Many of CHS Healthcare’s patients are among the poorest residents of Southwest Florida. But when it comes to treating these individuals, the organization provides a wealth of services in a manner that respects their diverse backgrounds.

“Our mission is not only [to accommodate] diversity, but compassionate care in quality surrounding. We believe everyone should have good care,” says Connie Dillon, executive director of the CHS Healthcare Foundation. “We try to be aware of different cultures and be sensitive to that when treating patients of different backgrounds. We speak English, Spanish, French, Creole and Kanjabol.”

CHS Healthcare (CHS) was founded in 1977 to improve the health of migrant and seasonal farm workers, rural poor and other residents of Collier County. The effort was guided by Marion E. Fether, an Immokalee resident who recognized the community’s need for quality health care. CHS established a nonprofit medical center, which bear’s Fether’s name, in Immokalee to provide basic family medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, dental health and infectious services at affordable prices. Since then, the organization has increased its support services to include laboratory and radiology, pharmacy, outreach and health education, social services support, transportation, and translation. It currently has 12 locations and the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.

Roughly half of the CHS board members are people from the community who use services, Dillon says. And they provide input.

In 2009, CHS Healthcare provided medical services to more than 47,000 individuals, regardless of ability to pay; nearly 69 percent were children.

The organization partners with colleges and universities to attract students around Florida. Some of these relationships include Florida State University, University of Florida, Edison Community College and Florida Gulf Coast University.

CHS has won multiple awards, both in the community and nationally, for its efforts, programs and for individual excellence of staff.

Not surprisingly, CHS Healthcare strongly embraces the diversity within its ranks, which is critical given that they interact with multiple cultures. “We want a melting pot of people as far as employees go. That makes patients feel much more comfortable,” says Jules Mijares, coordinator of the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. (She received the Outstanding Migrant Health Public Service award in 2010 from the National Association of Community Health Centers.)

And there are instances when patients join the staff. For example, a woman who had been receiving obstetric treatment was hired because “her customer service skills were fantastic,” Mijares says. “We promote from within. We want everyone to grow.