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Low-cost health center receives $500,000 donation — and a smaller one, too

Published: Tuesday, April 26 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

TAYLORSVILLE — Two young brothers had been saving money for a trip to Disneyland by collecting loose change and mowing lawns when they told their grandmother some surprising news: They wanted to donate the money to a local health center instead.

"It's like a second family to us," David Dutson, 15, said of the staff at the Oquirrh View Community Health Center that diagnosed him and his brother Dallas, 11, with cystic fibrosis when they were younger.

The center and others like it provide low-cost health care for individuals who either don't have insurance or are underinsured.

"Most of our patients are working poor," said Dexter Pearce, executive director of Community Health Centers Inc., a nonprofit that runs four health centers in addition to Oquirrh View.

Low-cost health centers across the valley, and the state, are feeling the pinch of federal budget cuts. As the budget currently stands, 2,900 patients in Salt Lake County will lose health care, Pearce said.

But a $500,000 donation to Community Health Centers from General Electric will help mitigate some of those cuts. Pierce said the donation, presented Tuesday at the Oquirrh View location, will fund health care for 700 people.

Gov. Gary Herbert and Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, attended the check presentation. "It's great to see the private sector step up and fill these needs in the marketplace," Herbert said. "We will feel the ripples of this for a long time."

Bob Corcoran, president of GE's philanthropic arm, GE Foundation, said the organization chose to donate to a Salt Lake nonprofit because of the high number of GE employees in the area, and they chose a health center because having access to primary care is important.

"We're proud to be able to support the work they do here," he said.

Jessica Sierra, who works at a local restaurant and doesn't have health care, said she has been coming to the health center for about nine years. She said she feels grateful that the center has provided her and her kids with everything from prenatal care to pediatric care — services she couldn't afford anywhere else.

"I'm glad that they're able to help the community," she said.

And as for the Dutson boys, who said they plan to donate to the center "as long as we can," GE is sending them on an all-expenses paid trip to Disney World and Universal Studios.

Email: averzello@desnews.com

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