Our Lady of Guadalupe Free Clinic Guadalupe Free Clinic

Serving the indigent and medically-uninsured

About Us | Our History | Eligibility/Hours | Photo Album | Short Videos Library | News | Directions | Contact Us | Home

Guadalupe Free Clinic Our History

Knights of Columbus, Holy Trinity Council #7812
Winner of Knights of Columbus Virginia Commmunity Activity Award 2005
Winner of Knights of Columbus International Service Program Award 2005

Guadalupe Free Clinic
PO Box 275 Colonial Beach VA 22443
Ph. 804-224-0571 / Fax 804-224-0572

The Need

Jose and Maria (not their real names) work hard in the fields to care for their family the best they can on their meager income. Margaret (not her real name) has not seen a doctor in years but has been in pain for months and needs to know whether the pain can be treated or is an ominous sign of something even worse. However, because they are among the nearly 33 percent of Colonial Beach, VA, residents who do not have access to medical insurance and among the nearly 25 percent who live at or below the federal poverty line, they cannot afford to go to the doctor when they or their children become ill. [Washington Post July 2004 report statistics] Even if they could find transportation to one of the two nearest free clinics, they would be turned away. Colonial Beach is situated about half-way along the approximately 95-mile route between the free clinics in Fredericksburg and Kilmarnock, and neither clinic can see residents of the Town of Colonial Beach, its surrounding Westmoreland County, or its neighboring Richmond County due to eligibility limitations and regulations regarding range of localities being served.

Westmoreland County, home to the birthplace of George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and James Monroe, is part of the area of Virginia known as the Northern Neck. Religious leaders in the Northern Neck today commonly believe that the area is also home to approximately 7000 Hispanics. An overwhelming percentage of this population is not medically insured due to immigration status or lack of full-time employment with benefits. With this population added to the prior population consisting largely of retirees and young families who also are often poor and lacking insurance, a great need for a free clinic was evident.

The Seed Is Planted

In June 2004 Fr. Jerome A. Magat, Parochial Vicar of St. Elizabeth (of Hungary) Catholic Church and Chaplain of the Holy Trinity Council #7812, met with doctors from the Fredericksburg and King George, VA, area to discuss the possibility of opening a free medical clinic on the premises of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Colonial Beach. (St. Elizabeth's parish includes both the church in Colonial Beach and the St. Anthony Mission in neighboring King George County.) The Guadalupe Free Clinic would be a volunteer-based facility operated under the auspices of the Pastor of the parish, Fr. Thomas P. Vander Woude. Uniquely affiliated with the Catholic Church, the Clinic would be able to provide not only corporal care to the needy but also numerous evangelization opportunities for both Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike. The Clinic would also be used as an instrument for gaining more information about the actual number of Hispanics in the area in order to help the parish more accurately and efficiently offer them pastoral care.

Fr. Vander Woude gave his full support and encouragement to the proposed project. This is an unprecedented effort in the Diocese of Arlington and also has the full support of His Excellency, Bishop Paul S. Loverde and his staff. (Bishop Loverde and Fr. Vander Woude are also fourth-degree Knights of Columbus.)

The parish possesses five contiguous buildings in Colonial Beach: the church and parish hall and five houses. One house serves as the rectory and another house serves as the parish office. The remaining three houses are largely unused and were in various states of ill repair when purchased.

Fr. Magat obtained permission from Fr. Vander Woude to renovate one of the remaining three houses in order to create needed space for the growing Hispanic Apostolate. The home adjacent to the parish office building is a two-story house with an addition in the rear of the structure. Due to its age (approximately 80-90 years old) and lack of use, the house needed renovation and had also been slightly damaged during Hurricane Isabel.

The Work

In July 2004, Fr. Magat requested that Holy Trinity Council #7812 take the lead for the refurbishment and conversion of the house into a medical clinic. The Knights of Columbus, under the leadership of SK Len Fontenot (PGK and Trustee), took the lead in renovating the Clinic.

Work began in August 2004 with the scraping, undercoating and painting of the building's exterior. An accessibility ramp and other exterior and interior repairs were accomplished during August 2004 by a group of Knights of Columbus and other parishioners from St. Mark Catholic Church in Vienna VA. By November 2004, 95% of the building's exterior was refurbished. As the winter set in, work continued to develop a design of the interior of the residence to provide two examining rooms, a patient waiting area, a rest room accessible to those using wheelchairs, and a medical laboratory.

After a rezoning hearing and the subsequent process, the Town of Colonial Beach gave the approval for an exemption of the residence to be used as a medical clinic on March 10, 2005. The required general building permit and the electrical and plumbing permit applications were submitted and were granted by March 20th. Two Knights from Council #7812 accomplished the required design and detailed drawings required for the permits. Council #7812 also identified and secured a licensed electrician and plumber for the refurbishment and conversion project.

With the required permits in hand, the Knights from Holy Trinity Council #7812 and the licensed tradespeople pursued the clinic conversion project on multiple parallel paths. The examining room floors and walls had to be redone with materials that could be cleaned and sanitized on a continuous basis. Sinks accessible to those using wheelchairs were added to the two examining rooms and the bathroom. The bathroom was totally gutted and expanded to allow room for an ADA-accessible toilet and sink. Three battery-backup "Exit" signs, outdoor security lights, and six additional outlets as well as an expanded electrical service in the medical lab were added. Thirty-two wall and base cabinets were procured, assembled, and installed for the exam rooms, bathroom and medical laboratory. A second, small ramp was added at the clinic entrance due to a steep entrance step. A receptionist desk and window were built in the waiting room. A janitor's mop sink and cleaning-supply area were added. All the remaining walls, ceilings, and floors were painted and/or cleaned and waxed to a "medical clinic shine". Also, another Knight provided the networking to integrate two computers that the clinic will use to manage records and files.

Multiple trips were made to other medical clinics to retrieve donated examining tables, medical equipment and supplies, weight scales, chairs, desks, and many other needed items. The Lynchburg Free Clinic (150 miles away) and the Moss Free Clinic in Fredericksburg supplied the majority of the donated items.

The Laborers are Many

At least 20 Knights from #7812 (approximately 25% of the Council) and five of their wives expended approximately 1,000 labor hours between July 2004 and May 2005 assisting in a complete renovation of both the exterior and interior of the site. Fr. Magat also spent an estimated 1500 hours not only helping with the renovation but also in planning, fundraising and getting permits from the Town for the necessary rezoning, etc., to allow the Clinic to legally exist. A minimum of 2500 hours were spent by the local Knights Council so far to renovate the building and make the Clinic opening possible. (Hours were not counted that Knights and other interested people spent praying for the success of the Clinic project, but the success of the Clinic project could not have happened without them and the financial support received as well as the labor hours donated.)

Overwhelming active support for the Clinic has also been realized this year beyond that of the local Council both in the renovation phase and in the future operation of the Clinic. For example:

The Seed Bears Fruit

With all general, electrical and plumbing work inspected and deemed complete and in compliance with all required codes, the Town of Colonial Beach issued the occupancy permit to St. Elizabeth Catholic Church on May 11, 2005, to allow the Guadalupe Free Clinic to begin operating.

The Clinic will be open from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM on most Saturdays throughout the year (a projected 40 Saturdays). It is intended to help the medically uninsured and to act as a tool for evangelization and catechesis in the community as part of the parish's overall goal to promote the Catholic Faith. The Guadalupe Free Clinic opened its door on May 21, 2005, for the first time to begin serving Jose, Maria, Margaret, and others in need.

PO Box 275   |   Colonial Beach, VA 22443   |   T: 804-224-0571   |   F: 804-224-0572