The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting financial hardships it caused for many increased demand for the supplies and services of food pantries and free clinics around the country. That was true for central Iowa’s Clive Community Services (CCS), which includes a free medical clinic, food pantry and a clothes closet. And just as the pandemic began loosening its grip on daily life, disaster struck: A fire broke out in the building where CCS rents space, causing severe damage and suspension of service.
Des Moines University and the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) rolled to the rescue: On Monday evenings beginning July 12, the University has stationed its DMU Mobile Clinic and DMARC, its mobile pantry, in the CCS parking lot to temporarily serve the people who depend on this important community resource. The Mobile Clinic is a Winnebago motor coach equipped with two private, handicapped-accessible exam rooms.
“It means everything to have DMU and DMARC here. It lets people know we’re still here to serve,” says Julie Cirksena, a member of the CCS Board.
On a recent Monday evening, Noreen O’Shea, D.O.’84, FAAFP – whom Cirksena calls a “godsend” – was a blur as she organized the Mobile Clinic and talked with patients waiting in the parking lot, all families with middle and high school students in need of sports physicals. Dr. O’Shea is a family medicine physician and assistant professor of behavioral medicine, medical humanities and bioethics at DMU.
“Summer is our busiest time of year, because kids need those physicals before school starts,” says Lisa Earles, CCS executive director. “Dr. O’Shea, one of our volunteer physicians, has really stepped up since the fire. She helped us make a list of clinic items lost in the fire and then asked DMU if we could use its Mobile Clinic.”
For many families, CCS’s medical clinic is not only free; it’s also convenient.
“Coming here just works out for us because we don’t need an appointment, and my work schedule is crazy,” says Kim Burrell, who works in catering. She’d brought son AJ, a senior member of Valley High School’s football and wrestling teams, and daughter Torie, a Valley junior and soccer player, for their sports physicals.
A group of dedicated Clive citizens began planning CCS in 2014, opening at its facility on Northwest 82nd Street in 2015. Chad Whitmore, a CCS Board member, says that when his church began helping the Clive Lions Club assemble holiday boxes for families in need, he learned that 70 percent of students at a local elementary school received free or reduced-priced lunches.
“A lot of people never thought there was that amount of need in the community,” he says. “When we began planning, we had a five-year plan to have the free clinic up and running. It came together in the first year.”