Almost no one can afford health care without insurance. Many people in Laurens County and everywhere else in the United States receive government assistance in securing health care.

People – millions of people – still fall through the cracks. They have mouths to feed, rent to pay, power to keep coursing through the ducts and receptacles of their homes. Some don’t have homes.

In Laurens County, they turn to the Good Shepherd Free Medical Clinic, which celebrated 25 years of operation on Friday at the Higher Education Center. It’s there for them. Board chair Dr. Jim Yarbrough made this clear in his welcoming remarks.

Then board member Bill Tiller said, “It’s less of a clinic and more of a church. It’s a place to express gratitude, to give and share. We need you to be a part of a ministry.”

James and Debra White represented patients at the clinic, located at 245 Human Services Road, Clinton, near Laurens County Memorial Hospital.

The clinic is a non-profit, Christian ministry staffed by volunteers, mid-level providers, nurses and others who give their time and abilities to provide free care for uninsured county residents. It has treated more than 12,000 patients since it was begun in 1994, and this year gave out over $41 million worth of care annually.

Patients must qualify. They must be from Laurens County, have no health insurance, be ineligible for Medicare, Medicaid or veterans’ benefits and live in a household at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

The clinic receives support from Prisma Health, Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy, the United Way of Laurens, foundations, utilities, commissions, banking institutions, businesses, foundations, doctors, lawyers, pastors and, to paraphrase the PBS and ETV commercials, readers like you.

People pitch in.

Free clinics are in operation across the state. Virginia Ann Millikan spoke representing the S.C. Free Clinic Association. The county Executive Director, Cindy Perry, expressed her pride that a small staff of part-timers and volunteers can achieve so much.

Another board member, Rev. Leland Nelson, blessed the meal. Most of the audience had already contributed, but many participated in the silent auction set up on one side of the room.

A lot of prominent people demonstrated their compassion.