The Charles Lafitte Foundation Golf Classic Awards Over $400,000 to Parker Family Health Center

The Parker Family Health Center in Red Bank is the recipient of $400,000 in proceeds from the eighth annual Charles Lafitte Foundation (CLF) Golf Classic, which took place on June 20 at the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ.

This is the second time the foundation has awarded a grant to the Parker Center; a 2007 CLF grant in the amount of $75,000 supported the facility’s pediatric program.

Since its first golf event in 2003, the foundation has dedicated the tournament’s proceeds to a single non-profit organization that works to improve quality of life issues. The funds from this year’s golf classic, hosted by CLF co-founders and board members Suzanne and Jeffrey Citron, were earmarked for the Parker Center because of its status as a free, non-profit, volunteer-based, healthcare facility where Monmouth County residents who lack medical insurance coverage or the ability to pay for medical care can receive health services at the same quality level as patients in the private sector.

The center’s focus is on primary healthcare; dental care; women’s health; cancer screening; disease prevention; health promotion; diabetes and hypertension management; immunizations; and patient education, according to Mary Nicosia, the center’s director/clinical coordinator.

And the need for these, and related services, is great, she added.

“In New Jersey, more than 200,000 people lost their health insurance in recent years,” Nicosia said. “The Parker Center has become the family doctor for approximately 10,000 patients over the last 10 years.”

Every dollar raised for the golf event was matched by the CLF, according to Suzanne Citron and CLF president Jennifer Vertetis, who choose potential charity recipients and make site visits to the hopeful beneficiaries’ locations before deciding on a final choice. During the past several years, the Citron’s daughter, 12-year-old Kyra, now a board trustee, also has played a role in the process. She discusses her own selection and reasons for the choice with her mother and Vertetis.

“Every year, she gives the right answer for the right reason,” Suzanne Citron said, “and it’s tough because as we see a lot of great organizations — really, they’re all so good.”

The annual golf classic reflects the CLF philosophy, said Vertetis, which is that organizations can come together and inspire each other to achieve common goals. Since the first 2003 tournament, more than $3 million has been raised as a result of the event, she added.

“We continue to be inspired by the passion, innovation, and dedication we witness in so many organizations and programs in the community,” she said. “There are great people working together, all with a common mission — to help people help themselves and others around them to lead healthy, satisfying, and enriched lives.”

The CLF supports organizations in four main categories: education, children’s advocacy, medical research and issues, and the arts. The foundation underwrites programs that can become self-sustaining as a result of long-term commitment.

“With each grant issued, we are taking a step to a better world,” Suzanne Citron noted.

Open six days per week, the Parker Center logs more than 10,000 annual patient visits; there have been more than 80,000 cumulative visits since the 2000 opening. A percentage of the $400,000 will be used to enhance the existing diabetic program that currently cares for more than 100 diabetic patients in a disease management program that offers diabetes care and patient education, said Dr. Roy Carman, the center’s medical director.

“The center relies on the goodwill of more than 200 volunteers, along with that of donors and community supporters,” said Carman. “In these hard times, we try to make life easier for uninsured Monmouth County residents. Most of our patients lost their jobs in the economic downturn, and their health coverage went down with it. They are not your typical ‘hard luck’ stories.”

Dr. Eugene Cheslock, the center’s president, also is aware of this dismal trend.

“During my 35 years of medical practice, I could not help noticing the increasing numbers of the medically uninsured and the resulting strain on the healthcare system,” he said. “National figures on the uninsured fuel the headlines almost daily, but the problem is no different on a local level.”

However, the CLF grant will help change outcomes and increase the availability of healthcare for the uninsured, he added.

“I’m overwhelmed at the foundation’s generosity,” Cheslock said. “Receiving this grant was like celebrating Christmas in June with wonderful, engaging people. The funding meant the world to the Parker Family Health Center and will mean the world to those who need our services. Our patients will get the best we have to offer.”

Addition information about the CLF is available at www.charleslafitte.org. Information about the Parker Family Health Center can be found at www.parkerfamilyhealthcenter.org.