A bursting scrapbook holds almost 10 years’ worth of notes and pictures from grateful patients of the Oasis of Hope clinic on Grand Rapids’ northwest side. The stories within weave together a legacy of hope, but can’t fully capture all the memories held in the hearts of Barb and Dan Grinwis, the couple who started the clinic in 2006. Perhaps most telling are the many patients who refer to Barb as mom and the countless individuals who return to the clinic when they’re well, seeking comforting conversation and prayer rather than medical treatment. “Unlike many, our main focus is not health care. Our main focus is hope, that we’re providing hope to people,” Barb said.
She feels humbled looking at the scrapbook. “God put us in this place and used us mightily,” she said. It was hard to imagine the lives they’d touch when they opened their doors. Barb, a physician assistant, had a successful teaching career at a nearby university, but felt called to give back by putting her clinical skills to use. After opening the clinic, she quit her full-time job. Dan lost his shortly after and dove in to run the business side of the operation. He quips that they were two unemployed people responsible for two mortgages. Faith saw them through, Barb said. “God has provided so faithfully,” she explained. A recipient of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s safety net grants, which helps fund the clinic, Oasis of Hope is located in a gritty, hard-working part of town, serving low-income patients with no insurance coverage. In the last few years, the neighborhood has experienced growth. New bars, breweries, restaurants and shops have started seeping out of a bustling downtown into the surrounding neighborhood arteries. As the Grinwis’ started thinking about retirement, they knew they wanted to maintain the clinic’s presence for the sake of the patients they’d come to know and love in the area. When an obvious buyer didn’t materialize to continue the clinic’s mission and ministry, they explored selling commercially. Despite the likely possibility that selling to developers could have netted more in their retirement coffers, a buyer did emerge: current medical director Dr. Laurie Braker and her husband Dan. They recently purchased the building and brought on new executive director Jonathan Reid. Knowing that the clinic will continue its purpose makes a looming Dec. 1 retirement date a more comfortable reality for the Grinwis family. As a newcomer, Reid is an objective witness to the work the clinic does. He’s happy to be on board. “It’s almost like it’s a holy space to be in. You see so much of God working in different people in different ways,” he said.
Both Barb and Dan Grinwis speak to the importance of keeping safety net clinics across the state operational. Although Medicaid expansion and availability of subsidized insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act have helped spread access to more and more underserved people, there are still cracks that need to be filled. They’re fully supported by donations from the community, including the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan grants, which Barb describes as particularly helpful since they can be used to support ongoing operations as well as specific patient services. “They keep our lights on,” Barb said. “They enable us to do the things that we do, which every day is a special project.” This post is part of a storytelling series we call, “Beyond the Card.” These stories will feature Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members, employees, and communities who are making meaningful differences throughout our state. We invite you to follow Beyond the Card stories here at MIBluesPerspectives.com and through the hashtag, #BeyondtheCard on our social channels. If you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.