Lackey Clinic volunteer earns service award from Virginia Health Care Foundation

Staff writer

After 14 years of service under his belt, Lackey Clinic volunteer Emilio Alfaro has a Unsung Hero Volunteer Award to show for it.

The Virginia Health Care Foundation, a state public-private partnership, awarded Alfaro the honor for his role in helping people in need get the medical care they require. The clinic received a $2,000 check as part of Alfaro’s award.

Lackey Clinic is a faith-based clinic that provides dental, medical, behavioral and pharmaceutical services to 1,600 uninsured patients in Williamsburg, Yorktown and Newport News.

It’s that last service where Alfaro comes in — he spends most of his four days of volunteering per week filing out the sometimes complicated paperwork needed to secure prescription medicines. The free service gets people the medicine they need for no charge and a team of volunteers and paid staff make it happen.

“The medicines we get are brand names. It’s better than what I take,” Alfaro said.

In the past five years, Alfaro has helped process almost 18,000 prescriptions. That’s an average value of $8 million every year.

“It’s a very difficult application to fill out even for people who have high literacy and have a fax machine and a scanner and all those things,” said director of patient assistance Amber Martens, who oversees the program. “Some of these medications are extremely expensive and life saving.”

He’s one of the six original volunteers of the York-based clinic’s Lackey Medication Assistance Program, Martens said.

The retired NASA mechanical engineer found himself at the clinic when he drove his daughter there because she wanted to volunteer. Unfortunately, her eyesight was so bad the clinic wouldn’t have her. They took Alfaro instead, he said.

Though Alfaro’s primary task is helping on the logistical side of the clinic’s pharmacy, he’s become a jack-of-all-trades in the clinic. Since the Puerto Rico native is bilingual, he plays a key role as translator when the clinic helps patients who only speak Spanish. Alfaro is also a cook, and frequently shares his creations with coworkers. He also keeps up with recycling and taking out the trash for the clinic. The pleasure of work, specifically work that helps others, has kept him volunteering since 2004.

“I wanted to keep busy and over here they keep me busy,” he said.

The Virginia Health Care Foundation’s unsung heroes are physicans, donors and volunteers who provide primary health services to Virginians without insurance or in underserved areas as part of organizations that receive grant funding from the foundation.

“It is really for those individuals who are extraordinary like our Emilio,” clinic volunteers and events director Kim Spencer said of the award, for which she nominated Alfaro. “It seemed like an obvious choice really.”

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

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