The Second Half: Crusader—much more than a health clinic

The Second Half

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

Medical care is a sore subject for me, seeing as how I know about 100 women in their Second Half who are under-insured or, even worse, completely uninsured. OK, well, maybe I don’t know 100 women personally, but whenever I’m in a group and survey them, the majority of women in my age group or older fall into that category.

Lovely lady Bee is 60-something and still employed “for the insurance,” she tells me. Her husband is still around, but older than 65 and receiving Medicare benefits. Bee can’t yet receive Medicare, but needs help because she now has cancer. She was able to work during her initial round of radiation and chemotherapy, but she isn’t so sure her recovery from surgery and subsequent chemo will allow her to return to employment. Nice thing to have to worry about when you have cancer and chemo and radiation on your plate, eh?

Another Second-Half gal I know got divorced and now has no insurance. She is diabetic, with all the potential for complications the disease offers…so, what does she do? “I go to Crusader,” she says, “and they are wonderful!”

This discussion led me to a class at Rock Valley College’s Center for Learning in Retirement (CLR), “An Inside View of a Community Health Center.” The class met at Crusader’s West State Street location—what I found was not the Crusader Clinic of my “social work” past, but an entirely new experience. I remember bringing pregnant teens and single moms looking for birth control to their dark, little building filled with friendly, but overworked, staff. That building is now gone, replaced by the beautiful meditation garden and sculptures you see as you drive by on West State Street. The health center building is behind the garden, a roomy, red brick, three-story structure housing programs such as Family Practice, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Dental, Health Care for the Homeless, and the Living with HIV Program. In addition, they offer optometry and a pharmacy on site. “A lot has changed since they opened in 1972,” I thought.

Inside the brightly-lit lobby, I was greeted by a smiling gal at the reception desk who directed me to the conference room. The class was presented by Crusader CEO Dr. Gordon Eggers with his second-in-command, Vice President of Development Linda Niemiec. I was surprised to learn that Dr. Eggers—before he was medical director, then CEO of Crusader—spent time providing medical care to patients in third-world countries. This got me thinking about the “community clinics” of my younger days—usually storefronts, they were staffed primarily with volunteer doctors and nurses from area health facilities back in the days when The Pill was something new, Vietnam was something horrible, and volunteerism was something everyone should consider.

“There are no volunteer doctors on staff here,” Dr. Eggers told us. “They are all employees and all board-certified.”

Then, he told us about what happened six years ago, when Crusader was near bankruptcy and about to close. “I knew something had to be done or we would lose the place,” he said. He restructured the facility on performance-based principles, expecting only the best for the patients they served. “The clients deserve to feel safe and respected,” he shared.

Now known as Crusader Community Health—because, I assume, they are so much more than a clinic!—Eggers and his team have a vision: “…championing the needs of the underserved and providing health care for all, regardless of their ability to pay, as we eliminate disparities in health care.”

Eggers doesn’t just say so; he backs it up. Crusader Community Health is accredited by the gold standard in health care, the Joint Commission. Crusader maintains this commitment to the community: to offer a collaborative health care system that is patient-centered, affordable and accessible, and of high quality with dignity, compassion, and cultural sensitivity.

“Well, anybody can create a great health facility,” you may be thinking, “if you throw enough of our tax money at it!” It’s funny that most of us thought the place was funded solely by our taxes—here’s the revenue breakdown:

Federal grant money—19 percent

State & other grant money—3 percent

Pharmaceutical donations—3 percent

Other donations—1 percent

Patient fees—74 percent

So, the truth is, Crusader receives very little in tax money: “Now isn’t that a refreshing change of pace?”

The West State facility has a bright, comfortable layout and lovely décor, as nice as any medical clinic in the area. But here is their special treasure: the Cosmopolitan Learning and Resource Center. Anyone from the community—not just patients—can participate in computer-based interactive learning tutorials about more than 200 health topics in English and Spanish. In addition to the computer and print resources, their clinical team offers one-on-one sessions with a certified health educator.

The Rockford Cosmopolitan Club is responsible for this fantastic resource center, stemming from their desire to assist patients with chronic diseases. Check them out at

The best part was the smiling—everyone smiled, greeted us, and couldn’t wait to show off their particular area. I never felt like an intrusion, a common feeling in this day and age. They offer both quality care and great service—in my Second Half, I deserve great service…don’t you?

Did I mention their next project? Opening in fall of 2011, Crusader Community Health Center in Loves Park is on Highway 251 just north of Riverside. The construction is going well…drive by and have a look!

Learn more about Crusader Community Health at

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the April 27-May 3, 2011 issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!