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Richmond medical volunteers serve patients from 118 different countries

Posted at 4:12 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 18:20:02-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Delia Nohemy Lopez Figueroa will soon bring a new life into the world. By word of mouth, the Guatemalan-native sought prenatal care through Crossover Healthcare Ministry located on Richmond’s Southside. With the help of a volunteer interpreter, Delia said she’s uninsured and has nowhere else to turn to for help with her pregnancy.

“I was offered help possibly in July and August at other places and by then I would’ve given birth,” she explained.

Julie Bilodeau dedicates her life to helping those who need help the most.

As CEO of Crossover Healthcare Ministry, she and hundreds of volunteers provide a full spectrum of healthcare services to low-income individuals, those without insurance, or those who are on Medicaid.

“We don’t want people to forgo important preventative care,” Bilodeau said. “We see a really high incident of chronic disease with our patients."

Her volunteers and staff serve about 6,000 patients each year through the Cowardin Avenue location and their clinic in Henrico’s West End.

“We have over 300 volunteers a year including students from VCU and University of Richmond, folks from the hospitals,” Bilodeau said. “It’s just a really amazing tapestry of resources and people that come to help our neighbors.”

Navigating America’s healthcare system is difficult, she said.

“We all work together to work with folks who have limited access to care, to provide these services that they feel safe so they can be healthy, and can parent their children effectively, they can keep jobs and be productive families. That's our goal,” Bilodeau said.

The third week of April is National Volunteer Appreciation Week.

Bilodeau called their volunteers the core of their organization. Without them, she said, they could only serve a fraction of their current number.

Donations from philanthropists and organizations like the United Way also keep the non-profit running. The non-profit provides wraparound services to their clients like pediatrics, vision, dental, mental health, and HIV/AIDS care and testing.

Sherri Hedrick spends her Thursday mornings filling prescriptions inside the Southside clinic.

The registered pharmacist volunteers her time and expertise in Metro Richmond’s only licensed pharmacy located inside of a non-profit.

“I wanted to find something productive to do with my time, started volunteering here, and haven’t looked back,” Hedrick said.

The workers share a common core value: to reach out in love with kindness and respect.

“It’s important to look beyond yourself and see we are one big world and need to help each other,” Hedrick stated.

Patients from 118 different countries who have made Central Virginia their home have gone through Crossover's doors.

Bilodeau said one of their biggest needs is finding interpreters.

For instance, approximately 10 percent of the patients at the West End clinic speak Arabic.

"Many of these folks are immigrants, but they shop with you, they go to school with your children, they worship, they share the same space," she explained. "If COVID has taught us anything, it’s taught us it’s really important every person in our community be healthy."

Delia moved to Richmond nearly three years ago to work and get ahead. She currently earns a living cleaning up construction sites.

Medical care in her home country is only obtainable by the rich.

“You’d have to go to a private hospital to get private service and it’ll cost a lot of money,” Delia stated. "Due to the pandemic right now it’s very complicated to be getting a clinic, so I'm very happy I could come here."

Delia’s interpreter, William Jorge Del Castillo Reyes, is Cuban-born and advocates for those who left their countries for America to obtain a better life.

He said Delia’s story is very common in Central Virginia and is proud to serve in a non-profit that helps give others a hand up in life.