DARDANELLE, AR – It’s five o’clock on a Thursday night. Most people are getting off of work and calling it a day. But in one small building in Dardanelle, the night is just getting started.
“A lady came in the other day. She could hardly see,” says Community Service Award Nominee Don Guess. “She said it’s been 16 years since I have been to an eye doctor. I didn’t have the money.”
“I just needed the sweatshirt up to get to her arm and there was a little dirt around the cuff. It was nothing bad, but she said, ‘I’m so embarrassed. I didn’t get this clean enough. You see, I don’t have money to go to the laundromat and I’ve been washing my clothes in the sink,’ ” says volunteer RN Sandy Kremp.
“I go home from every clinic with tears in both eyes,” says Guess. “One is tears of joy. One is tears of sadness. The joy comes from the ones we helped tonight. The tears of sadness are the ones that are out there that we are not able to help tonight.”
Don Guess knew there was a need but never imagined how big it was. Six years ago, he, along with Dr. James Carter, had a dream to open a free medical clinic to serve patients in Pope and Yell counties.
“They asked me if I would do this,” says Guess. “Go out and raise funds and get people to sponsor the clinic and get volunteers. We just told them our mission and what we wanted to do and asked them if they would like to be a part of it.”
The response was overwhelming. Thanks to the hard work of Don and Dr. Carter, and the generosity of the community, The River Valley Christian Medical Clinic opened its doors in 2007 in a donated building in Dardanelle.
“I saw a little clinic open up and 10-15 patients every two or three weeks,” says clinic volunteer Richard Pierce. “It’s far past that from day one. We had 125-130 patients within the first month of it being opened.”
Staffed with doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists who volunteer on a rotating basis, the clinic is open on the first and third Thursday of each month.
“They come and it’s contagious,” says Guess.
“This sounds kind of funny, but it’s a selfish pleasure. I get so much more out of it than what I think I give,” says Kremp. “God meant for us to help other people. That’s how he designed us.”
Most nights it’s standing room only. Patients line the hallways. For residents, like Karin Scissell, it’s their only option for medical care.
“I would have to do without my medication if it wasn’t for this clinic,” says Scissell.
“You see some pretty interesting stories come through the door,” says Pierce. “We had a couple who got married here at the clinic a year or two ago.”
“The eye clinic is in the back of the building,” says Guess. She came through here and hugged everybody’s neck who would stand still. ‘I can see. I can see.’ It was the happiest lady over a pair of glasses.”
Now in their fifth year, the Christian Medical Clinic has provided more than $11 million in services to the River Valley area. In five years, Don Guess has only missed one evening.
“Don has a true servant’s heart,” says Pierce. “Don loves to help people. In my heart, he would have never dreamed of this nomination. I thought that’s just one simple thing that would honor him for the work he secretly does that people just don’t know a whole lot about.”
Area churches provide a meal for the volunteers at each clinic. There has been so much interest that they are on an 18-month rotation.
And due to Don’s efforts, there are more than 350 volunteers signed up to be a part of the clinic.