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With Increasing Demand for Service, Centre Volunteers in Medicine Is in Need of Support

by on April 27, 2020 5:00 AM


As we head into our second month of shutdowns and social distancing, I am making good on my promise to write about the goodness that we are seeing in our neighborhoods and in our communities at large.  Hearing about the good things that people are doing for each other and for our community has been so encouraging.  We are, as they say, in this together even though we may not be experiencing it the same way. It has truly been a testament of people helping people.

Centre Volunteers in Medicine is in desperate need of our help.

CVIM was established in 2003 in State College to provide medical and dental care to Centre County residents that don’t have health insurance. Medical and dental providers such as doctors, dentists and nurses volunteer their time through CVIM to offer medical services, medication checks, behavioral health services, case management and dental services to our neighbors who are not covered by a health insurance plan.

Last year, CVIM had more than 1,400 medical visits, filled more than 4,000 prescriptions and treated almost 2,400 dental patients. Many of those dental patients are children who would not otherwise have access to dental care.  

The impact of the coronavirus is hitting Centre Volunteers in Medicine from many directions.

An increase in the number of people who have or will lose their health insurance coverage is already increasing demand for services. Special events and fundraising efforts have been canceled because of social distancing and directives from the government to limit public gatherings.  

The increased need for personal protective equipment is hitting their already tight budget.

“We are in desperate need of support,” said Cheryl White, executive director of CVIM. “We are still open and caring for patients. For each patient that we see, we need full protective equipment including gowns, gloves, shields, shoe coverings and N-95 masks. We have already used up our whole budget for that this year.”

A registered nurse, White has been with CVIM for 10 years. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said. “In the first week of the shut down, we had six new behavioral health clients just from the stress and anxiety about what is happening with the virus. Even offering tele-medical services for our patients cost us money to set up.”

CVIM is a unique organization in that it is entirely funded through donations from the public. They get no money from insurance companies, state government, memberships, etc. With support from grants, individual donations, corporate donations, foundations and the United Way, CVIM has been able to offer high quality medical services to local individuals and families in our community for 17 years. 

“With the smallest budget, they are able to help a great number of people with dignity, compassion and great medical care,” said CVIM board member Heddy Kervanjian. “People come to us as a last resort. They have no other options. We cannot treat them without donations and, this year, without PPE equipment.”

In addition to having to cancel special health care programs like the “Give Kids a Smile and Vision for the Future Day,” which offers free vision and dental screening, they have also had to cancel fundraisers like the annual Centre County Cornhole Classic. Further impacting CVIM is that funding from organizations like the United Way may also be impacted. United Way fundraisers like the annual Trash to Treasure Sale have also been canceled because of the shut down.

CVIM has a limited number of full- and part-time staff. Services are largely provided by the many volunteers – including over 50 local doctors, dentists, nurses, nurse practitioners and physical therapists – who give of their time and expertise to help others. In 2019, volunteers logged 10,583 hours of donated time.

“We have over 200 volunteers,” said White. “They are so dedicated to this program. They want to be here even in this difficult time. One of our volunteers is 80-years-old and has called me several times to ask when she can come in to help.”

White is worried about the budget. She is worried about the economy, next year’s fiscal budget and a reduction in donations. She is worried that CVIM won’t be able to help the people who need it the most without money.

For right now, however, White is most worried about being able to buy the personal protection equipment that they need to be able to treat their patients. Even if restrictions are lifted, medical personnel, especially dental practitioners, are going to need extensive protective equipment for a long time.

Centre Volunteers in Medicine has set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for personal protective equipment during this pandemic. Please consider being part of the help that is helping the most vulnerable in our community. If each of us gives a little, we’ll be able to help a lot.



Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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