By Theresa Stratford for The Island Connection
Consensus was reached among the Kiawah Island Town Council in its regular Town Council meeting on April 6 to use the town’s portion of fines collected through violations of the emergency ordinance regarding COVID-19 restrictions to donate to a nonprofit that impacts the hospitality industry.
After sending the state its assessment portion of the fines, the Town had $5,800 left over. Although the clause to donate the Town’s portion of the money to a nonprofit impacting hospitality was put in place early on in the pandemic, they hadn’t specified which nonprofit.
Based on councilmember Scott Parker’s suggestion, the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic was unanimously chosen as the recipient of the donation.
Parker explained that many hospitality workers are typically without health insurance due to low wages and their dependence on tips.
Through the Hospitality Inclusion Project (HIP) with the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, hospitality workers in downtown Charleston, Johns Island, James Island, Folly Beach and the barrier islands qualify for free health care.
Other qualifications are to be between the ages of 18 and 65, uninsured and making less than $38,000 for an individual a year.
Families are also welcome to apply.
Carrie Moores, development and communication manager for the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, said, “We started this program in 2019 because we noticed that hospitality workers were a group of people who were forgoing medical care because they can’t afford it. They are a vulnerable group of people because although many are typically younger, in the 18 to 35 age group, they still need routine medical care.”
Moores said they noticed that many people in the hospitality industry were “skirting by” with their medical care and relying on their youth, but as Moore put it, “regular screenings are vital.”
The Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic’s HIP program provides primary care, dermatology, psychiatry, chronic disease management, gynecology, urology, cardiology, reproductive health, nutrition, prescriptions, lab work, imaging and free referrals to other sub-specialties as needed.
Those interested in the program have to apply on the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic’s website.
HIP launched in 2019, just in time for the pandemic, when the hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit.
Moores said they have had an increase in interest in HIP, especially now that the information about it is spreading.
“We have been engaging in more outreach,” she explained. “We want hospitality workers to know that we are here for them.”
Councilmember Maryanne Connelly said she knows someone that works at the Clinic and that in just one day “they received 42 applications for food service workers.”
In the Town Council meeting she said, “I wholeheartedly support this organization and the work they do for the service industry.”
Moores suggested that anyone interested in the program should establish themselves as a patient. “Don’t wait until you are sick,” she said.
The clinic is located on Johns Island at 3226 Maybank Highway and staffed completely by volunteers. The Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic is a nonprofit providing free medical care for the uninsured living at or below 299% of the Federal poverty level.
They receive no state or federal funding, but instead are completely supported by the local community.
“We thank the Town of Kiawah Island for this donation,” Moores added. “It speaks volumes on how the community supports our mission. We are only as healthy as the most vulnerable in our area. I think that is something we have learned a lot over the past year.”
Stephanie Braswell Edgerton, communications manager for the Town of Kiawah Island, clarified, “The donation of this money to the clinic will be earmarked for services used to provide hospitality industry applicants that the clinic receives. This donation of Town violation fines is a special case scenario. The Town also gives $150,000 in Charitable Grant donations every year to nonprofits, and the Barrier Island Free Medical Clinic is a reoccurring recipient of that as well.”