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Grant Stories – McKenzie Valley Clinic

From the “Our Mission” page – “Proceeds from the ride go to the Cycle Oregon Fund, which helps preserve and protect the special places of Oregon and supports community development projects in the regions through which we ride.”

Stories of resilience will be a focus for us in the first half of 2021. For many in this new year, resiliency will be defined by the stories of enduring the difficulties of 2020. For the McKenzie River Clinic, though, the number of catastrophic hardships in 2020 layered one on top of the other seems almost too much to believe to be true. But resiliency, as expressed by the clinic and its community, is further defined as the ability to recover from hardship and rise higher, not just simply endure it. 

A recipient of one of ten 2019 Cycle Oregon Fund Community Project Grants, the McKenzie River Clinic, now under the name Orchid Health, has offered primary health care to the McKenzie community for over forty years and recently expanded its health care services to build a more resilient community. The 501(c)(3) is now McKenzie Valley Wellness with the clinic now part of the Orchid Health collective specializing in rural health facilities.

The McKenzie River Clinic opened in 1977 as the very first federally recognized Rural Health Clinic in Oregon.The “Health Fair” sign in this photo from 1981shows the clinic’s emphasis from the beginning on community outreach.

A severe winter storm in 2019 damaged the clinic’s original roof, already well past its useful lifespan at the time, and our Community Project Grant of $7,000 was put to immediate use in early 2020 for a new roof. Local contractors repaired the damaged sub-roofing, added new tar paper, high-quality roofing, and gutters to the clinic. The work was completed in May 2020 and despite the previous year’s storm damage and the current year’s COVID-19 pandemic, the clinic was busy offering expanded services and looking to the future. There was even a plan to paint the building in September.

New roof installed May 2020

Tragically, on the night of September 7, 2020, the Holiday Farm Fire burned across the McKenzie Valley. The clinic, along with the post office and most of the homes in Blue River was burned completely to the ground. The board of directors and the local community had prepared the clinic, it was in a fire-safe, defensive space but a 10-month drought and 50 mph winds proved too much even for those protections. Val Rapp, Board President for McKenzie Valley Wellness, sent us this note, “I am really, really sorry to report that after operating 43 years under the original roof, the Clinic only got three months out of the new roof before everything burned.”

September 2020

In a year of seemingly too-much-heartbreak, though, Val brought our spirits high in the same message. “We worked too hard for too long on saving the Clinic to give up now. Most importantly, we have the support and love of our community.” 

The strength of leadership from McKenzie Valley Wellness in combination with Orchid Health makes it clear the community will be well served going forward. Limited phone service and Wi-Fi hotspots were put in place quickly following the fire giving some local residents a connection to telehealth as a first option in wake of the disaster. A temporary clinic was set up in one of the remaining local buildings, the Rustic Quilt Shop, until a full-service mobile clinic was deployed to the area. With the mobile clinic still in place, the McKenzie Valley Wellness board of directors is committed to rebuilding.

We spoke with Val Rapp earlier this month, she adds, “Despite losing our most valuable asset, the building, McKenzie Valley Wellness is in a sound position to build a 21st-century rural health clinic and wellness center. We have the land, a modest reserve of money, a gritty and determined board, and we believe that along with the insurance settlement we can win significant grant funding to rebuild.”

For further information please visit the clinic’s Facebook page here. If you wish to make a contribution to the clinic please note that U.S. Mail is the best available platform through which to do so at this time. A temporary postal station has been put in place at a remaining school district building, something Val was also quick to express gratitude for. We extend the gratitude of the entire Cycle Oregon community to Val Rapp for her assistance with this story. Stay tuned to our blog and social media for further updates and reporting on the rebuild.

Check donations can be made out & addressed to:

McKenzie Valley Wellness PO Box 381, Blue River, OR 97413

Photos courtesy of McKenzie Valley Wellness

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1 Comment

  1. The holiday fire was an absolute tragedy this year 🙁 I actually worked on a fire with my national guard unit in September, and many houses were lost. It is terrible to see such widespread damage like this occurring now. I pray for all who were affected during this season, and we will rebuild!