By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
St. Luke Free Clinic received a $4,000 grant this month from the Hopkinsville Junior Auxiliary.
It’s the clinic’s first grant in recent years, let alone since the announcement this summer that it must seek financial independence.
So far the board hasn’t identified other grants to apply for, Chairman Brandon Garnett said. But between a few fundraisers and the money from the grant, it’s in comfortable shape for the remainder of this fiscal year.
The Hopkinsville Junior Auxiliary, which generally has 50 to 60 members in their 20s and 30s, gives a similar grant every other year, said Devon Jenkins, the group’s president. This year about 15 nonprofits applied, and the four finalists gave presentations.
After hearing Garnett speak, the board chose St. Luke on the basis of need and the likely impact, Jenkins said.
The money comes from community donations at annual fundraisers.
Garnett, whose wife is an auxiliary member, said the clinic’s leadership is “extremely grateful.”
“I don’t know that people in the community really realize how hard that group of young ladies works, in the community, to raise money,” he said.
It will fund operational expenses and clients’ prescriptions.
The Christian County Health Department pays the salaries of the clinic’s five employees. But in June, Director Mark Pyle announced that it couldn’t afford this much longer.
He asked the clinic to contribute $57,000 — the cost of the St. Luke director’s salary and benefits — for the 2012-13 fiscal year. And he said St. Luke needed to become totally self-sustaining before long.
St. Luke Director Betsy Bond resigned in September. The board appointed another employee, Sara Nell Payne, the interim operations director.
Because of the money it’s saving on Bond’s salary, St. Luke will only have to contribute about $20,000, Garnett said. He called this a very rough estimate.
In January, the board will start advertising for a full-time director, Garnett said.
St. Luke will get half the proceeds from tonight’s Stars and Promises concert at the Alhambra Theater, board member Helen Cayce said. It also raised money at a mystery dinner theater in September, and it may put on another in the spring, she said.
The clinic is in the middle of its annual letter campaign. It sends more than 1,500 requests to those on its mailing list and tries to raise $25,000. But this year’s results could be better; last year it was further along by this point, Garnett said.
“I would like to have seen us closer to our goal today,” he said. “We still need all the assistance we can get.”
Meanwhile, its long-term financial planning hasn’t progressed far in the last six months. Garnett said funding options are “widespread,” but the board hasn’t chosen any specific grants to apply for.
A committee of the Christian County Health Department is examining the option of a federally qualified health center, a kind of facility that will proliferate under the Affordable Care Act.
In a normal year, St. Luke’s total payroll expenses are around $225,000, Pyle said.
When the time comes to support itself, the clinic will be ready, Cayce said. She believes it might even find the funding for a full-time nurse practitioner, which would improve the continuity of care. Right now some of its rotating, volunteer providers see different patients every month.