July 11, 2008

Citizens Give $4,000 to Elgin Clinic Project

By The Observer, La Grande, Ore.

Jul. 11--ELGIN -- Mayor Carmen Gentry announced Wednesday that the City of Elgin has received an additional $4,000 in private donations for the Elgin Family Clinic, leaving a balance of $19,500 to raise.

Earlier this week, Darrin Larvik of the City Garbage Service contacted the mayor, offering a generous donation toward the clinic fundraising effort.

"He said that since City Garbage services Elgin, they wanted to be a partner in helping the community," Gentry said. "His offer was to send the city a check in the amount of $1,000 for the project. I was so happy, I couldn't believe it."

Last Tuesday, Gentry also accepted a generous donation from County Clerk Robin Church. Church has been instrumental, Gentry said, in helping the city get all the health district paperwork together for presentation to the county commissioners.

"Robin talked about how important the Elgin Clinic is to residents of Elgin. Her mom relied on the services provided in Elgin for many years," said Gentry. "And even though her mom recently passed away, Robin said she wanted to help us out with the project. She wanted to do something that would benefit and stay in the community."

Church wrote the city a check for $2,000, a strong show of support for the preservation of an important clinic in a medically underserved area of Northeast Oregon.

"She has really gone above and beyond the call of her position to help us out," the mayor said. "I really appreciate the support she has given me over the past seven months with this project."

At the last Elgin City Council meeting, councilor Suzanne Hanson, coordinator for Cycle Oregon, announced that she will split the money allocated to her as coordinator between two city projects.

"She has committed $1,000 to the Elgin Clinic and $1,000 toward the Opera House restoration project," Gentry said.

These unsolicited donations bring the clinic fundraising to within $19,500 of its goal.

"If anyone wants to donate to the clinic, we would appreciate anything the community can give. The size of the donation is not an issue. We would be happy to take donations in any amount that people feel they can give," said Gentry. "We need the community to help us push this past the mark and maintain this worthwhile service in our community."

Earlier this year, the city organized an ad hoc committee led by the mayor in response to the news that Oregon Health and Science University would be pulling its staff and funding from the Elgin Family Clinic. OHSU will continue to operate the clinic until the end of August to allow the city time to raise the money it needs to operate the clinic during its first year under the proposed health district and a city-contracted private provider.

The committee estimated that the city needed to raise $117,000 for this purpose. To date the fundraising efforts have produced $85,000 from three large corporate donors, $5,000 from Boise Cascade and $3,500 from local organizations and civic clubs for a total of $93,500.

"Once the district is formed, and the tax base funding starts coming in (in November 2009), the clinic will have a stable base of funding to operate on," said Gentry.

The proposed health district will be on the November ballot, Gentry said. If it passes, all health district revenues collected will go directly to support the Elgin Clinic.

All owners of property within the Elgin Health District boundaries would pay 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Those who own property with a tax valuation of $100,000 would pay $50 a year, less than the cost of one doctor's visit.

"Transitioning to a health district will provide a stable funding base for the clinic," Gentry said. "With a private provider, service hours will increase dramatically from two days a week to four or more."

The health district would allow the clinic to serve a greater number of patients and would also allow the clinic to expand its services in the future, Gentry said.

"I anticipate an increase of nearly 200 additional visits in the first year," Gentry said. "We will also have an opportunity to bring dental screenings and other new services to the clinic as well after the transition."

The city is hoping to raise the remaining $19,500 through private donors and other local sources. All donations are tax deductible and may be made to the City of Elgin, 108 N. Eighth Avenue, Elgin 97827.


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