MERCI Clinic is committed to providing confidential medical, limited dental and pharmaceutical services to individuals who have no health insurance and are of limited income regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, gender, religion or other legally protected status.
MERCI Clinic began in 1996 under the leadership of Dr. Ralph A. Redding, Mrs. Beverlee Redding and the Rev. Caroline West, Christ Church’s assistant rector, a free medical clinic was evolved for New Bern’s “working poor” who were without the income resources or medical insurance to pay a physician. Dr. Redding, Sonya Moore, Director of Religious Community Services (RCS), and Matthew 25, a nonprofit organization from Christ Church, Monica Parker, an East Carolina University instructor, and Harriet Milde organized a group to help with community medical needs. Barbara Odderstol became chairman of the committee and director of the board after a short stint by Alan Berger. The group investigated several free clinics and agreed to model an organization after one in Roanoke, Virginia. Seed money came from Christ Church Episcopal Church Women as well as initial grants from the East Carolina Diocese, United Way and others. The leaders recruited volunteers through local churches and the RCS. The clinic opened on August 20, 1996 on a one night per week schedule. Dr. Redding and staff saw six patients that opening session. Its facilities were adapted in the Phoenix House, a drug rehab unit. There were two examining tables, separated by homemade curtains. Jean Ann Collison was the director of nurses, with Karen Turro and Alison Bradley providing technical expertise. Its name “MERCI” was coined using Mathew 25, ECU nursing school, Religious Community Services, the Community, and Indivivuals.
MERCI Clinic became incorporated as a non-profit organization on May 22, 1997. Soon, with an upsurge of patients, more space was required and the organization rented commercial space at 411 Broad Street from Eunice Wray at $300 a month. Drs. Richard Hudson and Truett Bennett provided medical furniture, Lowe’s gave building materials for two examining rooms, and Habitat for Humanity renovated the space with assistance from an electrician from Beech Grove Church. The new facility opened in August 1997 with Kaye Frampton as the social worker “in charge” and saw 10 to 15 patients each night. In 2001 the clinic board secured a grant of $225,000 from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation which enabled the purchase of the former ENT Physicians building at 1315 Tatum Drive—its present location.
By 2016, MERCI Clinic provided healthcare to hundreds of people—a far cry from Dr. Redding’s original six. It utilized medical assistance of eight specialized physicians, by appointment, as well as other individual services (including dental) to the community at large. That year the clinic served a total of 776 patients (5,763 visits). On average, each patient received $5,449 worth of services at a cost of $684 per patient annually. We dispensed 28,247 pharmaceuticals at a value of $3.7 million. For every $1.00 donated the clinic provided $7.97 in services. Over 100 volunteers provided 10,333 hours of service. It receives no federal or state grants and relies solely on donations to meet its $540,000 budget. It remains a continuous memorial to its Christ Church founders and the ecumenical efforts of the community’s religious congregations who keep it a viable enterprise.
MERCI Clinic has been recognized by the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics as one of the most successful free clinics in the state based on patient outcomes.