Lakeland Volunteers In Medicine Opens New Facility
by James Coulter
When you enter the new Lakeland Volunteers In Medicine (LVIM) clinic along Peachtree Avenue near Lake Wire, one of the first things you will see will be a mural of a looming oak tree.
The tree has a long extending branch that hangs over the ceiling. From this branch grows 85 leaves. Each leaf represents the original 85 donors who helped start LVIM back in 2001. These donors will likewise be honored with their names on the donor wall to be installed later this year.
“[They] invested in the mission in what we do,” explained Alice Kohler, LVIM Marketing Director. “[They] planted the seeds, planted the roots, that built what grew [and] what we have here.”
The tree mural, painted by local artist Elizabeth Hultz, adorns the clinic lobby of the new facility, which opened earlier this May with a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce.
The new facility has more than doubled the clinical capacity of the former location, and thus has the ability to double their patient population, Kohler said. The old building had 8 clinical rooms, while this new location not only has 15, but also includes rooms for dental and optical care.
The services provided through the dental clinic and its three bays are funded through the half-cent sales tax initiatives from the Polk County Board of County Commissioners through a grant process, which the facility applies for every three years, Kohler said.
The facility also includes a conference room that not only facilitates the LVIM board meetings, but also meetings for its partner agencies and any other local non-profit organizations requiring such services, provided such meeting do not interrupt the facility’s patient flow, Kohler explained.
With the facility more than doubling its patient capacity, it also expects to double the number of patients. Last year, LVIM accepted 374 new patients, and they are expecting to double next year, as well as the size of their volunteer staff, Kohler said.
Opened in Feb. 14, 2001, LVIM is one of 88 other Volunteers in Medicine clinics across the country that provides free, compassionate primary healthcare to the working uninsured, including medical, dental, and mental care. To qualify for their services, patients must be Polk County residents, working, uninsured, and be 200 percent below the federal poverty line, Kohel explained.
Their goal, according to their mission statement: “May we have eyes to see those rendered invisible and excluded, Open arms and hearts to reach out and include them, Healing hands to touch their lives with love, And in the process heal ourselves.”
Helping provide these services to the local community is their core team of more than 19 staff members and 274 active volunteers, not including the 200 students who volunteer. These volunteers allow the organization to provide more than $8 million worth of healthcare services, Kohel said.
Their former location was based out of the old John Cox Elementary School located along North Massachusetts Avenue. One of their major donors, which also serves as a donor to Academy Prep, a non-profit private academy for at-risk students, wanted to move the school’s operations into the building.
As such the donor proposed buying the building from LVIM and offering additional funding to help move their operations to their new facility, Kohel said. Such a bold and generous proposition allowed them to move into the new building debt free, and hopefully will allow them better capacity for future developments.
“We pride ourselves in taking care of our patients holistically,” she said. “We do not want them to feel like they are coming to a free clinic. We want them to feel like they are coming to a professional facility and that they are receiving high-quality care. [Because] they are receiving it.”
LVIM is located at 600 West Peachtree Street, Lakeland, FL 33815. For more information, call 863-688-5846, or visit their website at: https://www.lvim.net.