The food pantry and Healing Gift Free Clinic at Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in Omaha were vital to nearby residents; the church wanted to do even more.
A member of the all-volunteer staff counsels a patient at Kountze’s Healing Gift Clinic.
The first Lutheran church founded west of the Missouri River, Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska, has no shortage of outreach opportunities to share with volunteers.
One ministry is particularly striking. Since 2010, Kountze has sponsored a health clinic on church property—with family health services free to those in need of basic medical care. This Healing Gift Free Clinic, fully staffed by volunteers, was co- founded by two, longtime church members, Drs. Jerry Fischer and Bob Fonda.
In 2015, opportunity knocked for Kountze Memorial. Twice. The TV station next door offered to sell Kountze Memorial its property, and Omaha’s Methodist Hospital learned the building that was home to its nearby community clinic was being razed.
The confluence of these events encouraged the members of Kountze Memorial to think larger. They envisioned a new facility that could offer a large, permanent space for Kountze’s free clinic—and add space for a paying tenant, Methodist Hospital. Kountze’s food pantry, too, could move to larger quarters in the new building.
Dr. Fonda recalls the original church home for these ministries: “At first, the food pantry was just a closet with a little bit of food donated by church members. For the clinic, the church graciously made four closet-sized areas into exam rooms.”
“Expanding our ministry and embarking on this building was something we wanted to do,” Dr. Fischer says. “The question was, would anybody back it? Could we get people to understand what we were trying to do? We had the need, we went to the Mission Investment Fund, and when the loan was approved so quickly, it took about 12,000 tons of weight off the congregation.”
The new Kountze Commons opened in October 2017. The food pantry occupies the lower level, and the medical exam space, alternately used by the Methodist Community Health Clinic and the Healing Gift Free Clinic, is on the upper level. The building also houses space where Lutheran Family Services provides mental health care, and a fully licensed pharmacy, where Healing Gift patients can fill prescriptions to treat high blood pressure, diabetes and pulmonary disease, all free of charge.
The church’s long-operating food pantry now occupies the lower level of Kountze Commons.
“Many of the patients might live on $500 a month,” Dr. Fischer said, “and if their medications cost them hundreds of dollars, they’re not going to survive. MIF’s building loan has allowed us to provide truly needy individuals as close to comprehensive care as is possible in this type of environment.” Generous contributions by church members and other donors facilitate continuous operations.
With the completion of Kountze Commons and the ongoing dedication of the many volunteers, Dr. Fischer says each patient in the clinic and each visitor to the food pantry walk away with a powerful message. “That is, ‘We see you, you are important, and we care.’ They all hear that. That’s why we’re here.”
Link to the original article can be found here: https://www.mif.elca.org/mission-investment-stories/kountze-omaha