Nurse Betty Woods volunteering in the Jewish Community Free Clinic's on-site medications dispensary. (Photo/Armando Alvarez)
Nurse Betty Woods volunteering in the Jewish Community Free Clinic's on-site medications dispensary. (Photo/Armando Alvarez)

Jewish clinic wins $100K grant to expand free medical services in Sonoma County

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The Jewish Community Free Clinic in Santa Rosa, which offers free medical care “drawing on Jewish traditions of Tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (healing the world),” recently won a $100,000 grant from a Sonoma County women’s giving circle, allowing it to expand its mission.

The clinic, which serves people in need without regard to religion or background, was awarded an impact grant on Nov. 5 from the Impact 100 Redwood Circle, a philanthropic group committed to creating “transformative, lasting change” in the county, according to the group’s website.

The JCFC will be using the funds to update its record-keeping from a paper system to an electronic one, employing software used by most health care providers in Sonoma County. This will allow the clinic to refer its patients to other medical services with ease, said co-founder and executive director Donna Waldman.

Donna Waldman (Photo/Gabriela Buchholz Athens)
Donna Waldman (Photo/Gabriela Buchholz Athens)

“It’s a way for our low-income, disadvantaged clients from minority communities to have the same access that you and I have having Kaiser or Sutter,” Waldman said. “We consider it an equity issue.”

Operating for over 20 years, the nonprofit clinic offers a variety of services to patients, including mental-health counseling, primary care medicine and childhood exams, all for free. A majority of clients, either new to the area or without insurance, use the clinic for vaccinations and physicals required for school or work, Waldman said. Some 3,000 individuals have been seen at the practice this year, more than twice the number seen pre-pandemic.

Almost entirely volunteer-operated and running off a small budget built from other grants and donations, the JCFC would not have been able to pay for licensing the electronic health records system without the help of the Impact 100 Redwood Circle, Waldman noted.

“It was terrific. It was just terrific,” she said of receiving the grant.

This is the Impact 100 Redwood Circle’s seventh time awarding the impact grant, its largest award.

Founded in 2014, the group has 260 active members, all women in Sonoma County. The giving circle builds its grants with $1,000 yearly donations from each member, which are then redistributed throughout the community. Since giving out its first grant in 2016, the group has awarded more than $1.1 million to local organizations.

We’re obligated to give back. We’re obligated to make the world a better place.

Much of that money has been distributed in the form of the impact grant, though the circle hands out smaller community grants throughout the year. To be eligible for the impact grant, an organization must be nominated by a member of the giving circle. Nominees are then invited to submit a proposal detailing a specific project that the funds would support. After a careful vetting process, three finalists are presented to the members for a vote. The clinic was one of 28 nominees this year.

Previous winners include the LIME Foundation, which provides educational and career resources to disadvantaged youth, and 4Cs Sonoma County, a nonprofit focused on early childhood education.

Founding member and 2022 impact grant committee co-chair Ina Chun said the group seeks to support organizations that would not be able to accomplish their goals without outside support.

“Our goal is to look back in five or 10 years and say … how did this change the landscape of food deserts, or homelessness, or community clinic services?” Chun said. “How did we create change in a meaningful and lasting way?”

The JCFC is dedicated to making that kind of change. The clinic is rooted in Jewish values, Waldman said, though not all staff are Jewish. No one who shows need is ever turned away.

“We’re obligated to give back,” Waldman said. “We’re obligated to make the world a better place.”

Lillian Ilsley-Greene
Lillian Ilsley-Greene

Lillian Ilsley-Greene was a staff writer at J. from 2022-2023.