March 24, 2023

30 Years of Care: A Letter from Our CEO

CommunityHealth is celebrating our 30th anniversary this year. Since 1993, our clinic has provided high quality health care to uninsured individuals in Chicago. Our founder, Dr. Serafino Garella, built CommunityHealth from his belief that quality health care is a fundamental human right.


Thirty years later, this belief remains the foundation and core of CommunityHealth. As one of the largest free clinics in the United States, CommunityHealth is proud to offer comprehensive health care services, including primary care, over 25 different specialty care services, behavioral health, dental care, medications through our onsite pharmacy, and wrap-around services like health education. All of our services are in three languages: English, Spanish, and Polish. We provide comprehensive and individualized care through the support of over 1,000 volunteers; partnerships with area hospitals, educational institutions, corporations, and community organizations; and financial support from donors like you. All our services are provided at no charge to our patients.

The last three years have shown us that our founder’s intentions that health care is a fundamental human right have never been truer. In response to unprecedented times, CommunityHealth has innovated to deepen the impact that we can have on the communities who needed it most. Below are examples of the many ways we are elevating our work and where we believe we have opportunities to continue advancing our mission. We are just getting started!


CommunityHealth recognizes that localized care is equitable care. While we provide comprehensive services for free in our Lederman Family Health Center (headquarters location), patients still faced many barriers to care, such as long commutes to the clinic, unpaid time off from work for appointments, lack of access to reliable wifi or video-enabled devices for telehealth, childcare demands, and more. To meet our patients where they are, we opened two new micro clinic locations: CommunityHealth at Onward House in 2021 and CommunityHealth at Enlace in 2022. These new clinics are co-located within established social services agencies in two neighborhoods where many of our current and prospective patients live and work: Belmont Cragin and Little Village.

These two new locations have increased accessibility for at-risk populations to easily receive medical attention, and they also offer direct connection to our partner’s crucial services, like food access, child care, legal aid, English instruction, and more. More than 30% of new patients in 2022 were registered through one of these two locations.

Plan a visit to one of our three locations!


In 2020, Illinois introduced the Health Benefits for Immigrant Seniors (HBIS) insurance policy covering immigrants facing poverty within their first 5 years of residency who are 65 years and older. In 2021, the state established nearly identical coverage for immigrants ages 55 to 64 called Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults (HBIA), and in 2022, HBIA was expanded to ages 42+. Many of CommunityHealth’s patients qualify for HBIS or HBIA. This is a remarkable recognition by the state of the right to affordable, high quality health care for undocumented residents, and we celebrate this win for immigrant rights.

However, CommunityHealth also understands that health insurance does not always equate access to all of the essential care needed. There simply are not enough providers accepting this new coverage to meet the needs of this large, newly insured population. In order to ensure that our patients can maintain care, CommunityHealth expanded our eligibility requirements and workflows to serve patients with HBIS/HBIA, while maintaining a business model that does not bill for reimbursements but allows the pharmaceutical companies, lab, and hospitals who partner with us to do so for supportive services they offer to CommunityHealth patients.

I sat down with Alice Woo, Foundations Relations Manager, to discuss CommunityHealth’s response to the state insurance expansion. Listen here.

Health Education

Health Education workshops have provided extended, preventive, and holistic care to our communities since 2000. For patients and community members alike, CommunityHealth has hosted free wellness classes focusing on movement, diet, and identity. These in-person gatherings were paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. After an almost three-year hiatus, we are grateful to resume Health Education workshops in person throughout 2023.

Current offerings include:

  • Bienestar para Mujeres is a wellness/support group that meets once a month to discuss the challenges and celebrate the successes of living healthily as a woman.
  • Mindful cooking workshops offer fresh produce to participants after learning a new dish every Wednesday evening.
  • Yoga sessions occur every Saturday morning, and participants who attend every class in a 7-week series will receive a free water bottle and a raffle entry to win a FitBit.
  • Take Action! courses offer guidance and facilitates discussions on what to know when you or your loved one is living with Diabetes.
  • Healthy Homes addresses potential hazards in the home that may impact health and safety as well as offers in-home assessment and hazard remediation by our partner Elevate.

We are thrilled to welcome these group classes back into all our clinic locations, and the demand for workshops has been overwhelming! We continue to plan new events and activities, as well as a new health education-focused social media channel, which will launch later this year. Keep up to date with our Health Education calendar!

All In

Launched in 2015 with a one-day breakfast summit, All In Chicago continues to evolve in 2023 with an expanded event series and many opportunities to join the conversation. CommunityHealth invites you to participate in the All In™ Chicago campaign through a series of in-person and virtual events to discuss how Chicago can respond to and overcome barriers to health care.

CommunityHealth’s All In™ thought leadership series convenes stakeholders, community leaders, and all Chicago residents to explore the remaining gaps in health care access, identify barriers in underserved communities, and discuss ways we can work together to ensure that every Chicago resident has access to the right health care, at the right time, in the right place.

All In Chicago 2023 kicks off May 4. Click here for information and tickets to upcoming events.

This work is not possible without our tremendous partners, volunteers, and staff. We are excited to continue growing and innovating to provide essential health care in Chicago…

Thank you for supporting us, and we look forward to the next 30 years!


Steph Willding, Chief Executive Officer

CommunityHealth has trained over 1,000 medical students since opening in 1993. Over 40% of our volunteers are from community partners like RUSH University Medical Center and the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. 

The Future of Health is in the next generation of health care providers. Click here to donate to our training programs!