Anyone who has been sick knows that it impacts all aspects of life. You feel more stress, you are less productive, you might become impatient or depressed. When you are sick, all the people you might have touched for good remain untouched, and a chain reaction of missed opportunity extends further than we can really know.
And that’s why it’s difficult to calculate and put in perspective the great good that has been done by one woman in the Flagler County community: Faith Coleman. She died of cancer on Sunday, Nov. 30, at 60 years old — 10 years after co-founding the Flagler County Free Clinic.
That clinic has brought relief to thousands of suffering people and has grown to the point that it now helps about 2,000 people per year. And it was all led by Faith Coleman, who was suffering from cancer herself.
At an event in 2011, she explained in an interview that her struggle with cancer has helped her in her work because now she can empathize with people who have cancer.
When most people are sick, they feel sorry for themselves. When Faith Coleman was sick, she felt instructed and empowered.
Wally DeAquino started working at the clinic as a volunteer, and has also been a liaison between the clinic and Florida Hospital Flagler. He will remember her as a relentless servant of the downtrodden.
“The clinic used to be open on Saturdays and Sundays,” he said. “So she would work the whole day Saturday, and if she didn’t have enough people working on Sunday, there she was, sick or not sick. … She literally dedicated her life to the patients.”
The hospital has supported the clinic by donating $120,000 worth of free lab services annually, as well as encouraging physicians to donate their time. The Flagler County Health Department and the business community have also been involved, leading to the hiring of an executive director to ensure the clinic survives even without Faith.
“It’s structured in a way that it can continue to grow and to continue her legacy,” he said. And that legacy, he said, is to help others. Have no agenda. Don’t ask questions, just help.
“That was Faith,” he said. “She wouldn’t ask anything. If you needed help … she would find a way to help. She was our good Samaritan in Flagler County.”
A long-time volunteer, Pat Manello, recalled that in the early days of the clinic, Coleman met a man who was not well, and through her persistence, she found out that he had cancer. Then, Manello recalled, “she did everything she possibly could for this gentleman. He survived, and he still comes into the clinic to say hi. … When we saw what she was doing and what the outcome was, it was amazing to everybody. That was a big, big draw for the volunteers. To see that she really cared.”
Coleman battled cancer three times in her life. The third time, the battle proved to be too much. But, Manello said, she was at peace in the end. “She wanted to be there for her new granddaughter’s birth, which she was,” she said. “Her last daughter got married, and she was there for that, and she was there to make Thanksgiving dinner for her family. … She has a lot of faith. She knew it was her time, and she wasn’t afraid. She said that many times. She was so strong, mindfully and in her soul.”
Donate at flaglercountyfreeclinic.com.