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Sylvania health clinic celebrates 5 years of service
RELIG 0712 01
Dr. Sherma Peter, Sylvania physician, volunteers her time to care for patients at Saint Camillus Health Clinic, sponsored by Sylvania's Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church. - photo by Special

A Sylvania health clinic recently celebrated its fifth anniversary of providing free health services for those in need.
    Sponsored by Sylvania’s Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church, St. Camillus Health Clinic is run entirely by donations and with volunteers.
    “A lot of people have fallen through the cracks. They don’t qualify for any assistance, but have real medical needs,” said Charles Kimbrough, a regular volunteer and parishioner. “Often, we’re the only medical attention they get.”
    Offering assistance once a month at Our Lady of Assumption and once a month at First United Methodist Church in Newington, St. Camillus was the brainchild of Father Louis Lussier, the pastor of Our Lady of Assumption.
    “This was a passion of his when he came here,” Kimbrough said of Lussier. “He saw the need.”
    “Father Lou,” as he is lovingly and respectfully called by those who know him, is a former physician, thus his passion for serving the sick.
    “I belong to the Order of St. Camillus,” Lussier said. “Camillus was a nurse in the late 1500s who became a priest. He formed an order to give care to the poor. He is known for quoting Matthew 25:36: ‘I was sick and you visited me.’
    “We take a vow to care for the sick at the risk of our own life,” Lussier said of the Camillians.
    Lussier served as a physician from 1970-1986 in Quebec, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and worked with a medical college in Milwaukee. He was sent to Spain for Noviciate — boot camp for becoming a member of a religious order in the Catholic Church, he explained — and then went to seminary to become a priest.
    “I figured I’d be in Savannah,”  Lussier said. “But I was told, ‘We need a priest in Sylvania.’ I decided it’s what the good Lord ordered.
    “I thought we might have a Winnebago for the clinic,” he continued. “But one of my parishioners had an idea for a mobile trailer. No gas cost, upkeep, insurance. He built it and by June of 2008, we were in business with our first clinic.”
    On clinic nights, the trailer with state-of-the-art equipment is parked just outside the door of the church’s social hall. Kimbrough chuckles when he explains that the van that pulls the trailer is not state-of-the-art, but rather aged and decrepit.
    Patients enter the social hall “waiting room” and are greeted by volunteers, clerks who register the patients, nurses, or even those who serve as drivers or cooks to feed the other volunteers.
    After checking in, a patient is led to the trailer for further care with a volunteer physician.
    “These are volunteers who want to serve the Lord and help their fellow man,” said Kimbrough. “It’s a labor of love.”
    Kimbrough says many of the volunteers come straight from their day job, after working long hours, to volunteer their time. Some drive from other counties just to help. And Kimbrough’s 86-year-old mother comes to almost every clinic to help with clerical duties.
    Lussier said the clinic is in need of more volunteers, nurses, and doctors. He hopes to expand to Rocky Ford and other areas. He said he feels blessed to have the full support of the parishioners and knows that the clinic could not survive without donations or volunteers.
    “Some people come and tell us that if they didn’t have this, they didn’t know what they would do,” he said. “They feel comfortable here. They know us. It’s ‘their’ clinic. They appreciate us coming here.”
    A patient, who declined to be identified, echoed her appreciation with these words: “I told my mother in California that I’ve been treated better here than anywhere else. I hadn’t seen a doctor in many years. It’s embarrassing not to be able to pay. But I knew I needed to take care of myself, so I came here. And they’ve taken such good care of me.”
    “And that’s what it’s all about, right there,” Kimbrough said.

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