Volunteer Spotlight

Each month, BIFMC shines a spotlight on one of our many exceptional clinic volunteers. From medical staff to voluntary file clerks, Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic is able to provide a warm, caring and expert primary medical home to hundreds of uninsured patients. The residents and workers of our Lowcountry community are cared for and kept healthy due to the commitment of our volunteers.

This month, we celebrate Cynthia Cronk! Cynthia assists the Clinic in various human resource roles, helping to recruit and orientate new volunteers – always with a great sense of humor, style, and true compassion for our patients (and staff!)

Name: Cynthia Cronk

Town: Johns Island

Position at BIFMC: Volunteer Human Resources Coordinator

How many years served at the Clinic: 3

How did you learn about BIFMC? Were you actively looking for volunteer opportunities at the time? When I retired and moved to Charleston, I looked actively for volunteer work that was at least “useful”. Volunteer work should be ‘necessary work’ – regardless of the level of the position. I was not looking for HR work as a volunteer but the opportunity presented and I jumped. For me, it has been fun to do HR in a small organization – a contrast from my previous position, but a good one.

What is your background in healthcare? My background is in human resources, though I had volunteered in the Santa Barbara ER every Saturday night for about 6 years…it was great! Saturday night in an ER is always a side-show – so that was fun – but mostly I loved it because I was doing work that needed to be done such as managing the waiting room hysterics, running labs, changing beds, filling the blanket warmers, stocking carts for the techs, taking moms in labor to Obstetrics – it was work that if I did it, the techs and nurses could do their legitimate ‘skilled’ work. So for me, it was not the level of the work, but the need for the work to be done – by someone.

How has volunteer work had an impact on your life? Volunteers come from a wide background of life experiences. In my case, I had recently retired from an active and dynamic job and a job I loved. Retirement itself typically requires some adjustment. My interest in pursuing volunteer work was to primarily to do something that was useful for the organization and for the clients served by that organization. For me, BIFMC provides that – I am able to provide some benefit to the organization and in return I am part of something very special. I see the staff and cadre of medical and support volunteers offer their services in professional and compassionate ways to patients and their families. Every person who comes to the clinic is treated with respect and is afforded medical treatment with full dignity. It’s inspiring to be part of the volunteer ‘mix’ at BIFMC.  

What would you say is the biggest misconception about the uninsured? I think the biggest misconception that I held was that the uninsured are unemployed. I had an experience recently that speaks to this misconception: I was checking out at a local grocery store a few weeks ago and had an engaging cashier – friendly, helpful, good at her job. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned she was soon to get off the grocery store shift but then she had to go to her second job. I inquired “…so you have 2 jobs?”  She smiled and replied, “…actually I have 3 jobs – you know, to make ends meet.” I have since thought often about that conversation. This woman had 3 jobs, none of which provided health insurance and probably none a very good hourly wage.

There is another group of patients whose circumstances change – and leave them without benefits and sometimes employment. They may have had a good job with health care benefits but then something dramatic occurs…the company closes, the employee gets seriously ill or has to quit to take care of an elderly parent or sick child. Suddenly these people are without insurance and therefore the medical care needed.

There are no true stereotypes when it comes to people who need health care but lack sufficient income and insurance. BIFMC does a wonderful job evaluating every patient’s circumstances in an effort to be able to offer compassionate health care that every person deserves.

What advice would you give to those considering volunteering their time or donating a gift to the clinic? Try it! See if the experience suits you. And, keep in mind there are options for volunteers at the clinic. If you are a medical volunteer, the most obvious (and needed) work will be to work as a nurse or doctor. If you want to volunteer in a support capacity, the clinic needs front office administrative help and Spanish language interpreters. But they also need help with fundraising, business services, community outreach and so much more. So, if you’re considering BIFMC as a place to volunteer, get in touch with key staff at the clinic who can describe the work, the skills needed and the opportunities available.  

If you are considering donating a gift, I can tell you with certainty that BIFMC regards every gift as a contribution to advance the mission of the clinic. Those in leadership at BIFMC are untiring stewards of all the funds that come into the clinic through gifts, grants and donations. Proudly and responsibly, for every dollar donated to the clinic, 86 cents goes directly to patient care.

Thank you, Cynthia, for your commitment to helping others, your stellar sense of humor and compassion! We are lucky to have you as a part of our volunteer family!

If you know and would like to nominate a current BIFMC volunteer, please email us; To thank a volunteer, please share this spotlight via social media!

If you would like to learn more about how you can volunteer for Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, click here.