Rice Lake (WQOW)- Across the county 1 in 5 people do not have access to affordable health insurance. They are our neighbors, coworkers, friends and even family. A retired physician from Rice Lake is working to change that, but the work of this remarkable volunteer doesn't stop at the city limits.
Since 2010 the Rice Lake Area Free Clinic has opened its doors to those with no affordable insurance or no insurance at all, and, at or under 200 percent of the federal poverty line. For a married couple that is about $31,000 a year.
Last year nearly 400 people received care at the Rice Lake Area Free Clinic and over 150 volunteers made that possible. John Henningsen is one of them.
"I'd say that John was essential in starting the clinic as far as helping us locate resources and ongoing board support," said Mike Farrell who is the director of the clinic. "John is also the one who comes in and reviews charts for us each week."
Henningsen is a founding member of the clinic who still serves on the board. Mike Farrell likened him to the rudder of a ship. "To know what we've tried before. What worked, what didn't work and to be open to new ideas," explained Farrell. In addition, Henningsen also helped to put in place an endowment fund. "The clinic is a lot more stable than some other free clinics that have to struggle to raise a lot more funds," said Farrell.
"I used to tell patients that were dying, but didn't die, that for some reason God keeps them alive because all of us have a purpose," said Henningsen. "We just need to find that purpose." In helping others Henningsen found his purpose and it's a journey that's taken him on medical missions around the globe. He's traveled to places including Russia, Kazakhstan, Africa, the Himalayas, Belize and the Caribbean to provide medical care and education.
"We're so achievement oriented in our society and some of these societies are not," explained Henningsen. "And they get along just fine. In fact, in some ways better. If they have a bus that's coming to pick them up for an important meeting and they see a friend they will stop and talk to the friend and miss the bus. And that's foreign to us. We don't do that, but maybe it's the better way to do it."
In 2010 Henningsen earned the Outstanding Citizen Award from the Rice Lake Rotary Club, and it's easy to see why. He initiated an endowment fund at his church and heads up the emeritus group of the UW Barron County Foundation Board. Henningsen said he also makes time to deliver Meals On Wheels with his wife.
Congratulations to John Henningsen! If you know a volunteer who deserves to be recognized in your community nominate them now.