Hundreds of cars pass by a small sign in front of a church in Eloise. “Angels Care Center” it declares with a drawing of an angel... truly, angels abound at this site.
Every Tuesday, there is a sign out front with the words, “Clinic Open.” At 4 pm patients start lining up for free medical care. This is a free clinic for anyone needing medical assistance. If you have no insurance, earn under a certain amount, and live in Polk County, you are eligible. Volunteer Doctors from Winter Haven donate their time to treat those that show up.
This all started with a dream. Janey and Larry Powell had a vision. Their church, Saint John’s Methodist, had access to the small building in Eloise. The couple had been at a meeting discussing the best use for it. Larry said, “You know what the people need in this area? Medical Care.”
So began their saga. With no knowledge of the medical business, they began seeking answers as to how to make this a reality. Janey’s background was as a teacher in Polk county and Larry had worked as director of recreational activities and volunteer programs at Florida Southern College. Larry knew about fundraising and Janey knew how to convince people to volunteer. “God will provide the help along the way” was their mantra.
With some guidance from Eugenia Barton, a very involved resident in Eloise who worked for the school system, they investigated the needs of the local community. It became evident that the area was underserved medically.
They then needed someone to be a medical director and guide. Dr. Honer, from the Gessler Clinic, became the first director. Next, they needed a knowledgeable CPA to set up the paperwork for a non-profit which is no small feat. Janey’s student from the fifth grade many years ago, Steve Crisman, agreed to the task.
The year of 2010 was spent jumping through the many legal aspects involved in a start up clinic for the indigent. Money was raised through private donations, local churches, and grants to finance the program. The building was renovated by Reggie Whitehead and many sub contractors.Through the help of donations, the building was paid off a month after it opened!
The big boost came from Polk County’s Indigent HealthCare Division. The money for this program comes from the half-cent sales surtax. This is where you may see your tax dollars at work!
Angel Care is faith-based and actually partners with 12 churches. Larry Powell says, “We average 80 to 90 patients each month. In the eight years we’ve been serving we have had close to 10,000 patient visits.”
Every Tuesday the lines form at four o’clock for “intake.” Volunteers take basic information and a chart is formed for each patient. When they come for follow up their medical history is there. Janey adds, “Each clinic day we need 12 to 15 volunteers- these include doctors, nurses, translators, intake counselors and receptionists.”
The volunteers range from young nursing students, medical students, nurses (some retired, some still working), and many practicing physicians as well as retired physicians. Dr. Eduardo Torres has recently replaced Dr. Richard Honer as medical director.
Some volunteers are translators for the doctors as many patients only speak Spanish. Members from local churches show up to help also. There is a great feeling among the volunteers that they are making a difference. There is joy in being able to help others and actually see the positive effect the health care makes on the patient’s lives.
Winter Haven hospital, now under Baycare, does lab work and x-rays for free. Ultrasounds and MRIs are paid for with grant money from the county. At times, the patients may get help with the cost of prescriptions.
One day a month is the Diabetic Clinic. Patients may have lab work done, be seen by a specialist, and be given the tools necessary to test themselves and be followed up as needed.
The clinic has an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist who comes in as needed. The equipment for this speciality has been donated so many procedures are done on site.
Not all specialties can be treated at the clinic but some issues may be referred out. For those needing help, it is worth the trip on any Tuesday afternoon to find out what is available.
Project Love is another program held in the same building. Those who have needs other than medical, may seek assistance. Project Love has helped families with uniforms for children, electric bills, bus passes, and with a food bank. English/Spanish classes are held here also.
Monthly boxes are prepared with food and items donated by Publix and other sources. About 130 families are helped, 50 or 60 are senior citizens. After filling out an application showing family income etc. those eligible can pick up staples at the same site. This program is run by Eugenia Barton. Project Love is a sister ministry and is totally self supporting.
“We are blessed to have over 200 volunteers serving Angels Care Center and Project Love. They come from all walks of life but they all have in common a beautiful heart that wants to help others and share God’s love.” Janey continues, “Angels Care Center motto is God’s people caring for God’s people.”
Larry adds,”Project Love’s motto is ‘Sharing God’s Love, loving God’s people!’ We strive to carry this outing everything we do!”
Between the two programs, the lives of many in this area have been enriched.
Janey and Larry are showing that you can have a dream and make it a reality. Along with Eugenia Barton, and so many volunteers, there are truly Angels in the Angel Care Center.
Angels Care Center of Eloise
960 Snively Ave, Eloise, FL 33880
Free clinics in Polk County:
Haley Center-Winter Haven (863) 299-6562
Lake Wales Free Clinic (863) 676-1222
LVIM (Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine)-Lakeland (863) 688-5846
Parkview-Haines City (863) 353-6853