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Miracles Abound at Charitable Pharmacy

“[The Charitable Pharmacy] shows me that God works miracles. It’s given me spiritual hope.”
– Charles Littleton, Charitable Pharmacy Patient

Have you ever been part of a miracle? I have…three days a week for the past year and a half. Working at the Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio has allowed me to experience the unexplained and unexpected blessings God offers to us all…but that we often overlook in our busy lives. Though ‘busy’ is usually an understatement at the Pharmacy, we start each day with prayer, asking God to bless our 1,500-plus patients through us. I’d like to share the stories of just a few of those patients with you…

When Jason* first came to the Charitable Pharmacy, his clothes hung loosely on an almost frail frame. Diagnosed with HIV, Jason had lost a considerable amount of weight, and having diabetes only complicated the issue. As Jason came to the Pharmacy each month, he began to open up about other problems in his life. When the weather turned bitterly cold, Jason came into my office to ask if I knew of any homeless shelters that would accept someone with his criminal record. At the time, Jason was sleeping on the streets in below-zero temperatures. Not being a social worker, I had no idea where to begin…but I called around until I was finally put in touch with the right person. After a multitude of conversations, Jason was finally allowed into the shelter, and gratitude shone from his eyes the next time I saw him.

* * *

Curt* limped into the Pharmacy’s waiting room, bent over his cane due to back pain. His face was downcast, his expression reflecting defeat. Waiting for a decision on his disability application, Curt’s only source of income was from food stamps, which cannot be used to purchase the blood pressure and pain medications he needed. A few months after his first visit to the Pharmacy, Curt was also diagnosed with diabetes, and we were able to provide him with a blood glucose monitor and test strips, which without insurance cost about $1 per strip. Changes to his diet radically improved Curt’s health, and he now walks with a straight back and a smile on his face. It’s gratifying to think we helped put that smile there.

* * *

Michael* came to the Pharmacy from a local halfway house, meaning he’d recently been released from prison. After his first visit, our receptionist brought me one of the commitment cards we give out to local churches and other folks we think might be interested in supporting the Pharmacy’s ministry. Michael had filled it out, offering to volunteer at the Pharmacy. Many of our patients are eager to show their gratitude, and volunteering is one way they can give back. Yet the unpredictability of poverty often prevents people from serving. Still, Michael had given me his case manager’s name and phone number, so I called the next time I needed a substitute door greeter. From the first day, Michael has been extremely dependable, and his presence helps bridge the gap between staff/volunteers and patients, between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ I just hope the experience has been as rewarding for Michael as it has been for me.

* * *

One of the hardest parts of my job comes about when a non-English-speaking patient visits the Pharmacy. Often they bring an interpreter with them, but if not, we call the Language Line, a service that offers instantaneous translation over the phone. I’ll never forget the day that Fatima* came into my office…as the voice on the phone began translating our questions into the Somali language, Fatima started to cry. Alarmed, our Executive Director/Pharmacist Allan Zaenger asked if she was in pain, but she shook her head ‘no.’ Finally she said, through the translator, that she was terribly worried about not being able to take her medications. After reassuring her that we could help, Allan and I took Fatima through the rest of the registration process. A few hours later, Fatima was in my office again, receiving the medications she had been so concerned about. Now, with a big smile on her face, she said two of the only English words she knew: ‘Thank you.’

* * *

As I said, miracles happen every day here at the Charitable Pharmacy, thanks in large part the amazing people God uses to bless our patients: volunteer pharmacists, senior pharmacy students, pre-pharmacy students, hospitality volunteers, local church members, and the wonderfully-compassionate Pharmacy staff. Time and again, I am astounded at the blessings our staff and volunteers receive by being involved in the ministry that is the Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio.

Still, each of us has, at one time or another, been overwhelmed by the tremendous need evident in Franklin County – not to mention the surrounding counties and states! We realize it’s not possible for one organization to help everyone…but it’s hard to tell that to someone face-to-face. In the past year and a half, the Charitable Pharmacy has been privileged to receive support from an incredibly diverse group of organizations, charities, businesses, and individuals. We pray that will continue in the months and years to come.

So, by now I hope you’re asking, “How can I get involved with the Charitable Pharmacy?” Several possibilities exist. We continue to need monetary donations to purchase generic medications, as well as diabetic testing supplies, insulin, and inhalers. While many of our brand-name medications are donated by pharmaceutical companies, we never receive enough medications for our many patients who have diabetes, asthma, or COPD. Donations can be made online at the Charitable Pharmacy’s website.

Another great way to get involved is to put together UMCOR health kits. While these are generally used in disaster areas overseas, these kits contain items that many of our patients don’t have access to. Food stamps, which are the only income for many of our patients, cannot be used to purchase items like soap, toothpaste, washcloths, combs, or fingernail clippers. At the Pharmacy, we store up these donated health kits until we have enough to give out, oftentimes for a special occasion like Christmas or Easter. For a list of items to include in the health kits, click here.

If you are a pharmacist or pharmacy student, we would love for you to volunteer with us! Besides filling medications, our pharmacists take time to sit down with patients during each visit to the pharmacy. This medication counseling process allows patients to ask questions, learn more about the medications they take, and perhaps realize some additional ways they can improve their health, such as diet modifications or smoking cessation. Pharmacy students who are not yet at this level can help sort donated medications, an incredibly vital – and almost never-ending – process.

* * *

Just today, I met another walking miracle, a man who probably shouldn’t be alive, but is. Matthew’s* had a rough year, losing his job, car, and home, so back in March, he decided life wasn’t worth living anymore. But his suicide attempt failed, and he was referred to a psychiatrist who prescribed him an anti-depressant. Matthew is now living at a local adult rehabilitation center for drug and alcohol abuse, though he’s never been an addict. He gets through each day by working from 4am-7pm in the facility’s kitchen, trying to keep his focus on the future. He found out about the Charitable Pharmacy from a local free clinic, which gave him a new prescription for the medication he’s been without for the past five weeks. “I’m just so grateful you guys are here,” Matthew said as I interviewed him. It’s a sentiment I hear expressed by our patients quite often.

Miracles happen every day, all around us…may we have faith that we can be part of someone’s miracle today!

“Jesus told the official, ‘You won't have faith unless you see miracles and wonders!’" (John 4:48, CEV).

For more information about the Charitable Pharmacy, call 614-227-0301, email charitablepharmacy [at] gmail.com (subject: Inquiry) , or visit our website at www.charitablepharmacy.org.

* Name changed for privacy purposes.

Mariellyn Dunlap Grace is a Church & Community Worker serving as Patient Services Coordinator at the Charitable Pharmacy. She also serves as Communications Coordinator for Mission & Justice at the West Ohio Conference.