KINGSTON TWP. — There was definitely a different definition of “dancing shoes” on the Lands at Hillside Farms Friday night as a majority of the 200-plus guests sported cowboy boots and their favorite western attire.
“New Country” was the theme of the annual Volunteers in Medicine annual Music, Memories and Medicine Gala Event held inside and on the grounds of the former Conyngham Family Cottage.
Proceeds from the $150-per-plate event assist with the overall operations and direct patient care at the VIM Medical and Dental Clinic on North Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre.
Volunteers in Medicine is a nonprofit organization that helps meet the primary health care needs of the working uninsured and under-insured populations in 93 locations across the United States that vary in size and scope.
The generosity of donors and volunteers in the medical community have enabled the clinic to expand services beyond primary care at the Wilkes-Barre location, said Kathleen Hirthler, assistant medical director and a nurse practitioner who co-chaired the event with her husband, Michael.
Executive Director Kelly Ranieli said that in addition to doctors and dentists, the clinic now has chiropractors, clinical pharmacists, psychologists, registered dietitians, a social worker and others volunteering their services.
There are 93 VIM locations in the United States. The Wilkes-Barre branch was first envisioned by Dr. Susan Sordoni, who conducted a feasibility study that revealed 35,000 working Luzerne County residents had no access to health insurance. The clinic opened in 2008 and operates through private foundation grants and donations; the annual gala is the major fund raiser.
“And this gala is extra special because it’s our fifth anniversary,” Ranieli said.
Each year, gala organizers choose a different musical theme, Ranieli said. “This year, it’s a country theme, so we have a semi-local entertainer, Aaron Kelly, who’s from the Dushore area and making it big in Nashville. He made it into the Top 5 (in Season 9) of American Idol.”
Crestwood High School student Alyssa Golden, of Mountain Top, entertained during the cocktail hour.
“We’re happy to have rising local entertainment; it really makes this very exciting,” Hirthler said.
Among those enjoying the festivities was Debbie Hollander, who volunteers at the clinic doing things such as screening patients and filing charts. “I do anything they need me to do that’s non-medical,” she said.
Hollander, of Kingston, said she decided to volunteer because “it’s an excellent cause and there’s a definite need in our community,” noting the high unemployment rate and that people receiving unemployment compensation also qualify for services.
Dr. Rich Grossman, a dentist from Kingston, is one of about a dozen dentists who volunteer at the clinic.
“Some of us come during the work day, some people come at night. We’re a very dedicated bunch, just trying to give back to the community,” Grossman said.
And that’s something to celebrate.