A $450,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation will help push La Clinica closer to its $3.5 million-fundraising goal for its new Central Point clinic.

A $450,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation will help push La Clinica closer to its $3.5 million-fundraising goal for its new Central Point clinic.

The nonprofit health-care provider announced Thursday it had received the grant from the Troy, Mich.-based foundation created by S.S. Kresge, who built the chain of stores that eventually became Kmart.

"The exciting part about it is that it's money from outside our region," said Maria Ramos Underwood, La Clinica's development director. It's also $100,000 more than the original request and the largest gift of the current campaign, she said.

La Clinica set out in September 2007 to raise $3.5 million to build and equip its Central Point Health Center. With the Kresge grant, it has raised about $2.85 million.

Ramos Underwood said funding requests at local foundations are increasing as the economy sags and more people need assistance.

"For us to attract national foundations is huge for our organization," said Ramos Underwood, who developed the grant proposal.

Funds to operate the Central Point clinic are provided by a $650,000 federal grant that was awarded in September 2007. The 10,000-square-foot clinic at 4900 Hamrick Road is the largest of La Clinica's three sites. It opened in September 2008 and is being finished as additional money comes in.

The Kresge award is a challenge grant — La Clinica must raise an equal amount in matching funds by May 2009. Ramos Underwood said she's confident the 20-person development team will raise the matching funds.

"This campaign has been extremely successful," she said. "In a year we've raised over $2 million."

The Kresge award is La Clinica's first gift from a national foundation. She said the $3.5 billion foundation is accustomed to funding "huge, huge organizations that do ground-breaking work. It's a reminder that we're doing great things here."

La Clinica's mission — to provide health care to low-income individuals and families that were previously unserved — caught Kresge's eye, said foundation spokeswoman Cynthia Shaw.

Shaw said La Clinica's proposal fit well with the foundation's goals to reach underserved populations, improve a community's quality of life and create opportunities for low-income and underserved people.

"They have a good strategic operating plan and they're well organized," Shaw said. "They're extremely well run and we know the money will be used wisely. They really are advancing our values."

La Clinica was founded as La Clinica del Valle in 1988 to serve migrant and seasonal farm workers. It has since broadened its focus and shortened its name, and now provides medical and dental care for low-income families and individuals within the general population. Sixty percent of its patients are non-Hispanic.

In 2007, La Clinica served 12,522 patients and provided 52,855 patient visits. The vast majority of patients are low-income and uninsured. Thirty-eight percent of patients are under 18, and 9 percent are homeless.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com.