Staff members aren't the only volunteers ready to help though. On Thursday, Dec. 20, several women from Congregation Agudat Achim in Schenectady distributed hand-knit scarves and donated toiletries to patients of the free clinic who sat in the waiting room. "We were planning a social event for our Women's Network to teach women in our congregation how to knit," said Hillary Fink, who helped organize the donations. "We decided it should be a social event with a purpose, so we chose to make donations to the Schenectady Free Health Clinic because three doctors who volunteer there are members of our synagogue."
Adoria Potter and Comfort Yarmeto were waiting to see a doctor when Fink came up and gave them each a brightly colored scarf and offered a choice of toiletry items from a basket that included hand creams, shampoo and facial cleanser.
Potter is a housekeeper who used to have a health-care plan through her employer, but could no longer afford the program's costs. Like Potter, Yarmeto works at a low-paying job. She is the single mother of six children. "I've been coming to the clinic for two or three years now, and I thank God they have a place like this in Schenectady," said Yarmeto. "I have a job, but I don't earn enough money to have my own insurance."
The clinic specializes in serving the working poor " a group that is growing nationwide. According to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts, released in October, more than 41 million Americans in working poor families can't afford necessities like health care and housing. The working poor are often defined as a group that makes too much money to qualify for government funded programs like Medicaid or food stamps, but cannot afford their employer's health coverage. Others have a health care plan that doesn't fully cover their costs.