In 1973, a group of concerned residents of Kennett Square established La Comunidad Hispana (LCH) as a bilingual social services agency to serve the needs of a primarily Latinx population drawn to the area by jobs in the mushroom industry.
Initially, services such as health care, legal aid, and case management were brought directly to the various mushroom farms in the area. In 2009, LCH opened a facility in Kennett Square, bringing the multiple services that LCH had previously provided to one centralized location, and in 2012 the organization was designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), which allowed them to serve vulnerable individuals who are insured, underinsured, or uninsured.
Once known primarily as a free clinic serving the Latinx population, today LCH has grown and evolved to encompass three sites to meet the needs of all low-income residents in Southern Chester County through person-centered, integrated care. They provide a variety of services, including primary care, women’s health, and dental care, as well as non-health related services such as free GED classes, citizenship classes, and job placement.
The director of development, LeeAnn Riloff, mentioned that the organization rebranded several years ago and now uses the acronym LCH rather than their full name. “As we started seeing a more diverse client base, especially in our Oxford location, we wanted everyone to feel welcomed, not just our Spanish-speaking population.”
Riloff spoke about the values of the organization. “We strive to be welcoming, integrated, dedicated, and dynamic, and these four values are actually posted throughout each of our locations,” she said. “They describe a culture which is designed to focus on the unique needs of each client.”
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Riloff gave an example of an older diabetic client who had missed an appointment, recounting that “the staff called the client to check in on her, and found that the woman had heard that there was an ICE checkpoint between her house and the clinic, so she was scared to come in. A staff member then drove out to get her and brought her to her appointment. This happens all the time. Going above and beyond for the clients is just a normal part of what we do.”
"We have a federal mandate that our board must be comprised of at least 51% of people who utilize our services, so that those we serve have a seat at the table."
“Becoming an FQHC helped to solidify a culture which is both welcoming and integrated,” Riloff added. “We have a federal mandate that our board must be comprised of at least 51% of people who utilize our services, so that those we serve have a seat at the table.”
One way in which clients have influenced how LCH operates is through changes in how appointments are made and confirmed. Surveys indicated that clients did not like waiting while receptionists answered phones, so a call center was set up that is separate from the service locations.
In addition, because clients often mentioned that it was difficult for them to make phone calls during working hours, appointments can now be made and confirmed by text message.
LCH is currently seeking a new chief operating officer, and Riloff mentioned that the search committee is keenly aware that in addition to having a specific skill set, the person they choose must understand and embrace the culture of the organization.
“We started out as an organization that brought services to clients in the mushroom farms where they worked,” she said. “And even as we have grown beyond that model, we’ve continued the tradition of meeting clients where they are, both literally and figuratively. It’s an integral part of who we are.”-30-
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