Current news and updates regarding the Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine Community.

COVID-19 Response

A Note from Our CEO

March 23, 2020

To our Faithful Volunteer Family,

Who would have guessed three weeks ago that we’d be where we are today?

Life has been altered perhaps permanently in many ways and as we navigate the uncertain waters ahead, some things have not changed:

How much we appreciate YOU…all of you!

Our commitment to our patients’ health and wellness.


To those of you who have weathered this storm alongside us inside the clinic thus far, THANK YOU!

To those of you who have weathered this storm from the security and safety of your own home, THANK YOU as well.

By working in the clinic alongside us you are helping us keep LVIM’s patients healthy, with uninterrupted access to their medications. We are keeping them out of the emergency room. By doing this, we keep beds open for those in our community who will soon be very sick.

By choosing to stay home, you are doing the same.  You are helping our community flatten the curve and increasing the chances of our community coming out on the other side of this less harmed.  By staying home, in many ways, you are ensuring you can come back to us when this is all over.


As things are changing daily, I hope to keep you all informed and engaged in our mission.

Please accept my apologies that I haven’t been able to do so clearly until now. 

First, we have adjusted our operation in many ways to ensure everyone’s safety.

We are currently working with a skeleton crew of volunteers and staff.  A staff person is stationed outside the front door evaluating each person who comes to LVIM before they enter the building.  Everyone who wishes to enter the building is having their temperature taken and checked for any symptoms.  No guests or visitors are allowed in the building.  Medications are being delivered to patients by a staff member outside of the building.  We have moved many of our patient visits to a telehealth format and are triaging sick patients by phone before making any appointments.  We are honoring intake appointments that were already on the books, but we are no longer taking in any more new patients until it is safe to do so.  Our ophthalmology clinic is closed until further notice and dental is seeing only emergency cases.

Last week, I asked much of our admin staff to begin working remotely until further notice.

Kathy, Sonia, Ginny, Rebeca, Mary and Caroline have been working hard from their home offices to build the foundations on which we will stand on the other side of this. As they practice social distancing and self-isolation, they are working on the plans LVIM will use to rebound from the implications this will have on our organization. They are raising the money we need to keep caring for our community.  Though they are not in the office, their work is important, seen, and valued.

Our team’s health and wellness is my priority.

Without each of you healthy and well, staff and volunteers, we are of no use to the 3,000 patients who rely on us.

That being said, while we have significantly decreased the number of people coming in and out of the building, we are still open to serve our clients.  If you would like to pick up a shift, please let Kathy know.  We do have work for you.  Each day we have many phone calls to make and messages to which to reply, many prescriptions to order, to fill, and to prepare.

However, YOUR HEALTH IS MOST IMPORTANT!  Please DO NOT feel badly about staying home, either.  We know you value this mission whether you are in the building or at home.

Last week, as I was reflecting on all of this, not just for us at LVIM, but our lives as a whole, I wrote this:

Many of you know that I served our country and our world as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, West Africa from 2002-2004. For 27 months I lived in a place so foreign to me, and I foreign to it.

We struggled together. We worked together. We fought together.  We learned together.

We grew together.

That experience, and every single person I met along the way, made me so much of who I am today.

The sudden stop of all of it, around the globe, feels so hopeless.

The sudden isolation at home feels helpless.

And, yet…these words…

Mayi mava looooo – I go. I come.

In my village we said, “Allez Revenir.”

Go…to come back.

Over these days, I have cried a lot.  I have cried for the friends I can’t hug and the memories I can’t make in this time. I have cried for our volunteers who are most vulnerable to this vicious virus and cannot be with us during this time.  I have cried for my children and what they are missing.

But, I also know that going also means we can come back.

So, let’s all go…

so we can come back together.


In many ways, our new normal is a foreign land – at work and at home.

We have had to go away from all that we knew, make many changes, but doing so means we can come

back together, better and stronger.

It is often said that we cannot direct the wind, we can only adjust our sails.

Thank you for shifting your sails with us to meet the wind. Thank you for being patient with us during these times. Thank you for continuing to show up for our patients, for each other, and for our mission – whether in the clinic or from home.

I am grateful for you,


As we work together to keep our community safe and healthy, LVIM is planning and prepared to face the new normal that lies ahead.  We are currently seeing patients, we will just not be accepting NEW patients until further notice.

Stay informed:


Florida Department of Health –

As we are adjusting to our new normal, our patients will see the information below posted on our doors.  If it applies to you, PLEASE CALL US before entering the building!


With the arrival of COVID-19 on our doorstep, LVIM will continue to be a critical resource to the community.

Working together to keep our community safe and healthy, LVIM is planning and prepared to face the new normal that lies ahead.  In these uncertain times, LVIM is keeping the doors open to our current patients, all 3,000+ of them.  Now more than ever keeping our emergency rooms clear of non-emergencies will be essential.  We are encouraging our vulnerable volunteers to stay home, stay well, and stay healthy, which means working with a skeleton crew.  As such, we will be closing our doors to new patients for a short time so we can focus on caring for the patients we already have.  We will not cease providing medically necessary care, pharmacy services, and will even make tele-medicine available when feasible.

Additionally, we have made the hard decision to postpone the Swan Derby. It is our every hope to revive the Derby sometime this fall. I will keep you updated as further information is available.

Please consider a donation to LVIM so that we can continue to care for our patients, provide needed medications and give them some peace of mind, during these unique circumstances.


Mobile Food Pantry

Gut Feeling

by Caroline Benitez

While many of us are used to making decisions based on a gut feeling, it takes more than intuition to know your risk of colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer refers to cancer of the digestive tract- specifically, cancer occurring in the large intestine (colon) or rectum. Roughly 148,000 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in 2019. That makes it the fourth most common kind of cancer in the United States.

Early detection is key to fighting this disease. Screening through stool samples and colonoscopies are tools used to catch early warning signs of colorectal cancer, such as blood in the stool or precancerous polyps. The CDC recommends that anyone between the ages of 50 and 75 get screened for colorectal cancer. Thanks to a partnership with Lakeland Surgical and Diagnostics, LVIM is able to ensure that our patients get the screening colonoscopies that they need.

Whether you’re due for a screening or still have some time to go, it’s never too early to take action! Below are some small steps you can take to lower your risk of colorectal cancer.

Get screened

Factors such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or a family history of cancer increase your risk. Talk to your doctor to find out the right time for you to start screening.

Quit Smoking

Stopping use of cigarettes and tobacco products is a good call to prevent all kinds of cancers. Studies estimate that anywhere from 15-20% of all colon cancer cases can be attributed to smoking.

Get moving

Because being overweight can be a negative risk factor, increasing your daily physical activity is a step in the right direction. Try walking with friends or family for a fun and free form of exercise!

Try a healthier diet

While no single food or diet is proven to prevent cancer, research suggests that cutting back on animal fats and adding fiber in the form of whole grains, vegetables, and nuts could promote good colon health.

About LVIM

LVIM provides free, high-quality, out-patient medical, dental, and mental health care to the working uninsured of Polk County in a compassionate manner. Through 19 years of excellent leadership, LVIM has grown into a thriving and crucial organization for the Polk County community serving the health care needs of over 4,300 eligible patients each year and providing over $9 million in services in 2019 alone. At LVIM the treatment is free, the care is priceless!

To find out if you qualify please visit or call (863) 688-5846.

“Basic Information about Colorectal Cancer.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Feb. 2020,

“Colorectal Cancer.” American Cancer Society, 2020,

2019 Nonprofit of the Year

LVIM is incredibly honored to have received the Nonprofit of the Year Award at the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Honors event last week!  The applications were judged by Executives of Chambers from around the country.

Without our volunteers, staff, board members and the community this would not be possible.

This is one of the BEST birthday presents!

Healthy Hearts

by Caroline Benitez

At Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine (LVIM), we strive to put heart into everything that we do. When it comes to getting our patients on track toward good health, understanding their heart health is the best place to start.

According to the CDC, nearly 75 million adults in the United States live with chronic high blood pressure – and only an average of 54% of these people have their condition under control. Having high blood pressure puts a person at an increased risk for serious conditions like heart disease and stroke down the road. As of 2019, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Knowing your numbers is the first step towards controlling your risk against heart disease. That’s why we decided it was important to make sure patients have the tools they need to take control of their heart health.

Thanks to a grant from the Florida Association for Free and Charitable Clinics, LVIM was able to purchase 41 blood pressure monitors and develop a lending program. Patients can take a monitor home and track their blood pressure metrics ahead of their next visit. Collecting these readings in a relaxed home environment over an extended period allows for accurate results- and accurate results lets patients and providers work together to create a plan to tackle high blood pressure.

Small solutions like home monitoring really do make a big difference in the fight against heart disease. As of December 2019, 63% of LVIM hypertensive patients were evaluated as having blood pressure in good control during their most recent visit. Access to life changing medications, along with lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and exercise, gives LVIM patients the boost they need to keep their hearts beating strong for a long and healthy life.

LVIM provides free, high-quality, out-patient medical, dental, and mental health care to the working uninsured of Polk County in a compassionate manner. Through 19 years of excellent leadership, LVIM has grown into a thriving and crucial organization for the Polk County community serving the health care needs of over 4,300 eligible patients each year and providing nearly $10 million in services in 2019 alone. At LVIM the treatment is free, the care is priceless!

To find out if you qualify please visit or call (863) 688-5846.

Dr. Robert Chapman’s Farewell

After more than three years of service at Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine, Dr. Chapman announced that he will be retiring from his role as Medical Director. Dr. Chapman’s efforts to recruit volunteer medical providers throughout the community and expand services available for LVIM patients has been integral to fulfilling LVIM’s mission of providing high quality medical care to the working uninsured of Polk County. The recent additions of much needed screening services, such as colonoscopies, low dose CT scans, and sleep studies to screen for sleep apnea, would not have been possible without Dr. Chapman’s efforts.

“It has been a pleasure and honor to serve as Medical director at Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine. The position has been wonderful and has afforded me the ability to work for a most noble cause,” stated Dr. Chapman. “I couldn’t have asked for a better place to work.”

Regarding plans for retirement, Dr. Chapman looks forward to traveling and spending time with family members and friends across the country. He pledged his continued support of LVIM and intends to continue seeing patients as a volunteer medical provider.

The position of Medical Director will be filled by Dr. Fred Schreiber, MD beginning January 1st, 2020. Dr. Schreiber received his doctorate degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and his background includes over 35 years at Watson Clinic as a Hematologist and Oncologist.  In addition, Dr. Schreiber has been volunteering at LVIM for over three years in this specialty.  Dr. Chapman expressed his confidence that his successor will be an excellent addition to the LVIM team. With the addition of Dr. Schreiber, Dr. Chapman said, “LVIM is getting an upgrade.”




DSM is doing a private showing of Star Wars fundraiser again this year and one of the agencies that people can choose a direct donation for is LVIM.

  Thank you


LVIM Will Be Closed For Thanksgiving

Welcome Ginny!

Ginny Sigle is the new Director of Development and Communications at Lakeland Volunteers In Medicine (LVIM).  She has a background in sales as well as healthcare.  She received her MBA from Saint Leo University in 2018 and has a Black Belt Certification in Six Sigma.  Ginny fell in love with the community when she moved to Lakeland 13 years ago.  She is a graduate of both Leadership Lakeland (Class XXXIV) and Leadership Polk (Class XII).  She has served on the board of Camp Fire Sunshine Council, a member of United Way of Central Florida’s Community Investment Team, a member of the organizing committee for 1 Million Cups Lakeland, Board Member and Volunteer Coordinator for Cleveland Heights 4-Ball Invitational, and a member of the Steering Committee for Family Fundamentals.  In her spare time Ginny loves to run, read, travel and spend time with her family.