Center celebrates 15 years of ‘paying it foward’

Center celebrates 15 years of ‘paying it foward’
November 19
00:00 2015

By Tori P. Haynesworth

For The Chronicle

The Community Care Center opened its doors on Oct. 23, 2000, with its mission to provide care for the uninsured and anyone who needed assistance in the community of Winston-Salem.

Fifteen years and more than 22,000 patients later, the center celebrates those continuing to pay it forward.

The “paying it forward” movement began with 20 retired physicians who volunteered their services, along with the help of other volunteers in a medical building provided by Novant Health under $1 a year lease.

It was a birthday party on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at the Grand Pavilion of the Embassy Suites on Cherry Street, in which officials gave thanks to all the sponsors who contributed to make the Care Center where it now stands.

Before keynote speaker Leslie Smith spoke to the audience, a video was shown, giving a background of Smith’s “tragic to triumph” story.

Smith had suffered mental illness and depression, and she had attempted suicide many times.  She became homeless after being treated for third-degree burns that covered more than a third of her body after she tried to set herself on fire.

“The things we take for granted, we shouldn’t because there’re a lot of people in this country that don’t have those necessities,” said Smith, speaking about basic needs of food and shelter. “There are a lot people like me that struggle day to day. It takes one person to reach out to them, and touch them and let them know that you have faith in them, that lifts them up to do things that empower others.”

From her support for those she felt really cared for her, she proceeded to get her life back on track and is now a physician in Boone. Smith says she doesn’t do it to “get rich,” but the passion to help others as those who have helped her.

Three people gave their testimonies of how the Community Care Center made an impact on their life.

Krishon Dillard, who has Type 1 Diabetes, was able to get the assistance he needed and is now pursuing a master’s degree in public health at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.

“Thank you to those who volunteer at the Community Care Center, those who have actually gave to the Community Care Center day in and day out, your time, your energy, I’m very appreciative,” said Dillard.

Donna Farrar, an ex-offender who first stayed at The Salvation Army, was referred to the Community Care Center, and is now working at Forsyth Technical Community College, while getting a bachelor’s degree at Gardner-Webb University.

“Everyone that’s in this room cares enough about people they don’t even know. Sometimes it’s hard to get that kind of hope from strangers, because you don’t want to believe that people really will care about you like that without judging you, or having sympathy toward what you’re going through,” Farrar said.

Clarence Williams gave a tearful story of how he had it all, lost it, and got back on his feet again with the help of the Care Center.

“I was just amazed at everyone’s effort and trying to make sure you were OK,” said Williams. “They’re so genuine and real. They don’t give you anything other than pure positive energy, and they do it on a consistent basis and it’s incredible.”

For more information, volunteer inquiry, or possible donations, visit, or call 336-723-6722.

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