Two Knoxville-based organizations dedicated to helping the rural poor are teaming up to provide better care with a clinic in Harrogate this weekend.
Mission of Hope will supply volunteers and hygiene bags for the Remote Area Medical Clinic at Lincoln Memorial University.
Outside, a parking lot at LMU started to fill Friday afternoon with people who need free healthcare, like Robin Nichols.
She lives in Claiborne County and has waited overnight at previous RAM clinics at LMU for free medical and dental treatment.
"My boyfriend and my cousin and her boyfriend are coming down when they get off work," she said.
Inside, volunteers transformed a sports arena into a Remote Area Medical clinic.
"It's one of those uplifting experiences once everybody gets here the spirit really takes over," LMU RAM Coordinator Kate Reagan said.
Doctors, dentists, optometrists, and veterinarians make up the healthcare professionals who donate their time and skills at RAM clinics.
This weekend, students will help too."
"Our medical students will be working alongside doctors seeing patients," Reagan explained. "Our medical students will also be in the dental area as dental assistants, in the triage area taking vitals, and checking everybody as they come in. And we even have some that are volunteering out in the eye wagon to help grind glasses."
Volunteers are the heart of the RAM clinic.
Southern College of Optometry will staff the vision clinic.
And Knoxville-based Mission of Hope will join the outreach to rural people in need.
"It seemed natural instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, we would partner with them. So we will have a team tomorrow that are health care professionals that will be part of the larger RAM team," Mission of Hope Executive Director Emmette Thompson said.
They will also distribute hygiene bags including toothpaste, floss, soap and shampoo.
"There are people who will come this weekend that this is their last chance at getting some relief for quite awhile," Thompson said.
Volunteers hope to treat a thousand people this weekend, first come, first served.
"Come early, come real early," Nichols said, settling into the front seat of her car for a long night. She said the wait is worth it.
Doors open at 6:00 Saturday morning and Sunday morning at Tex Turner Arena on the LMU campus in Harrogate.