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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Dignitaries use hammers to knock down a wall as the Maliheh Free Clinic held its 12th annual fundraising event at its future building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017.

MILLCREEK — Even though it may seem silly, Jeanie Ashby said her favorite part about the future Maliheh Free Clinic building is the parking lot.

Ashby serves as executive director at the free medical provider in South Salt Lake, where hundreds of volunteers hold an average of 15,000 patient visits annually. But the clinic lacks parking spaces, so most patients and volunteers park along the street.

The new Maliheh Free Clinic, 941 E. 3300 South, will have double the parking spaces and square footage than at the older building.

"I know we’re causing stress for our neighbors because we’re parked all the way up and down the streets in our neighborhoods," Ashby said. "It sounds crazy, but the most exciting part to me is to look at all this parking."

On Tuesday, clinic volunteers and donors gathered at the new building site for the 12th annual fundraising event. The goal is to raise at least $2 million for renovations and remodeling of the new clinic, which previously housed the American Cancer Society. So far, donations total $1.17 million.

"After the first walk through this building, the potential overwhelmed us," said Elaine Ellis, the clinic's vice chairwoman. "We’re going to double our current space. We’re going to double our parking. And when you have 400 volunteers, you realize how critical that is."

The Maliheh Free Clinic provides free medical services for uninsured and low-income community members and families. The clinic was founded in 2005 by Khosrow Semnani and named after his grandmother, Maliheh.

"Personally, I’m much, much, much richer in the fact that we started this clinic," Semnani told donors at the event. "Charity is something that the giver receives the most in that process."

The clinic provides basic services like physical therapy and immunizations, along with specialties such as cardiology, neurology and ophthalmology. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other medical professionals volunteer for thousands of hours every year.

"The people in this community step up time after time after time, and they don’t have to," Ashby said. "They’re just good people who want to make a difference in the world."

With the updated space, the clinic plans to add a dental program, along with a larger children's waiting room for pediatric patients. The new building is also closer to Utah Transit Authority bus routes and allows for several more exam rooms.

A dozen street artists decorated the building's unfinished interior for the fundraising event Tuesday, showcasing the services the clinic will offer.

One of the graffiti artists, Kevin Alvarez, spray-painted a large heart on one of the walls upstairs.

Alvarez is a student at the University of Utah who hopes to get into medical school next year.

"Medicine is where I want to be one day," he said. "I just felt overwhelmed to be a part of this project, and to participate in something that uses my skill set to express myself for something that I want to do one day."

Alvarez plans to volunteer at the new building as a Spanish interpreter, he said. Nearly half of the clinic's patients are Hispanic, according to clinic statistics.

The new building's remodeling is scheduled to finish in spring 2018.

"We’re so excited," Ashby said. "It’s going to make such a difference for our patients and for our staff."