Foundation partners with clinic, offers Life Coaching to clients

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

This is the third in a series of articles on the Freedom Foundation.

PARKER, Colo. – The office windows at the Mountain Top Family Health clinic have an expansive view with several snow-covered mountain peaks in the distance.

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The clinic, which will officially open Feb. 1, is the first private practice for Dr. Laura Makaroff, a native of Colorado Springs, who is glad to be back in Colorado.

“My desire has always been helping people,” she said. As a physician, she wants to be accessible to her patients – be able to see them the same day they call, she said.

The plans for her office reflect her personal touch. The waiting room will be “homey,” she said, like a living room that “feels warm and inviting.”

She wants to get to know her patients, and have that one-on-one connection with them. And, she plans to make housecalls.

Mountain Top Family Health is in a perfect location for a family practice – a children’s hospital has leased the space next door and will have specialists at that location. In addition, the Parker Adventist Hospital is across the street.

Makaroff designed one large exam room so that families with children or elderly with caregivers can come in together and not be cramped.

Once it’s up and running, Mountain Top Family Health will serve as a model, possibly for a similar program in Selma, said Mark Duke, chairman of the board of the Freedom Foundation.

The Foundation is partnering with Mountain Top Family Health, which will provide much-needed office space for the organization, and discounted rates to those patients who have the need, particularly those who are uninsured.

Shawn Samuelson of the Freedom Foundation said “our clients can go to any doctors they want,” but having the Freedom Foundation’s office set up at Mountain Top Family Health will help the Foundation meet its clients’ whole needs. “Our goal is to really care for the whole person,” Samuelson said.

The needs may be physical, but “emotional and spiritual” as well, Duke said.

Currently, the Foundation works out of an office at Duke’s home, or Life Coaches meet with clients in restaurants or in their homes.

“That’s not all bad,” Samuelson said. “It’s good to be in their environment. It’s a more holistic approach.”

Being able to help those who may not have insurance is a big plus for Makaroff.

“I want to be part of the solution to our uninsured problem,” she said.

Douglas County, which has a population of 350,000 people, has between 8,000 and 10,000 residents who are uninsured, said Jason Armstrong, executive director of the Freedom Foundation.

Makaroff said though the county is not poor, “there are people who are working, but still don’t have health insurance and don’t have access to health care.”

Freedom Foundation Programs

While everyone is excited to be in office space at the medical clinic, there are many projects involving Freedom Foundation volunteers, who number between 80 and 100, Armstrong said.

The main service provided is Life Coaching. This involves about a dozen trained volunteers who spend time each week with a client. The client may need help with money management, day care, an out-of-control teen, or any number of life issues.

The goal is to have the family back on track and on their own within a year, Samuelson said.

“Our goal is to make a big investment time-wise in a small number of families,” she said. “We’re looking to get people out of the cycle.”

Their volunteers are involved in other projects as well. Last year they helped build shelves at a children’s home in Denver, and the organization has teen mentoring programs.

While they don’t provide one-time assistance, they do help with emergency relief, providing continued support in teaching life skills such as parenting and budgeting to those who receive the assistance.

There is no charge for the Life Coaching program.

The needs in an affluent community like Parker are not seen on the surface, Duke said. That doesn’t mean the need is not there.

“It may not be financial,” Samuelson said, though she added that in 2006 the group donated a total of $50,000.

Armstrong said that while there are income guidelines for those who receive financial assistance from the Foundation, there is no such criteria for those in the Life Coaching programs.

“Some are CEOs,” Samuelson said. “It’s just people who need help with other aspects of life.”


Ask around Parker and few people have heard of the Freedom Foundation.

At Town Hall, an official said the Foundation did request a grant last year, but “didn’t get it,” primarily because they were so new and “an unknown.”

There is also concern among some Parker non-profit agencies about the Foundation.

An official with Southeast Community Outreach, or SECOR, which operates a food bank in the area, is less than impressed. Brenda Prosise, executive director of SECOR, said the Freedom Foundation has sent some of its clients to the food bank, and SECOR has referred clients to the Freedom Foundation as well, but with mixed results.

“The Freedom Foundation has a great concept,” Prosise said. “But their actions do not prove as much as they talk.”

Another organization has concerns, primarily regarding the Freedom Foundation’s lack of 501(c)3 status, which keeps the organization off the referral list for the Parker Task Force Food Bank.

The Parker Task Force Food Bank is a 20-year-old non-profit that provides services to approximately 1,000 people per month. It is run solely by volunteers and operates out of a building provided by the town of Parker.

A previous article in The Times-Journal

reported that the Foundation applied for its IRS nonprofit 501 (c) 3 determination letter after it was incorporated in September 2005, but it is yet to be awarded.

According to a CPA in Selma, that’s not unusual.

The application process to obtain a 501(c)3 status is complex and can be up to 100 pages of details, including the articles of incorporation, bylaws, history, specific activities, information on the board of directors, and more. Once the application is received by the IRS, officials review all of the information.

On the IRS Web site, the agency acknowledges that applications are taking longer to process, with this posting: “We apologize for any delays you may be experiencing and we are taking steps to decrease processing time. This delay is the result of a backlog of exemption applications.”

Project Selma

In Selma, the Freedom Foundation plans to focus on youth, Duke said.

In fact, a program is set for tonight at 7 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center with special speaker Sheyann Webb, author of “Selma, Lord, Selma.”

About 60 volunteers with the Freedom Foundation are expected in Selma tonight for the event.

In addition, the Tepper’s Building on Broad Street, which the Freedom Foundation recently purchased, will be renovated to include a coffee house, “a place for them to hang out,” Duke said of the teens.

It is estimated the complete renovation could cost more than $2 million to make repairs on all four floors and the roof, along with equipment and furnishings for the Internet lounge/coffee shop and an ice cream parlor. The upper floors will be used for social service programming such as a child care center where mothers will do more than just drop their children off.

To benefit from the free childcare, parents have to agree to counseling services that foundation executives say “addresses breaking a life cycle,” much like the Life Coaching program in Parker.

Duke said he has talked with a church in Selma that is excited about the “Breaking the Cycle” plan, which will include job development, as well as personal development.

“We really feel like God’s leading us there,” Duke said of Selma. “And the people are open to it.”

Using Mountain Top Family Health as a model, a medical program could be started out of the Tepper’s Building, Duke said. “We have thought maybe we could do a clinic there.”