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2021 Hope Awards winner

Safe Harbor Free Clinic gets $10,000 prize in the Hope Awards for Effective Compassion

Photo by Ron Wurzer/Genesis

2021 Hope Awards winner

Safe Harbor Free Clinic in Stanwood, Wash., won WORLD’s 2021 Hope Awards for Effective Compassion contest and will receive $10,000. Our other finalists—Christian Encounter in Grass Valley, Calif.; Westside Ministries in Turlock, Calif.; and East County Transitional Living Center in El Cajon, Calif.—will each receive $2,000.

In many ways, Safe Harbor resembles other free medical clinics around the United States. But when WORLD Magazine senior reporter Sophia Lee visited Safe Harbor earlier this year, she found the ministry is anything but a typical medical clinic.

Safe Harbor began in 2009 when family practice physicians James Grierson and Keith Erickson in Stanwood—about 35 miles north of Seattle—saw medical needs there and decided to act. They gathered other physicians and Christians and opened Safe Harbor using another clinic’s space. On its first night, patients lined up out the door and appointments stretched into the early morning hours.

Physicians volunteered one Friday night per month to man the clinic and treated ailments typical of most walk-in clinics. But opening so soon after the Great Recession, they began seeing chronic illnesses—such as diabetes and hypertension—from patients who no longer had insurance or who couldn’t pay medical bills. Some couldn’t navigate complicated websites and paperwork. Some didn’t know how to contest providers overcharging them.

So, Safe Harbor also provided personnel to help patients wade through the medical morass: filling out paperwork and making calls to resolve billing questions, among other tasks.

In 2014, donors and grants provided enough for the clinic to rent its own building. It transitioned to appointment-only instead of walk-in.

But the gospel undergirds the clinical work at Safe Harbor as well as the love volunteers and staff show patients. Lay counselors check in with patients and pray for them. Volunteers have a chance to build one-on-one relationships with patients and share their Christian faith.

“Whatever God’s vision is, that’s what we want,” executive director Sandy Solis told Lee. “It becomes all Him … you have that opportunity to pray for your patients and see what God’s going to do in their lives.”


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