A traveling medical clinic that has provided free health care to nearly 13,000 people since it began five years ago will receive the Founder's Medal from Mount St. Mary's College today.
Mission of Mercy dispenses its signature "healing through love" from a Winnebago recreational vehicle converted into examining rooms, a nurses' station and waiting area. The van stops weekly in Westminster, Taneytown, Reisterstown and other sites in Western Maryland. It also makes a stop in Gettysburg, Pa.
Dr. Gianna Talone-Sullivan, founder of the Mission of Mercy, will accept the award at ceremonies starting at 4: 15 p.m. at the Emmitsburg campus.
"If it were for me alone to accept, I could not because it does not belong to me," said Talone-Sullivan in a press release.
"But, on behalf of the hundreds of volunteers and thousands of benefactors who give without seeking consolation in return, I will accept the Founder's Medal with hope for their future."
The medal honors the Rev. John DuBois, who founded the college nearly 200 years ago and later served as bishop in New York City. It was first awarded in 1983 to the late Cardinal Lawrence Shehan, spiritual leader of the state's Catholics. Other honorees include William Donald Schaefer, former governor and now state comptroller, and the late Henry Knott and his wife, Marion, Baltimore philanthropists.
It has frequently gone to alumni, like William Magee, who with his wife Kathleen, started Operation Smile, a humanitarian organization that performs free surgery for children with facial deformities. The Rev. Edward J. Flanagan, founder of Boys Town, is also an alumnus of the school, affectionately called The Mount.
George R. Houston Jr., president of Mount St. Mary's, said the work of Mission of Mercy "rightfully stands alongside these giants of the past."
Ten individuals and organizations were nominated by the college council and campus ministry for the award this year, a number the staff called "phenomenal." The council, with the college president's approval, chose Mission of Mercy for "actions that have significantly affected the lives of others."
"Our product is unconditional love, and we give it without seeking any return," said David Liddle, the mission's executive director. "The award is encouraging. We accept it with humility and graciousness."
The mission has attracted more than 200 volunteers, many of them doctors, nurses and dentists, to its seven sites in Maryland and Pennsylvania. It also operates three sites in Arizona and expects to open a fourth location there soon.
The most pressing volunteer need is for dentists. The addition of two dentists to its volunteer rolls has allowed the mission to open a dental clinic in Brunswick, Frederick County. It still needs dentists for its Reisterstown clinic.
Nearly all mission patients lack medical insurance and cannot afford basic health and dental care.
"The challenge for us always is to continue focusing on our product," said Liddle.
The mission is constantly widening its reach. It is now planning Mom's House, a residential facility in Baltimore that will offer care to women with AIDS and their children. Lack of housing often separates families at a time when mothers and children need each other, said Liddle. The home will be in the central city area, Liddle said.
"These women live and work in Baltimore, and we want to keep them close to the hospitals where they get their care," he said.
Mom's House recently received a $60,000 grant from the Abell Foundation to help plan and design the building.
"This is all the funds we need for a year of planning," said Liddle. "We can hopefully open within 18 months."