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Free Clinic of Culpeper still serving clients, gets grant to boost deep-cleaning
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Free Clinic of Culpeper still serving clients, gets grant to boost deep-cleaning

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Among the local nonprofits still operating and serving the public during the pandemic, the Free Clinic of Culpeper recently received an economic boost aimed at enhanced sanitation.

The clinic at 610 Laurel St. in town got a $3,000 small business aversion grant, federal funds distributed by Virginia Career Works Piedmont Region to help those struggling to stay open and reinvent themselves.

The money is being used to do additional biweekly cleaning and sanitizing at the Free Clinic, which is important now more than ever in stemming the tide of COVID-19, said Culpeper Wellness Foundation President Shari Landry.

“This is just one of many steps that we’ve taken to keep our staff and patients safe during the pandemic,” she said. “We are working with a very small staff and have asked our volunteers to say home and safe. Having the funds to hire a crew to do extra cleaning is a real gift to the Free Clinic.”

The facility, part of Culpeper Wellness Foundation, continues to care for new and established patients during this trying time. Most appointments are being held by phone, Landry said, to minimize the risk of transmission for all involved.

Free Clinic patients with COVID-19 symptoms are seen by a physician’s assistant in a triage tent in the parking lot, Landry said: “We have tested a few established clinic patients, but are not doing testing for the general public.”

Free Clinic Director Tammy LaGraffe said last week the facility had conducted coronavirus assessments for fewer than 10 patients so far.

“Luckily, patients are calling first to be seen or to pick up medications,” she said. “This keeps the amount of people coming and going to a minimum.”

LaGraffe said the clinic had adequate PPE and had been working closely with the health department and Culpeper Medical Center for resources and support.

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“One of our concerns is given the economic impact of the pandemic, and the many, many people who’ve lost their jobs, we anticipate a significant increase in patients over the next several months,” LaGraffe said.

Since March 21, nearly 3,000 Culpeper County workers have filed initial claims for unemployment, according to Virginia Employment Commission. Claims peaked the week ending April 4 with 698 filings in Culpeper. The latest data, for the week ending May 2, reported 318 made an initial claim for unemployment in this county.

The free clinic relies on charity or grants for 80 percent of costs so support from the community is critical, LaGraffe said. Ongoing support from generous donors including Virginia Career Works “has truly been live-saving for our patients,” she said.

Region-wide, 56 small businesses and/or nonprofits received a total of $76,726 through the aversion grant program of the U.S. Dept. of Labor.

“The purpose of the grant is assist businesses with innovative solutions and avert layoffs,” Piedmont Workforce Development Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Walters, a human capital manager at Bingham & Taylor in Culpeper.

Most of the grant funding, up to $3,000 per small business, was used for deep cleaning and sanitizing offices beyond normal standards, including at Blue Ridge Graphics in Charlottesville. The business, like the free clinic, was able to hiring a cleaning crew.

“This helps keep our employee and customers safe and allows us to maintain focus on recovery and rebuilding without having to worry about this necessary expense,” said general manager Will Kulick, in a statement.

The majority of grant awards went to restaurant or hospitality services followed by healthcare, professional and administrative services, retail and manufacturing, according to Virginia Career Works. These industries have been most impacted by COVID-19 in the Piedmont, like elsewhere.

“The governor’s aversion grants are an important factor in assisting those smaller businesses that need assistance in continuing their operations,” said Orange County Supervisor Lee Frame, chairman of the Piedmont Region Council. “At the local level, we appreciate the innovative effort in helping our businesses and workers.”

Other Culpeper businesses receiving the grant were: Nicholas Jones & Co., Color Orchids, FRESH20 GROWERS, Thomas Martin & Assoc. (It’s About Thyme), Verdun Adventure Bound, WDC Greenhouse LLC, Davis Street LLC, Wollam Gardens, Community STARS and Communications Corporation of America.

Virginia Career Works Piedmont Region serves the city of Charlottesville and counties of Albemarle, Culpeper, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, Orange and Rappahannock.

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