Caring for California: CareForce health clinic returns to Grass Valley (PHOTO GALLERY)

Grass Valley oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Doug Valentine (center) speaks with other practitioners in between tending to dental patients during the California CareForce Health Clinic Saturday at Nevada Union High School. This is the third time Grass Valley has hosted the clinic, which is free to all in the community, and the 31st clinic held by California CareForce.
Photo: Elias Funez

When California CareForce Health Clinic founder Pam Congdon went to her first free clinic in the greater Los Angeles area more than 10 years ago, she wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

“I thought it was going to be bunch of homeless people, but it was people like you and me,” Congdon said. “I never knew how much need there was.”

The event inspired her to found California CareForce to help provide medical, vision and dental services for free to people across the state.



Mindy Oberne speaks with an optometrist during the California CareForce Health Clinic Saturday. Oberne, along with husband Roger Lewis and retired nurse Phillip Vardara, were the primary donors to make the clinic a reality, along with countless volunteer hours from practitioners and community service organizations.
Photo: Elias Funez

Over the weekend, Congdon held her 31st health clinic on the Nevada Union High School campus.

“It’s important to me that people get the health care they need, and in this country we should be able to do that,” volunteer and donor Mindy Oberne said during the event.



“Every other developed country has universal health care.”

Oberne, along with husband Roger Lewis, donated $25,000 to help ensure the event had enough funding.

Grass Valley resident and California CareForce Health Clinic volunteer Kate Dumont shows off her new glasses after getting her eyes checked during her down time at the clinic.
Photo: Elias Funez

“In planning for this, retired nurse Philip Vardara called me up because he said we might not have the clinic,” Oberne said.

At that moment Oberne pledged her donation, and Vardara said he would donate $25,000 as well.

Nevada County donated $15,000 for the event this year, and Mercy Medical Group donated $10,000, as did others.

Practitioners from as far away as Palm Springs came to provide dental and vision care at the cline, which lasted from Friday through Sunday Workspaces for dentists and assistants to work was set up in NU’s wrestling gym.
Photo: Elias Funez

“And it’s given all of our service organizations things to do,” Oberne said. “This is a community event.”

This is the third time that the California CareForce Health Clinic has come to Grass Valley. Last time it was at the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building, and the first time it was at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

This year, the event used Nevada Union High School the gyms for medical, dental, and vision services, all free.

Doctors, nurses, and volunteers gather around a table to collect the tools and items necessary to tend to their clients during last weekend’s free California CareForce health clinic.
Photo: Elias Funez

In the wrestling room, dentists and assistants gathered around a long table full of every type of tool or supply that might be needed for a particular procedure, while nearby, cloth barriers divided patients as they lay back in dentist chairs.

Practitioners from as far away as Palm Springs and as close as Grass Valley all donated their time.

“I was surprised how detailed and thorough the process was, from doing the distance reading charts to the glaucoma test,” Grass Valley’s Kate Dumont said.

Attendees get their eyes checked.
Photo: Elias Funez

Tests for macular degeneration, cataracts and others were also performed.

“And within an hour I was done and I was saying this is amazing. So I’m going to make a donation to help you all,” Dumont said to founder Congdon after receiving her new glasses Saturday.

Dumont was volunteering Saturday when a lull in those seeking service occurred. So she decided to get her eyes checked.

Grass Valley oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Doug Valentine (left) speaks with other practitioners in between tending to dental patients during the California CareForce Health Clinic Saturday at Nevada Union High School.
Photo: Elias Funez

“The tone of this event is so calm and so upbeat and so welcoming,” Dumont said. “There is a can-do attitude and ability to work through problems with medical histories or issues.”

“Patients are so grateful to get the service and volunteers are here because they want to make a difference so there is a great camaraderie,” Congdon said.

“Because some people are scared to come to something like this. Volunteers help make it comfortable to be a great situation,” Congdon said.

Vision patients are able to choose from many designer brand frames for new glasses during the California CareForce health clinic.
Photo: Elias Funez

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez email efunez@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4230.



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