From 1978 to 1984, Plenty had an office in Washington, D.C. We used this location on 16th St., two miles north of the White House, as a kind of embassy for Plenty and the Farm community. We provided support services for Native Americans and atomic veterans who came to Washington to meet with representatives in Congress. We helped them set up press conferences and interface with media, and we became core organizers for a gigantic anti-nuke demonstration and rally on the Mall in 1980. The early 1980s were a time when refugees escaping from the violence and poverty of Central America were pouring into D.C. The D.C. healthcare system and General Hospital were overwhelmed and without enough Spanish-speaking healthcare personnel. In 1982 we started getting refugee patients showing up at the Plenty Office on 16th Street because they knew we had medical people who spoke Spanish, specifically Priscilla Wheeler, a Physicians Assistant who had traveled with me to Guatemala right after the earthquake, and Kay Marie Jacobson, a Farm-trained midwife. The Plenty desk was being used as an examination table!
We cooked up the idea of a free clinic with our friends from the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN). We had friends, a couple, both licensed docs, who agreed to staff it along with Priscilla. We went to the Washington D.C. Office of Latino Affairs (OLA) and got their blessing and a check from the city for $10,000, handed to Priscilla and me by Mayor Marion Barry. We submitted grant proposals to local corporations and foundations and, because of the obvious need, most came through with funding. We were donated the 3rd floor of a building two blocks south of the Plenty D.C. Center. Gerald Wheeler, Calvin Langley, John Coate, and Andy Boatwright remodeled the space and gave it a fresh coat of paint. We used small rooms for exams and even had another room for the pharmacy staffed by Elaine Stampalia, Cynthia Nystrom, and Karen Flaherty. La Clínica del Pueblo was open every Wednesday night and, along with the clinic, held healthcare training classes using the Hesperian Foundation’s classic illustrated healthcare manual, Donde No Hay Doctor (Where There is No Doctor). We started getting volunteer doctors from Georgetown and George Washington Universities and med students as well. We stayed with the project until we closed the D.C. Center at the end of 1984. By then it was well-established. Many of the staff people were refugees who had taken the training we offered. That made it easy to turn it over to the community.
Today La Clínica del Pueblo serves patients through all stages of life, providing prenatal, pediatric, adolescent and adult primary care, as well as HIV/AIDS, diabetic, and reproductive healthcare to over 2,800 individuals onsite each year, and has become a major component of the Metropolitan D.C. healthcare system.