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New Jersey Health Center Wins Stellar Financial and Volunteer Support from its Community

When Zufall Health officials in Dover, N.J., realized they would have to replace their aging mobile medical clinic last year, they had to contend with a possible $500,000 price tag for a new one.

Local donors got the health center off to a fast start with its fundraising efforts, garnering about $200,000 at a single event in the fall.  Continuing efforts have already boosted the total to about $300,000, said Frances Palm, the center’s CEO.

How does the center get so much support?  “The communications element is very important,” Palm said.

Indeed, the center’s efforts include an active, informative blog on its website, a monthly newsletter for patients and a quarterly newsletter (in English and Spanish) for the whole community.  Zufall’s YouTube offerings include a video about the mobile medical unit’s travels to locations ranging from local farms to community events.  The center also has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Many Zufall patients are uninsured, and community fundraising efforts and grants from foundations and government agencies provide supplemental funding.  “Most of our patients are very low income,” Palm said.

The center also has a related foundation that helps with finances.  Most of the health center’s board of directors are patients, many of whom are low income.  Having a separate foundation helps with outreach to the broader community, Palm said.  “You can build the kind of board that raises money.”

The steady outreach and fundraising efforts have helped the center to grow dramatically.  Launched in 1990 by Dr. Robert Zufall and his wife, Kathryn, in the old industrial city of Dover, the center now has 10 sites and two vans, one of which is dedicated to dentistry.  Palm noted that Dr. Zufall, now retired, continues to support the center in many ways.  For example, as part of the center’s fundraising, he created a 100-item wish list to coincide with his 100th birthday this year.

Money helps, but people make everything work, and the center pulls in volunteers to help at community events.  For example, this summer the center is bringing back its annual Smiles for Our Heroes event (which had been on hold during COVID) that offers free dental care to veterans.  Volunteer dentists and hygienists will join the dental staff for the daylong event, as will non-clinical volunteers who help to set up and coordinate activities.

Zufall has also been able to recruit community health workers, who typically stay for a year through the AmeriCorps volunteer program, Palm said.  “They’ve been wonderful.”