North Carolina Healing Communities Fund – Surry Medical Ministries

In March 2020, COVID-19 came to the front door of Surry Medical Ministries.

The free primary health care clinic serves patients in the greater Surry County area who do not have any health insurance or the ability to pay and was staffed by volunteers. As the pandemic unfolded, the demand suddenly became overwhelming.

“The lines were astronomical,” said Nancy Dixon, the president of the board. “We were turning a third of people away.”

Located in Mount Airy, the clinic serves a community with a high low-income rate. They initially lost nearly all their volunteers and began paying for nursing support to provide primary care services.

In January 2021, Surry Medical Ministries received a $40,000 grant for general operating support from the North Carolina Healing Communities Fund to support their work. Launched by the North Carolina Community Foundation, the fund has distributed $4.25 million to provide critical resources for nonprofit organizations in North Carolina.

The grant to Surry Medical Ministries allowed the clinic to continue to pay for medical staff and community health workers that had been hired so the clinic could continue to provide services.

Surry Medical Ministries teamed up with other health care workers to provide COVID-19 vaccinations at convenient locations and provide transportation to get there.

 “The money came in at a great time. We would not have been able to see the number of patients that we did,” Dixon said. “They would have been in the emergency room, which is not where we wanted them. They could not have accessed the care they needed.”

The grant also validated the hard work of clinic staff and volunteers during a difficult time. “People felt appreciated,” she said. “That was a nice thing to feel.”

Today, the clinic remains a conduit for helping to get vulnerable and marginalized communities the health care they need, including connecting 1,000 people to COVID-19 vaccinations. The clinic’s community health workers, most of whom are bilingual, are engaging people in the community and they’ve been able to provide telehealth and transportation services. Dixon said the clinic is developing ways to stay sustainable for the long-term.

“This funding was the catalyst that kept us from falling apart,” she said. “Our job now is to increase capacity.”