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Wabash: Get Involved in Free Clinic

Jim Amidon — I read closely the article Journal Review editor Jay Heater wrote about Wabash President Pat White’s lunch with the League of Women Voters last week. In his story, Jay did a nice job of framing President White’s desire to bring Wabash College and Montgomery County closer together. But it’s not an easy task.
 
For the last dozen or so years, many of us have made it a priority of our jobs to take a mighty sledge hammer to the imaginary wall that separates Wabash College and greater Crawfordsville.
 
We advocated that Wabash drop admissions fees for home basketball games and arts events. For almost a decade we’ve shared news and information about Wabash in this column. We’ve hosted community days, community fairs, and scads of events designed to bring people from Montgomery County to Wabash.
 
At the same time, Wabash has gotten involved with the important work of Crawfordsville Main Street. We’ve plunged Wabash freshmen — just 48 hours after their arrival on campus — into community service projects designed to introduce them to the town in which they’ll live for the next four.
 
It’s been a productive partnership that is beginning to flourish. I now take calls from groups that need some strong bodies to do projects. I have students looking to get involved with local agencies like the Boys and Girls Club.
 
I attend arts events at Wabash and see folks with no connection to the College serving as ushers and ticket takers. Our growing international student population is bolstered mightily by the amazing Community Friends program, which provides support and encouragement to students so far from home.
 
In spite of all these activities and programs, there are still people in Crawfordsville who do not feel welcome at Wabash, and there are people at Wabash who don’t see the greatness of the town we call home.
 
Jay Heater raised some of these issues in his excellent Journal Review column last Wednesday.
 
Wabash, as a non-profit organization facing financial troubles of its own, can’t throw piles of money at rebuilding our community’s infrastructure. Likewise, there are few businesses in town that can afford to do more in the way of welcoming Wabash students and families.
 
But there is a way we can all work together to solve our community’s greatest problem: We can all get behind the effort underway to establish the Montgomery County Free Clinic.
 
We can’t afford not to act — immediately — to provide healthcare and education to more than 5,000 uninsured people in this community.
 
There isn’t a moment to lose.
 
Tomorrow night, Ms. Marjorie Hamrell from the Volunteers in Medicine organization, will talk about how VIM has changed the lives of thousands of people in the communities where free clinics exist.
 
If you genuinely care about the long-term health of this community, you need to show up at 8 p.m. in Baxter Hall on the Wabash campus.
 
For too long, we’ve either ignored healthcare in this community or assumed it was some other group’s responsibility. For too long, we’ve accepted that the Christian Nursing Service and St. Clare Medical Center could do it all.
 
We’re wrong, and we can no longer wait for someone else to do the hard work, including the federal government.  
 
Solving generational problems with diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and scores of other health concerns will not be easy. It will take volunteerism and philanthropy on a large, community-wide scale.
 
It will take money, yes. But what makes the Volunteers in Medicine model work is the shared sense of responsibility it takes to educate, re-educate, diagnose, and treat illness. It will take all of us to establish what VIM refers to as a “Culture of Caring” that knows no boundaries.
 
Standing up to the challenges that face us will require that we stop thinking of what can’t be done and focus on what must be done. We are resourceful people with a roll-up-the-sleeves work ethic, and we’re best positioned to tackle this enormous undertaking.
 
We can no longer cling to petty biases; we must think creatively to ensure that we can prevent the next generation from inheriting a dysfunctional local healthcare system that provides little or no help to uninsured citizens.
 
We may not all agree on the best way to educate our children to live healthy and happy lives. We should be able to agree that our children and their health is our single most pressing priority.
 
A handful of dedicated souls have spent the last 18 months meeting almost every week to get us to this point where we can now get involved.
 
So now it’s time to do your part. Stop waiting on someone else to act. We can and must address these issues. We have all the human resources we need to accomplish even the most daunting task.
 
Show up at Baxter Hall tomorrow night at 8 p.m. to learn about the potential greatness we have within us.