Faith, freedom, love, unity, innovation, and excellence are values driving the “singleness of heart” behind Compassion Vancouver Heights, a compassion clinic serving the vulnerable, underserved, and underinsured members of our community. The clinic provides free basic health care and social services resources. Led through partnerships with nine local churches and many devoted volunteers, Compassion Vancouver is designed to show the love of God through service to our neighbors.
“I love what I do,” says Debbie Engley, clinic coordinator for Compassion Vancouver Heights with her husband, Jeff. “We can have a real impact on our community when we work together – we share faith with words and actions, and that is why I do it.”
You don’t have to believe in God to attend the clinic and benefit from health services. The annual Compassion Vancouver Heights clinic happens the third week in July at the Columbia Presbyterian Church. Guests usually arrive early to the clinic to line up and are helped on a first come first serve basis. Services offered include medical screenings, dental cleanings and fillings, dental extractions, eye exams and glasses, massages, foot care, free haircuts, social services fair, and children’s activities. There are also Spanish and Russian interpreters.
“We have as many volunteers as guests, and we want to make a one-on-one connection,” says Debbie. “I just know wonderful things are going to happen that day for people who come into the clinic.”
Health, hope, and choosing compassionate action are the focus of team leaders and volunteers making Compassion Vancouver Heights such a positive experience.
“When a person or family comes through the door, I feel an automatic love for them,” says Annmarie Roberts, Compassion Vancouver volunteer. This year will be her fifth year serving. “When I was asked by a good friend if I would like to join her to volunteer to help those in need, I felt God’s call to say, yes, and it was such a meaningful experience, I have volunteered every year since,” she shares.
In July 2018, Compassion Vancouver served 240 guests with the help of 266 volunteers. More than 400 lunches were served. Guests receive a blessing bag filled with various hygiene items and fun things for kids.
“We learn more every year,” says Debbi. “You get excited about the clinic and other people get excited too.”
Compassion Vancouver also partners with several agencies and local nonprofits, including Compassion Connect in Portland and Vancouver Heights Neighborhood Association. The clinic’s partnership with Clark College includes shuttles to the dental clinic where dental hygiene students volunteer to give cleanings. Dental students from Oregon Health and Science University also volunteer. Hands of Favor , a nonprofit ministry and community service for underserved people, contributes free haircuts, and Medical Teams International offers Mobile Dental Vans for additional dental services, which Debbie says is a big need.
“Compassion Connect provides the Compassion Clinic model that we use for our clinics,” says Debbie, “and also leadership tools and dental and medical equipment.”
Debbie explains that not all churches are the same size, but this means churches have the opportunity to participate in many ways, including collecting eye glasses, hygiene items, or being a team leader. Churches helped with the lunches last year. “You find your gift,” she adds, “and say, ‘I can serve in that way.’”
Compassion Vancouver Heights is a powerful collaboration thanks to the effort from the local churches and volunteers. The Heights clinic includes a prayer and follow-up room where guests can come and talk with someone if needed or simply enjoy a prayer and learn more about the partner churches.
“Each year we have new leaders coming to our meetings, and it has been a blessing to work with all of these people of faith from different church backgrounds,” says Debbie. “We were meant to live in community, help each other, and rely on each other.”
Compassion Beyond Vancouver
Life changing transformation and compassion are happening around the country. Hundreds of churches and thousands of volunteers are collaborating by choosing unity over division to provide healthcare to our overlooked neighbors. With the first Compassion Clinic opening in 2006 in Rockwood, a neighborhood in the northwest section of Gresham, Oregon, the volunteer heart-led work has evolved throughout the Portland Metro area, Washington, Idaho and Arizona.
“Now the dream is for a national expansion to touch even more neighborhoods across the country, and to also have more practical tools and resources to serve neighborhoods.” says Compassion Connect Communications Director Anna Johnson. “We want to lift up and empower local communities to do this together.”
According to Compassion Connect, more than 3,000 guests were served in 2018 with more than 3,100 volunteers and 126 churches partnering to share time, help, leadership, and resources.
“You can see the waterfall impact over the last 10 years,” says Anna. “You can see the incredible output for humble hearts who want to see their community transformed.”