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Gospel Mission receives $700K donation from Plath family

A $700,000 donation announced Monday completes the funding of an expanded free medical clinic expected to open in Yakima late this year.

The Yakima Union Gospel Mission received the single largest donation in its 80-year history from Dorothy and Fred Plath through the Yakima Valley Community Foundation. The gift is a major contribution toward funding of the mission’s $3.5 million Medical Care Center, which is under construction on North First Street and is scheduled to open by year end, officials with the nonprofit said.

The expansion is planned to include approximately 3,700 more square feet of medical rooms along with separate living space for men and woman entering the Mission’s 12-month New Life addiction recovery program.

Founded in 1936 to help men left reeling by the Great Depression, the Mission has broadened its focus over the decades, as demonstrated by the clientele the medical clinic serves.

“Most of the patients served by the Medical Care Center are employed and either uninsured or underinsured,” said Stephanie Carlson, director of communication for the mission.

Approximately 3 percent of those served by the medical center are homeless, said Dottie Hildebrand, director of donor relations.

“The rest, for the most part, are the working poor, the underinsured. There was a big gap in access for health care,” Hildebrand said.

“It also helps relieve the load from our emergency room, which would be the next place they would go if they don’t have insurance.”

The clinic is staffed by one full-time volunteer physician and at least 20 more providers, along with other volunteers that include translators, she said.

Closed on Sunday and Monday, it averages more than 1,200 visits a month, Carlson said. At this point, “we’re on track to have 15,000 patient visits” in 2016, Hildebrand said.

The new medical center being built near the existing facility is necessary as it sees continued growth. In 2012, the center had 8,000 patient visits; that number increased in 2013 to approximately 10,000 patient visits, Hildebrand noted.

And its patient count increased 15 percent from 11,160 in 2014 to 13,193 last year, Executive Director Rick Phillips said in January.

Monday’s announcement of the $700,000 donation from the family that founded Washington Fruit and Produce Company comes halfway through a year that began with some financial challenges.

Nonprofit officials announced in late December that the mission’s donations had dropped about $1 million from 2014.

The general fund was in good shape in January, Phillips said as fundraising continued at that point for the medical center expansion.

“Unfortunately, due to a year’s delay with hearings and appeals, along with addition requirements, the cost has increased,” he said.

The appeal, which was rejected by the city, was brought by a group of North First Street business owners concerned about vandalism and other problems blamed on the homeless.

The Mission provides food, shelter, clothing and medical services. In 2014, the nonprofit served 146,631 meals, gave out 3,546 boxes of food and provided 46,679 nights of lodging.

Fred Plath founded Washington Fruit in 1916. The family, which still owns the company, has also pledged $2 million toward the Downtown Yakima Central Plaza Project and helped fund Plath Hall at Perry Technical Institute, among other civic efforts such as the medical center donation.

“It is the right thing to do,” company president Rick Plath said.

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