A page of the Agape Clinic website is dedicated to “true stories”:
There was a 2-year-old child with flaccidity, decreased development, and the sweetest nature; and the most beautiful parents seeking what they won’t find — hope for recovery … The week began with a child who had been raped. She had two very sad little sisters and was holding and comforting them … Mrs. C was a 58-year-old Cambodian woman who had undetected cervical cancer when we found her in door-to-door outreach … the little girl was afraid of her mother’s boyfriend. Over several weeks the story [of sexual abuse] came out. Needless to say we took quick action … we need to keep paying attention to what is going on around us … this is the life our patients lead — very, very hard…
The online journal continues with stories of struggles and injustices that are somehow brightly thread together with hope and gratitude.
But meeting calamity with hope is what they do at the Agape Clinic and Community Care Center, which has been operating for 25 years out of the basement of Grace United Methodist Church. Their mission is to “improve the health of medically underserved people by providing quality community health services.” But Agape volunteers don’t stop at physical health. The name means “love”, which is an important component in the treatment of every patient.
“This clinic touches a lot of lives. I, and I think all of us who work here, love it here — love being able to help those who cannot help themselves,” executive director Leslie Kemp says.
The patients, explains Kemp, are usually from working families who cannot afford insurance. They may not qualify for other health care programs, and even if they do, they may not understand how to get help. Agape volunteers often walk clients through that process.
For about 17 years, the clinic was open only on Saturdays and run solely by volunteers. In 2000 Agape partnered with Baylor School of Nursing. With help from Dr. Charles Kemp, Leslie’s husband, and nursing students at Baylor, the clinic increased the amount and the complexity of service. Today it provides a number of services including psychiatry, dermatology, gynecology and pediatrics.
“This may be one of the few clinics in town that actually offers sub-specialty care to patients,” founder Dr. Bobbie Baxter says.
Volunteers from Agape reach out to the community through education; visiting elementary schools, where they offer classes to parents and educate them on issues including nutrition; women’s health; self-defense; and chemical dependency, to name a few.
Education is key to preventing some of the community’s most chronic and widespread problems, such as diabetes and hypertension, Kemp says. There is a far-reaching and ever-increasing demand for Agape’s medical services, but the clinic is in short supply of medical staff.
“We need doctors and nurse practitioners,” Kemp says.
Baxter works the clinic on Saturdays. Specialists come in from one to three times per month, depending on their availability. The same volunteer nurses have been running Saturday’s immunization clinic for decades.
Workers at Agape speculate that today’s economic climate may be partly to blame for the lack.
“The poor aren’t the only ones being squeezed by the economy,” Kemp says, meaning that practicing doctors might not be able to afford working for free.
Nevertheless, support from the community as a whole has been strong. With donations, Agape has filled the medical-staff gap by using financial gifts to pay a small staff of nurse practitioners.
“Agape has received overwhelming support from businesses, organizations and churches — especially Highland Park United Methodist Church and Lakewood Service League,” Kemp says. “We are just so grateful for that. We are so fortunate to have people [who help us] to do what we do.”
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