Danielle Kahl, 25, of Los Angeles, says it’s been years since she saw an optometrist. The left arm on her three-year-old prescription eyeglasses is missing, and making do has been difficult. Kahl, who is unemployed, arrived at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena at 5:30 a.m. Sunday with her 23-month-old son, James, to reserve her place at the 6th annual Care Harbor LA free clinic. Kahl, like thousands of other people from throughout Southern California, had lined up to obtain the wristbands that would guarantee them treatment Thursday at one of the nation’s largest events promising free health care to all comers.
From Thursday through Sunday, hundreds of doctors, dentists, nurses and other volunteers provide screenings, treatment, prevention resources and follow-up care to thousands of uninsured, underinsured and at-risk individuals and families. At the clinic, patients also will be able to receive HIV tests, specialty medical care and primary care.
“I’ve never been to an event like this,” Kahl said. “This is so cool.”
Don Manelli, president and founder of Care Harbor, notes that one goal for the event is not only to provide people with quality, holistic medical care, but to help eligible residents sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
“We want to create an event so that the people going through the line this year are not going to have to have to be in line next year,” Manelli said. “We are working hard to become obsolete.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose office is one of the sponsors of Care Harbor LA, said that the event is a testament to the profound work of volunteers to help those in need.
“Care Harbor is an example of compassion, ingenuity, skills, expertise, time and money, rolled into an annual event to help those who are less fortunate,” he said. “It represents the very best of our communities.”
For Antonio Relnado-Sergio, 52 of Van Nuys, who is homeless, looking down at the green wristband that will admit him into the clinic on Thursday gave him a sense of relief. After losing both of his front teeth, he will finally have to opportunity to see a dentist. Relnado-Sergio says he has been actively seeking work but has been told an unattractive smile is to blame for the lack of follow-up interviews.
“I got it,” said Relnado-Sergio, referring to his wristband. “God bless the organizers of this event. This is amazing.”