With the end of winter and flu season, people often forget that health care is something that is important year round. The Ithaca Health Alliance launched their Spring for Health Campaign on April 1 to allow the community to donate funds to help support programs run by the Alliance. 

Spring for Health is a month long campaign that uses crowdfunding to raise money for the Ithaca Health Alliance, which includes the Ithaca Free Clinic, the Ithaca Health Fund and the Community Health Education program.

Since it was opened in 2006, the Ithaca Free Clinic has provided care for over 6,000 people, most of whom make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but don’t make enough to be able to afford health care. The clinic is ran by over 100 volunteers ranging from the board of directors to physicians and employs only four people.

East Meets West

“In our free clinic, which is widely regarded as the first integrated free clinic in the United States, we offer conventional medicine services but we also offer as core services, holistic modalities including herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage therapy,” Administrative Coordinator Rob Brown said about what makes the Ithaca Free Clinic different than many other clinics around the country. 

According to Brown, the clinic has seen a steady number of patients seeking conventional medical services, but there has been consistent growth when it comes to people seeking holistic health care.

Services offered at the clinic range widely, including everything from herbal medicine and nutrition counseling to occupational therapy through a joint program with the Ithaca College department of occupational therapy.

The Ithaca Health Alliance launched their Spring for Health Campaign on April 1. Photo - Kim Joyce
The Ithaca Health Alliance launched their Spring for Health Campaign on April 1. Photo – Kim Joyce

“It’s not often in a mainstream health care environment that people can receive the range of services we offer all in one places with professionals working collaboratively together,” Brown said.

The clinic also offers mental health care, something that only 36% of free clinics offer according to the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.

Keeping the Community in Crowdfunding

Through this month’s Spring for Health Campaign, the Alliance hopes to raise $20,000 between April 1 – 30. All of the money raised will go directly toward funding the three components of the Ithaca Health Alliance. East dollar donated will allow the Alliance to provide $5 worth of services.

“We rely on the support of community members and know this format will make it easy for people to contribute,” Education Coordinator for the Alliance Andrea Levine said.

The Alliance is keeping it local, running the campaign through a crowdsourcing website based in Ithaca called Peaks. This is not the first time the Alliance has used Peaks to run a crowdfunding campaign.

“We had a Peaks online crowd-funding campaign in 2013 which was really successful,” said Levine. The Alliance raised just over $16,000, surpassing their original goal of $10,000. This time, the group doubled their goal, hoping to reach $20,000 by the end of the month.

The website allows people to sign up to be Champions of the cause. Champions are individuals who are closely connected to or care a lot about the Ithaca Health Alliance and volunteer to set a personal fundraising goal within the larger organizational goal.

“It really helps take full advantage of everybody’s network,” Cornell grad student and volunteer who worked on the campaign Michelle Chin said, “If I ask my friends and family, they’re more likely to donate a larger sum because they want me personally to succeed.”

Champions are also allowed to add their own incentives for donors, like biking a mile for every $5 donated or running a mile for receiving a $10 donation.

“Mine is, for every twenty dollars people donate, I’m going to write them a haiku and maybe for larger donations I’ll paint it,” Chin said. The donor with the largest donation overall will receive a thank you basket from the Alliance.

“After so much planning, it’s great to finally see it come to fruition,” Chin said. The campaign will continue until the end of the month.

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