Free Medical Clinic is always grateful for the time and talent its volunteers share. We encourage our community to consider joining our ‘Healthy Heroes’ team. Please consider sharing medical or non-medical services for our community.

Paul Peters, a FMC volunteer, shared his story with our local newspaper, The Winchester Star:

Where would I be?

A year ago, I was looking for an opportunity to add my talents to a local volunteer organization. Why, you ask? I long have felt restless and desired an opportunity to give back to the community.

Sounds corny, right? But how else can you describe that feeling within to be of service to others? Like most communities, ours is struggling with joblessness, homelessness, and overwhelming social burdens, and could find a use for willing hands.

Thankfully, I was directed by a wonderful neighbor towards The Free Medical Clinic of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, better known within Winchester as “the free clinic.” He assured me that I would be able to contribute to the betterment of the community, its people, and, at the same time, feel better about myself. His advice, simply: Give them a call and see how you can fit in.

I made the call, set an appointment for an interview with the Operations Director and waited nervously for that day. I sat down with the Operations Director and we spoke for a short time. On my interview date, I was more nervous to meet and be found able to serve then any job interview in my entire life. I have never looked back, second-guessed my decision, or felt anything but fulfillment in my quest to add myself and my talents to a local volunteer organization.

The staff and volun-teers at the Free Medical Clinic are like none other. Of course, all who throw themselves into a volunteer position will swear that their organization is the best. I would never doubt their perception.

Within Winchester proper, there is enough opportunity for each citizen to serve another with compassion through acts of selfless service. Perhaps the term compassion could be changed to love. There is enough need throughout our city that if you love your neighbor, if you love your city, if you love a challenge or feel an opportunity to make a difference, there is a place for you. Each service opportunity is fulfilling and most definitely a way to use your time, talent, and expertise.

Let me confess, until you sit down and listen to someone who is out of options — no job, house about to be foreclosed and nowhere to go, no health insurance, no way to provide or receive medication for a sick spouse, and no prospects — someone who by the flip of a coin could be you instead, you have not been touched by the tragedy of this economic climate nor felt your heart break.

However, not all within the Free Medical Clinic is tragic. There are many success stories. Citizens who have reached out with need, been served, and return to be participating citizens within the community — now self reliant, the family stronger and able to provide a helping hand to others. Isn’t that what you would expect? I did and do.

I trust that an improved situation will ultimately bring about a solid family, and solid families ultimately bring about an improved community.

At the Free Medical Clinic, there are volunteers and staff who have served 25 years continuously. The clinic is staffed by cream-of-the-crop physicians, and others within the community. I’ve seen marvelous relationships and interaction among the patients and the medical staff.

Good health is as much about the state of mind as it is about medication sometimes. A simple smile, a quiet hand of reassurance can, and might, save a patient’s life.

My volunteer position is Screener: I collect information and fill out paperwork that is needed to start the certification process to become a patient of the clinic. It is a rewarding opportunity, and I am grateful for my volunteer position and ability to serve.

I happen to be a people person, and this position is right up my alley. I cannot do my Thursday night service and not come away in a better mood. I soar with happiness that I was invited to join the other volunteers and staff at the Free Medical Clinic and given a community bond that offers, me more then I could ever give back.

A side note: I’ve just completed my first year volunteering at the clinic. The faces I see and serve don’t slow down. The need for volunteers here at the clinic is as great now as ever. Unfortunately, other organizations throughout the community are equally as needy for volunteers as they’ve been in recent years. I recognize that opportunities to provide for others will always be necessary.

Can giving of yourself, or providing for others, or just lending an ear to those who have a need be a bad thing? Never, when you remember the worth of a person, the value of families, and an opportunity of bringing happiness for even a few moments to someone less fortunate. Wouldn’t you be grateful if someone gave of himself or herself to better your life?

Paul Peters is a residentof Frederick County.