The Community Free Clinic of Newport News celebrated its first anniversary in business in the Southeast community in November. Since its opening, it has served more than 1,040 patients for almost 2,300 visits, according to Golden Bethune-Hill, the clinic's founder and volunteer executive director. In April 2011, it added adult dentistry to its services and has treated 298 patients.

It currently guarantees 10 to 12 hours of dental care a week, and has just received a grant of $104,000 from the Virginia Health Care Foundation. The grant should accommodate another 20 hours of dental care weekly through addition of a part-time dentist position, Bethune-Hill says.

"Most of the work is by volunteers. It's not as streamlined," says Newport News Mayor McKinley Price, a dentist, who volunteers half a day on Saturdays once a month. During those hours, he treats up to a dozen people each session. "If we hire someone part-time, it should help with the backlog."

The dental patients are mostly people who have had very sporadic care and are in pain. Some have never seen a dentist, says Bethune-Hill.

The bulk of the work involves extractions. "I took out 18 teeth this morning," says Robert Allen, a volunteer who had a dental practice in Hampton and Newport News for 50 years. "They're rotten, non-restorable teeth with broken roots. A patient comes in with painful teeth and leaves happy," he says.

Others do fillings, and a hygienist does cleanings and teaches patients how to take care of partials and dentures. "It's not just about appearance, but function. If you're in pain, it's difficult to look for a job; the health of the mouth involves being able to eat and chew so you digest better. It leads to better general health," Price adds.

The bulk of patients served by the medical clinic are those with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, heart disease and obesity. And they're seeing results, according to Bethune-Hill. "People are getting better," she says, citing statistics on lowered blood pressure, and drops in elevated glucose levels and a decrease in cholesterol numbers over time.

The medical and dental services are free to Virginia Peninsula residents who don't have insurance and who make less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $21,780 for a single person, $44,700 for a family of four. In fact, most are making less than $10,000, according to Bethune-Hill.

Currently, the clinic's paid part-time staff includes two nurse practitioners, a medical director and a dental hygienist. Approximately 125 volunteers, many of them from the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, supplement their work.

The clinic was recently approved for an in-house pharmacy, which will be staffed by students from Hampton University's doctor of pharmacy program; it will not dispense narcotics.

Major donors to the clinic include Riverside, Sentara, the city of Newport News, Delta Dental, Old Point National Bank, local sorority chapters and the faith community.

Free health care

Community Free Clinic of Newport News, 727 25th Street, Newport News.

Provides free medical and dental care for patients who lack insurance and meet income guidelines; to volunteer or donate, call the clinic.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; some additional hours evenings and Saturday mornings by appointment.

Information: 757-594-4060; medical appointments required; walk-in screenings.