MILLCREEK — A free medical clinic that has been helping uninsured Utahns for more than a decade has found a new, larger home for its ever-growing number of patients and the volunteers who care for them.
The Maliheh Free Clinic, named after founder Khosrow Semnani's grandmother, celebrated the its "New Home for Healing" Wednesday with a gala and ribbon-cutting.
The clinic provides free health care services to individuals and families who can't afford insurance, but don't qualify for other medical financial aid. Recipients must be at or under 150 percent of the federal poverty line.
Religious and government leaders, donors and volunteers attended and spoke at the event, praising the clinic and those who made its expansion possible.
Semnani, who opened the clinic in 2005 along with Dr. Mansoor Emam, called everyone involved — volunteer medical staff, donors, organizers and directors — "contributors."
"They're all contributing," he said, to one thing: "Helping our fellow man."
The clinic's daily volunteer force includes doctors, nurses, physicians assistants, medical students and more.
The Semnani Family Foundation and dozens of other groups, companies, organizations and individuals donated the $2.1 million that was needed for the expansion.
The Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation donated the final $169,000 needed to fund the project.
Gail Miller said the foundation donates to causes that "do the most good for the most people for the longest time," and that Maliheh does exactly that.
"I think it's our responsibility to help people who are trying to help themselves," Miller said. "It takes a community to make a difference, and I like being part of that."
The clinic has been funded 100 percent by donations since 2005, and now raises approximately $900,000 per year to pay for operating costs.
The clinic estimates that the medical volunteers' total time would equate to over $1 million every year.
Dr. Karen Miller, a volunteer gynecologist at the clinic for over 10 years, said volunteer health care workers are the best out there.
"We get the best of the best coming to volunteer here," she said. "The people who want to give the extra time in their lives tend to be really good in their professions."
And the clinic's patients are "the best of the best" as well, she said, because they make up the essential workforce.
Giti Khani, another volunteer of over 10 years, said she helps in every way she can at the clinic.
"From the bottom of my heart, I enjoy working here," she said. "If I can bring a smile to even one sick patient's face, I'm happy."
Karen Miller, Khani and others were recognized at the gala for giving 10 years of service.
Jeanie Ashby, the clinic's executive director, said there were a "handful" of volunteers and 25 patients seen on the clinic's opening day in 2005. In the past year, Ashby said, over 600 people volunteered their time working in the clinic, averaging 63 patients per day.
Ashby, who has worked with the clinic for nine years, said the original building was becoming too small. Space, she said, is the best part about the new building — both inside and out. The clinic now has twice as many parking spaces as before, making it more convenient for patients and volunteers.
"They literally were parking three blocks away and walking to the clinic for the privilege of volunteering," she said.
"It really does allow us to expand our services," said Elaine Ellis, a member of the board of directors, who has been volunteering her time since the clinic's start in 2005. "I love this clinic. … It's beautiful."
Ellis recounted a memory from the clinic's second year. She said the patients would come and wash the doctors' cars as a way of thanking them for the services they provided.
"It just seems like everyone wants to give back," she said.
The clinic is located at 941 E. 3300 South in Millcreek.
Information on using Maliheh Free Clinic's services or donating can be found at malihehfreeclinic.org.