitment of more than 50 local physicians and at least 75 nurses. Volunteer pharmacists and lab technicians provide other medical-related services.
Non-medical volunteers work during clinics and at other times during the week performing important day-to-day operational clerical duties that allow the staff to stay focused on their primary responsibilities. A team of five clergy members also volunteers at the clinic and offers astute listening skills to patients. A visitor to the clinic at any time quickly senses the focused hard work, the congenial teamwork, and the genuine sense of caring that compose the heart and soul of the Hope Clinic.
Some of these volunteers find their way to the Hope Clinic from their churches, clubs and organizations, and others simply find their way on their own. Over the last five years, this diverse group of volunteers, ranging in age from 11 to 80, has logged more than 13,500 hours.
Clinic Director Tim Hodge attributes this enthusiastic volunteer turnout to the basic human need to help others. The clinic “creates the opportunity for lots of different folks to step in and meet that need to help others in lots of different ways.” Tim enjoys telling the story about speaking to a women’s club and mentioning how purchasing basic essential items such as light bulbs and toilet paper for the clinic really adds up. This group took his words to heart and a few days later a carload of those two items was delivered to the clinic.
Volunteering takes on yet another form on Tuesday clinic nights. Local businesses, clubs, churches, Sunday school classes, families and individuals prepare and bring supper to the Hope Clinic. The back door to the clinic opens as supper volunteers enter and enticing aromas of dinner float around the clinic. The staff and volunteers never know what supper may bring, but they have been treated with a wide variety of menu items including bar-be-que, chicken fingers, beef stew, chicken salad, and soup, as well as desserts which make the heart sing.
The following lasagna recipe has made many appearances at the Hope Clinic on Tuesday nights. To adequately feed the always hungry, diligent staff and volunteers, the recipe is doubled. Fresh fruit and brownies nicely round out this supper.
Hope Clinic Lasagna
One and one half pounds ground sirloin
1 medium onion- finely chopped
1- 15 ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
1- 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1-6 ounce can tomato paste
1-26 ounce jar pasta sauce
Seasonings to taste: garlic powder, Italian seasoning, basil, oregano, thyme,
Cheese: Use 16 ounces of ricotta cheese and about 3 cups of other cheese such as
mozzarella, asiago, Parmesan, etc.
1-8 ounce box lasagna noodles
1. Brown ground sirloin with onion and seasonings of your choice.
2. Mix other sauce ingredients into sirloin and simmer several hours on the stove or in the crock pot overnight.
3. When the sauce is ready, cook the lasagna by the package directions, drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
4. Mix the ricotta cheese with your cheese choices.
5. Layer in a 9”x13” pan: sauce, noodles, cheese. Continue to layer and top with mozzarella cheese.
6. Cover and bake at 350 until it bubbles in the center.
•This recipe may take more than an hour to cook.
•Be sure to use ricotta cheese as it adds to the consistency of the
•The sauce as well as the entire uncooked dish freezes well.
•Place the pan on a foil-covered cookie sheet to avoid spills in your oven.
Walker Baptist Medical Center has reached out to the Hope Clinic and these two disproportionately sized entities work together in easy harmony. Recognizing the value of the clinic’s care for chronically ill adults, Walker Baptist generously offers emergency room services to Hope Clinic patients at a significantly reduced rate. It also pays the rent for the clinic’s present home.
Tim Hodge is certain the number of volunteers and volunteer opportunities, as well as the amount of community involvement, will continue to increase in a variety of ways as the Hope Clinic grows and ultimately moves into its new home in the Engel building downtown. While fund raising continues, gut work on the old building has been completed and demolition work will begin soon.
The plans for the spacious renovated building include six examination rooms, a large lab, two nurse stations, a chaplain counseling office, a pharmacy, and a pharmacy counseling room. With the additional space, chiropractic, dental, and optical services will be added down the road and offered to patients. Patient education will also be more readily available with the inclusion of a classroom/meeting room in the plans.
The Hope Clinic has been wonderfully successful in addressing a critical need in our community. The essence of its success is built around a network of committed volunteers whose dedication to the need created a beautiful community partnership which is vibrant, unwavering and ever-present.
Margaret Dabbs is a freelance columnist who resides in Jasper. Her column appears every other Wednesday in the Lifestyles section. Comments and suggestions are welcomed by contacting Dabbs at 387-2890.