Who knows from whence dreams come or why they move us so? Mary Nelle Cummins lay down one night some 12 years ago and awoke with a clear vision for helping McKinney’s less fortunate, one that perhaps she wasn’t sure she could accomplish.
J. David Thompson, M.D., a fellow member with Cummins at First United Methodist Church of McKinney, recalls the dream thus: “She was sitting in rocking chair in a children’s clinic, rocking a child, waiting for that child to be seen. And she couldn’t get it out of her mind. She decided the Good Lord was speaking to her, telling her she needed to do something.”
That “something” was a free health clinic for low-income, uninsured Collin County residents – and with Cummins’ determination and the generous support of local citizens, businesses and churches, her dream came true. Ten years ago this month the doors to the Children and Community Health Center opened – and many thousands of patients since are thankful they did.
Dr. J. David Thompson
No insurance is accepted at the Center – government or private – and no money changes hands. The Center is staffed almost entirely by volunteers. Located at 120 S. Central Expy., Ste. 102, in McKinney, at the corner of Virginia Pkwy. and U.S. Highway 75, the Center has been a blessing for many with no place to turn.
Now retired, Thompson has served the Center for close to four years. He’s one of six volunteer physicians currently staffing the operation. “Throughout my career,” he says, “I always volunteered at a charity clinic and always enjoyed it. I felt like it was what I should do.”
Thompson estimates the Center will log about 3,600 patient visits this year. “I don’t know how you could not be inspired by that,” he says, “that one woman’s dream … has grown into a clinic which is clearly meeting a need and filling a purpose in our community.”
Thompson notes that Cummins remained actively involved with the Center until about two years ago, when she cut back to spend more time with family.
The Center is open by appointment from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays, except Wednesdays. A walk-in children’s clinic operates on Tuesday evenings, and a Wednesday evening adult clinic is also available.
Sarah Mitchell is president of the Center’s Board of Directors and Manager of Community Outreach for Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Allen. “I think people know we’re out there and we are booked pretty steadily,” she says of the Center, “but we definitely know that people are being missed.”
“We’d love to be able to grow and have a little bit more space and also be open more hours. It really takes people to make this happen,” she adds. “Fundraising is so important for us, to be able to just stay going. We need volunteers on one end of it to keep us going and then fundraising to help us get more supplies and more space.”
We serve most of Collin County. We originally opened to focus on children but we realized that healthy parents make healthy children.”
Mitchell notes that back-to-school is an important time for children to catch up on vaccinations and other health issues.
To be seen at the Center, a patient must present proof of residence in north Collin County and have an income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. (No income would qualify one for Medicaid.) Patients not meeting these criteria are assisted by Center personnel in finding other service avenues.
Even with changes occurring in health care, it’s clear that the need for this Center remains. They have experienced a more than 20 percent increase in requests for appointments each year for the last two years.
Executive Director Dee Silva joined the clinic this summer and brings a wealth of non-profit experience to the organization.
“There are a lot of people in need,” she notes. “And our clients come from beyond McKinney. We have patients as far away as Farmersville, Celina and Gunter.” The Center’s overall organization is strong. “They have gathered the right people. It’s all about a team. The staff, community and volunteers have combined to provide an invaluable service to the area.”
Currently, besides physicians, eight nurse practitioners and a multitude of nurses staff the medical end of the operation. Only nurse practitioners receive pay. “Not a lordly sum,” Thompson says, “but they do get paid.” Then there’s the slew of administrative volunteers. “They keep everything flowing smoothly,” Silva says. “I can’t brag on the front-office staff enough.”
Interpreters are also on-hand to assist the large Spanish-speaking population served by the Center, though they can always use more.
Photo by TomK Photography
“I will tell you,” Thompson says, “this is the most successful charity clinic that I’ve had the privilege of being associated with.”
“We are totally supported by our generous donors,” Thompson says. “We’re providing free, basic medical care to people that would fall between the cracks, the working poor.” The Center, he says, has grown by word-of-mouth and has never really advertised. Thompson notes that monies to run the clinic must be raised year-to-year. “You can’t take it for granted.”
The 2014 McKinney Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class helped renovate the Center’s spaces in March. Also that month, the Master Gardeners of Collin County donated $2,755 from its Garden Show. The Center’s major annual fundraiser is the Red Hot Road Rally, a 50-plus-mile motorcycle road trip and after-party, held Aug. 23 this year. (Visit cchc-vim.org for details.)
Volunteer nurses Dorothy Whitfield and Barbara Watkins.
Another top fundraiser is the Center’s Gala event, held Aug. 2 this year at Plano’s Marriott at Legacy Town Center. Titled A Dream Come True, this affair’s dinner, program and dancing highlighted the Center’s 10th year of service.
“At the present time there’s clearly a need for a clinic like this in our community,” Thompson says. “McKinney is a well-to-do, growing community. But when you’ve got a growing community, you’ve got a lot of construction, a lot of low-wage jobs that are needed for this community to grow. Where do those people get their health care?”
Thanks to dreams, one fine answer is McKinney’s Children and Community Health Center. For more information or an appointment, call 972-547-0606.
About the author: Rick Atkinson is a McKinney-based freelance writer and cartoonist. Like many, Atkinson believes when you’ve got your health, you’ve got it all.