The story of Esperanza Health Center (EHC) is a story of God’s faithfulness, and Tenth Church has been a vital part of this story. Since 2001, Tenth has supported Esperanza for a total of $177,646. The mission of EHC is fulfilled in cooperation with the church and others—this is unchanged in over 30 years of service. No patient is turned away because of inability to pay, and thousands of patients are either uninsured or underinsured. Each patient is cared for with compassion and excellence that reflects Christ’s love for them.
Early Years: The Vision for Christian Healthcare in Philadelphia
With a burden to reach out to the communities of North Philadelphia in the early 1980s, Dr. Carolyn Klaus participated in evangelism teams with her church that met with, prayed for, shared the Bible, and served neighbors in practical ways. When Dr. Klaus stepped in for a neighborhood medical practice that had lost its only doctor, she grappled with how to address her patients’ mental health and economic needs. She connected many of them to the evangelism teams and made an interesting discovery: these patients recovered faster than patients who were not involved with them! She was on to something.
"We had stumbled upon a model of healthcare I'd never done before,” Klaus said. "I realized I was doing whole person medicine. It wasn't just all taking place in the office." She asked the question, “’What would healthcare be like in our present culture if God’s will were being done?’ I like to call this kingdom health care: a gospel-centered, compassionate, whole-person approach that brings hope (esperanza in Spanish) into the lives of people desperate for it.”
The First Decade: The Vision Unfolds
With abiding faith, the vision and calling to community-based Christian healthcare in North Philadelphia was born at last. God opened the doors of Esperanza on June 15, 1989. "When Esperanza first started, none of us had any idea that we'd even survive, let alone prosper for 30 years. If I had known all that would be involved with getting involved with Esperanza, I don't know if I would have had the courage to start. Thank God I didn't know. We blindly went forward, trusting, one step at a time."
Rev. Bonnie Camarda, also part of the evangelism teams, recalls, “In the early days, we accepted everyone. It didn’t matter who you were. If you came to the clinic, you were treated with respect, with love, and were given a message that you were important, because God was the one that was ruling us.”
The Second Decade: The Vision Grows
Esperanza continued to grow in faith and impact. In 2000, it outgrew the original space and moved into the basement level of the former Parkview Hospital in the Juniata neighborhood. Dr. Bryan Hollinger, one of Esperanza’s long-time physicians and current Medical Director, pulled together the “paper stones of remembrance” that staff posted on rolled paper years ago to chronicle specific ways God had provided for Esperanza. With the help of his family, he reconstructed it into a beautiful 25 foot-long “Wall of Faithfulness” that was framed and erected in the entryway of the new location. Despite improved business practices and achieving prestigious recognition for quality healthcare, financial challenges seemed unsurmountable. On the brink of closing, staff reserved a day to praise God for his faithfulness and pray for future provision. At the end of this time of prayer and praise, a voicemail message was played stating that overdue medical reimbursements from the state had been wired into Esperanza’s account that day! Current Executive Director Susan Post joined the team in 2005; and in 2006 God provided a new satellite site across the street from the original location on North 5th Street where it all began. In 2007 Esperanza moved into leased space in Kensington and continued to operate at this site for over 10 years.
Decade Three: The Vision Is Established
In late 2009, Esperanza received a federal grant to build a state-of-the-art health and wellness center in the Hunting Park community. Esperanza Health Center now employs over 215 employees and in 2019—Esperanza’s 30th year—over 14,000 patients are served per year through all sites. In 2016 the former Kensington Trust Company bank building was purchased and transformed into EHC’s new Kensington Health Center, which opened to patients on September 30, 2019. Says Dr. Klaus, "I think everyone who knew us back when we started is amazed at what Esperanza is now—it is a work of God." Susan Post affirms this: "We still operate the same way Dr. Klaus operated at the beginning, which is, bringing God's Kingdom come here on earth, and caring about patients in the way that Jesus cared about them!"