The local clinic that supports uninsured and Medicaid patients changed its operational model earlier this year. But the community that supports the facility remains unchanged in its commitment.

That was evident at “Come Together,” Friday’s 21st Annual Reverse Raffle fundraiser that raised $158,500 — slightly beyond the event’s $150,000 goal — for the VIMCare Clinic at Columbus Regional Hospital. The event at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center attracted a crowd of 460 people, including those who hooted and hollered their way through the $10,000 raffle drawing as if it were playful, bar-room bingo.

But attendees, that included plenty of physicians, were serious about their night’s goal: give the VIMCare Clinic a vigorous shot in the arm as its leaders move to raise $360,000 annually for its $1.4 million yearly budget.

It helped that Friday’s crowd snapped up all 500 raffle tickets long before the dinner even began.

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“You can congratulate yourselves,” said George Dutro, one of the emcees.

Organizers had said days beforehand that a net figure in the $150,000 range would serve as a strong vital sign of the local backing that had set fundraising records for the past several years. That includes $195,000 last year. But that was a time when the clinic operated exclusively with a volunteer staff and operated solely on donated funds.

“Our (health) safety net needed to evolve,” said Jim Bickel, president and chief executive officer of Columbus Regional Health as he thanked the crowd for its backing. “Our community and community health system are recommitted to filling these gaps and solving new problems.”

The evolution to which Bickel referred: instead of relying on donations and charitable fundraising, about 70 percent of VIMCare’s funding will now come from state and federal health care reimbursement programs. Plus, the clinic now operates with a paid staff instead of local medical personnel volunteering in their off-duty hours.

The Columbus Regional Health Foundation, which supports the clinic, offered a grand salute to the past with a looping slide show highlighting past scenes, clipping and history of the clinic that began in 1996 to treat the uninsured.

Plus, foundation and clinic leaders saluted such key figures as Dr. Charlie Rau, one of the clinic’s founding physicians and its longtime medical director; Jacque Franz, who launched the initial endowment campaign for the Columbus Regional Hospital Foundation; and her husband, Dr. Sherman Franz, another of the founding physicians of what is now VIMCare and former chief medical officer at Columbus Regional Hospital.

Dr. Amy Hale, a Columbus native who recently became the full-time, primary care physician at VIMCare, remembered that she began years ago as a high school volunteer at the clinic when Rau led the work.

“I now have the challenge and the honor of following in Dr. Charlie’s footsteps — and of working with Dr. Franz as a colleague,” Hale said.

Amid serious salutes, there also was time for silly revelry.

It somehow seemed fitting that, on a night when the featured nightcap entertainment would be classic light-rock band Yacht Rock Revue, that Dr. Kevin Preuss, a member of the local Grandview Yacht Club, was among the last raffle ticket prospective champs standing.

“Go Kevin!” shouted Dr. Sheryl Elston from the back of the room.

But Karen Dutro, wife of the emcee, was the eventual $10,000 raffle winner minutes after Preuss sat down.

“I will accept the results of this,” George Dutro said to substantial laughter as he announced the winning number that matched her ticket.

His raffle-winning wife acknowledged she was a bit embarrassed, and laughed when friends at her table facetiously suggested the whole thing was rigged.

Actually, the only thing that indeed seemed rigged was the winning way of support for the night — one, appropriately, that seemed filled with vim — and vigor.

Reverse Raffle by the numbers

250-plus

Number of medical professional volunteers at the clinic for 20 years

460

Event attendance and raffle tickets sold

$360,000

Total amount needed to be raised annually for VIMCare Clinic

$1.4 million

VIMCare Clinic’s annual budget

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.