Preparations for the largest Seventh-day Adventist free clinic in U.S. history are coming together with budding support from big-name Hollywood celebrities, but more volunteers are needed, organizers said.
Your Best Pathway to Health, the main organizer of the April event, intends to provide more than $29 million in free services to a record 10,000 people over 2 ½ days in Los Angeles.
About 700 volunteers have signed up to provide a wide range of medical and dental services similar to what Your Best Pathway to Health in partnership with the Seventh-day Adventist Church offered earlier this year at free clinics in San Antonio, Texas, and Spokane, Washington. But with high demand expected in a city where homelessness is a growing concern, organizers will expand their offerings to provide more free clothing, including shoes for the first time, and two new departments: free legal services and financial services.
A total of 3,000 volunteers are needed, especially in dentistry, eye care, and surgery, said Lela Lewis, president of Your Best Pathway to Health, a service of ASI, a supporting ministry of the Adventist Church.
“We are in desperate need for volunteers right now,” Lewis told the Adventist Review. “We need everyone. There is a place for everyone.”
A sign-up form and information about discounted hotel rates are available at pathwaytohealthvolunteer.org, the website for the April 27-29 event.
Several Adventist-affiliated organizations have agreed to assist with the free clinic, including Adventist Health West, whose White Memorial hospital in Los Angeles is making operating rooms available for hysterectomies, gallbladder surgeries, and other procedures. Loma Linda University Health is helping recruit skilled volunteers.
But essential support has also come from outside the church, Lewis said.
The adage “it’s not what you know but who you know” appears to be especially true in Los Angeles, where free clinic organizers made a breakthrough in preparations after winning the backing of Jimmy Sedghi, a founder of the Beverly Hills Academy of the Arts and former advisor to Iran's shah.
Lewis met Sedghi through a recent Adventist convert, a woman who was baptized through John Bradshaw’s It Is Written television ministry and belongs to the Beverly Hills Academy of the Arts.
“She is really connected all through Hollywood,” Lewis said.
Upon learning about the free clinic, the woman arranged for Lewis to meet Sedghi at his home, the first of multiple meetings between the two. At that first visit, Lewis showed Sedghi a video of the free clinic held last April in San Antonio, where nearly 6,120 people received $20 million in free healthcare over 2 ½ days.
Sedghi had tears in his eyes when the video ended, Lewis said.
“This is what we should be doing,” Sedghi told Lewis. “Why are we all fighting about religion? It is so wrong. This is true religion.”
Later Sedghi took Lewis and several of her associates on a tour of the Beverly Hills Academy of the Arts, where he introduced her group as “members of the church of angels.”
Sedghi, who is of Jewish heritage, has also praised the Adventist Church for observing Saturday as Sabbath, telling Lewis, “It is wonderful to meet people who keep Shabbat.”
Lewis said Sedghi has “thrown his entire weight” behind Your Best Pathway to Health and was enlisting Hollywood stars to co-sponsor the free clinic. She said it was too early to announce any names.
“I cannot name the Hollywood movie stars who are looking to get involved as sponsors, but it is very interesting to have this opportunity to witness to these people,” she said. “There are some whom I have viewed as highly influential celebrities, people I would see in a magazine. I feel that if Jesus was here, He would be witnessing to these people.”
The video about the free clinic in San Antonio that brought tears to Jimmy Sedghi's eyes.
With the support of Sedghi and city lawmakers, Lewis has reached a tentative agreement to lease the Los Angeles Convention Center, a 400,000-square-foot (37,160-square-meter) facility in the heart of the city. Volunteers will start setting up the free clinic on April 25, and a special worship service will end the event on April 30with speakers Mark Finley, the evangelist; Daniel R. Jackson, president of the Adventist Church in North America; and DuaneMcKey, assistant to the president of the Adventist world church for the Total Member Involvement program and director of the church’s Sabbath School and Personal Ministries department.
As a follow-up program, organizers plan to dispatch mini-clinic health vans to Adventist churches in the community to provide medical and dental care to those unable to attend the main event. Scores of people have been unable to receive treatment at previous free clinics because of high demand for particular services, particularly dental care.
“We’ll go from Adventist church to Adventist church so the thousands of people who didn’t have opportunities to get in will now be able to,” Lewis said.
Your Best Pathway to Health is organizing the vans in cooperation with Adventist Community Services.
Your Best Pathway to Health is also working with the Adventist Church to submit a proposal to Los Angeles authorities about a follow-up program to assist the homeless.
Facing a 12 percent increase in homeless people in two years, Los Angeles declared a public emergency in September and proposed spending $100 million on housing and other services to deal with the situation. About 45,000 homeless people live in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, according to city estimates.
Homeless people will be a primary focus of the free clinic, Lewis said.
“We will cater our services to make sure we are meeting the needs of the community, especially the homeless people,” she said.