Pittston, PA
         Care and Concern Free Health Clinic
 We are a parish of the consolidated churches of St. Casimir's,
 St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist and St. Joseph's
 Free Clinic thanks Sister Frances 
 Pictured left to right Anna Cocco,
 Clinic Director, Sister Altavilla and
 Deacon Jim Cortegerone, Clinic
 Director.
The Care and Concern Free Health Clinic,
recently held a social to honor Sister Frances
Altavilla R.G.S. who has been volunteering as a
licensed clinical counselor for the free clinic. Sister
Frances has been transferred to the Baltimore
MD area. She has helped many of our clients with
her knowledge and kindness and will be missed
by all. The Free Clinic is opened every Wednesday. Registration is from 5:30 to 6:30
p.m. and is located  in the Seton School Building,
William Street, Pittston. For information,
call 654-9923.
  YOUR HELP IS DESPERATELY NEEDED: 

  If you are a Doctor, Physician's Assistant or Nurse Practitioner-the Care and
  Concern Free Health Clinic recently treated its 1000th patient marking a
  milestone for the Free Health Clinic in Pittston.  The Clinic is staffed by an all
  volunteer group of dedicated professionals.  However due to the increase of
  people seeking medical care, the Clinic finds itself in an urgent situation. 
  Doctors, Physician's Assistants and Nurse Practitioners are desperately
  needed to help staff the Clinic on a rotating basis.  If you can volunteer any
  time on any  Wednesday evening from 5:30-8:00PM, please call Cathy
  Rusnok at 654-0053 during any weekday or Gloria Blandina at 693-0766 in
  the evening.
November 15, 2009
 Free Health Clinic five years old
 More than 1600 patients served through more than 7200
 volunteer hours
 By Ed Ackerman
 
Pittston Sunday Dispatch Editor
 
 Ann Cocco couldn't stay retired for long.
 Principals of the Care and Concern Free Health Clinic. From left, Dr. John
 Callahan, Nurse Practitioner Diane Barush, Bernice Ambrosino, RN, Gloria
 Blandina, director, and Dr. Lewis Druffner.

 When you serve people for an entire career, as Ann did while working for the
 Welfare Department, it's hard to turn that enthusiasm off. "Actually,
 impossible," Ann said on the second anniversary of the Care and
 Concern Free Health Care Clinic which was her brainchild.

 "I always had a dream of what I would do when I retired," she said, "and it
 was really to open a shelter. But I knew that was financially out of reach.
 Then one day something just popped into my head - a free health clinic, a
 place to care for all those people who have fallen between the cracks."
 Ann, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish Community in Pittston, took
 her idea to her friend Nancy Baiera who serves with her on the parish's Care
 and Concern Ministry. Nancy took it to Deacon Jim Cortegerone and Jim
 took it to pastor Msgr. John Bendik.
 
 That was in April of 2007.
 With Msgr. Bendik's blessing and a start-up grant from the Diocesan Appeal,
 the clinic opened on Nov. 7, 2007, in the former Seton Catholic High School
 building on William Street in Pittston. Ann remembers it well. So do Dr. John
 Callahan, who volunteers his time, Gloria Blandina who serves as director,
 Jim Cortegerone and Msgr. Bendik.
 
"We remember it because of the turnout," Ann says. "One person showed
 up. We opened the doors at 5 p.m. and the first patient walked in at 7:25.
 And all she needed was a form filled out."
 
Times have changed.
 Now the staff tries to limit the weekly turnout to 21 patients but they have
 been known to serve as many as 35 in one evening.
 The clinic, as it has been since day one, is open Wednesday evenings with
 registration from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
 During the past 24 months, the clinic has:
  Treated more than 1,600 people.
  Logged more than 7,200 volunteer hours.
  Hosted internships for pharmacy and nursing students.
  Offered educational programs for chronic diseases.
  Coordinated lab tests and x-rays at no cost to patients.
  Assisted more than 800 people with Public Assistance needs.
  Coordinated care for patients with urgent dental needs.
  Offered nutritional counseling to those in need of this service.

 The clinic has a licensed social worker available for counseling sessions and
 has been able to assist hundreds of patients with free medication through a
 grant from the CEO/Blue Ribbon Foundation.

 Those statistics are provided by Blandina who adds, "People from White
 Haven to Clarks Summit have come to the clinic in need of help with sore
 throats to late stage cancer diagnosis. We have served them all. 50% of the
 people are referred for some form of Public Assistance."
 
 The impact reaches far beyond those who show up at the doors on
 Wednesday, Blandina points out. "We just served our 1603th patient," she
 says. "That's 1603 patients who did not go to the local ER. That amounts to
 huge savings for everyone."
 
 "My greatest thrill," Msgr. Bendik said, "is seeing the dedication of the
 workers each and every Wednesday night. Their smiles, their eagerness are
 still evident two full years later. In fact, they keep wanting to do more."
 He explained that the free health clinic is one of three "arms" of the parish's
 Care and Concern Ministry. The other two are a free food pantry and a free
 kids' clothes closet. "All are staffed by volunteers," he said, "and not all of the
 volunteers are from our parish. That makes it even more gratifying."
 
 While none of those involved with the clinic are interested in taking credit,
 perhaps the most reluctant is the one who is most integral, Dr. Callahan, who
 has been on board since the beginning. Dr. Callahan insists the work he does
 is not on a volunteer basis. "I get paid," he says. "I get paid in smiles. And
 sometimes, in 'thank yous' … not that we expect it."
 
 Dr. Lewis Druffner also volunteers his services as does Dr. Mary Sewatsky
 when her schedule permits. Dr. Joseph Costello, a podiatrist, donates one
 Wednesday a month, even though that is his day off, and his wife, Mary,
 comes along to assist. "My daughter Kayla used to come along but she's now
 at the University of Pennsylvania," Dr. Costello said.
 
 The volunteers, who number more than 100, include registered nurses and
 licensed practical nurses, a pharmacist and pharmacy students, social
 workers, a dental hygienist and a licensed nutritionist. On any given
 Wednesday there are usually 30 or more volunteers on hand.
 "Being part of this is a very humbling experience," Blandina said. "The clinic
 has taken on a life of its own. Whenever there's been a need, someone,
 somehow has shown up just at the right time and suddenly we were offering a
 new service. It is truly an incredible journey."
 
 And what does Ann Cocco think of all of this?
 "I think we should expand," she says. "I'd love to offer a well baby clinic.
 And don't think for a minute I've forgotten about a shelter."
 Ann just cannot stay retired.
 
 Send donations to Care and Concern Ministries, 35 William St.,
 Pittston, PA 18640. For information call 654-9923.

 The Scoreboard

The Health Clinic is open every Thursday and is free of charge.
 

We have had 7,078 visits by 3,033 patients to date.


.
Pediatric Health Clinic
Opened every first & third Thursday

All services are free and confidential.
We have had 235 make 767 visits to the clinic.