By Martha Underwood

Killeen Daily Herald

The Greater Killeen Free Clinic celebrated its 10th anniversary at a mixer event Thursday with the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce.

"It has been 10 wonderful years," said Marlene DiLillo, the part-time executive director. The clinic provides free health care to the needy who have no medical insurance. It has seen 18,000 patients in its decade of service.

Business owner and critical care nurse Perk Bearden participated from the beginning on both the business and medical sides. "I watched everything happen and see the potential down the road," said Bearden, who now serves as board chairman. "This clinic is better than anything I've done."

Reminiscing about the early days, medical director Dr. Luther Street, M.D., recalled how Bell County Health District let the clinic clean up a building previously used for animal control. The Health District continues to provide space, rent and utility free.

Scott & White Memorial Hospital is a major financial contributor, and its Killeen clinic physician, Dr. Steven Smith, served as the original medical director. Metroplex also has provided substantial monthly subsidies and in-kind medical services.

The free clinic established a list of medications its staffers they prescribe to stay within their budget, and arranged a pharmacy network to fill the prescriptions. "We became managed care for poor folks," Street said.

Several lessons were learned over the years, said social worker Rita Kelley, who helps patients find services they need through existing programs. First, if Killeen wants a free clinic, Killeen will have to do it, Kelley said. Early church and charity supporters are still assisting the free clinic.

Awards were presented by DiLillo to longtime volunteers and contributors. Recipients included Metroplex and Scott & White hospitals, Bell County government, Bell County Public Health District, city of Killeen community development division, and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Other continuous supporters receiving awards included Clements Boys & Girls Club, Exchange Club of Killeen, Killeen-Heights Rotary, Immanuel Lutheran and St. Christopher's Episcopal churches of Killeen, and United Way of Greater Fort Hood Area.

Long-term support from businesses included recognition of Chick-Fil-A at Killeen Mall, Wal-Mart of Killeen and Copperas Cove and Texas Proud Custom Cycles.

Volunteers receiving appreciation awards for many years of service were Dr. Luther Street, M.D., Paul Gerdes, M.D., Mazel Martin, Maria Murphree, Susan Nickson, and Dr. Steven Smith, M.D.

The celebration mixer, provided by event sponsors at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, included hors d'oeuvres by Bon Appetit and music by One for the Road. A quilt raffle also benefited the clinic.

"When we started the Greater Killeen Free Clinic, this was (my) passion," said Dr. Robin Battershell, who is now superintendent of Salado Independent School District. "A group saw a gap in the community, and the team did this. Thank you for your support and passion."

Contact Martha Underwood at

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