A cramped, two-room center at San Marcos Elementary School is the only option for many of Chandler's low-income and uninsured children when they need immunizations or treatment for an ear infection or pinkeye.
But the San Marcos Family Resource Center, which provides free acute medical care, annual checkups and dental work for more than 10,000 children each year, will move and expand.
By January, the center will relocate to the campus of Galveston Elementary School and into a new 8,800-square-foot facility where it will be able to double the number of children it serves.
"A high percentage of people who live in Chandler are high-income, but there is also a number of low-income people in the community," said Susan Horan, the center's project director. "These are the working poor. The fathers are the workers. Several mothers are homemakers. Many of them are in the home-cleaning services. Some make tortillas or tamales to sell for some extra money. ... These are people who are struggling, but who just cannot quite make it."
Some 85 percent of the center's clientele are in families that earn $14,990 or less every year.
Increasingly, Horan said she sees people who have insurance for themselves through employment, but who cannot afford premiums for their children.
Yet with just a $149,000 operating budget, the clinic is able to provide an estimated $1.2 million worth of services. The rooms and the professional services - are all donated.
The center was established by the Chandler Unified School District in 1994 as a way to improve school attendance and academic performance of students at five elementary schools in lower-income areas of Chandler. District officials found that untreated illnesses kept students out of school and infected other students and staff.
Business partnerships, such as with Food City, allow the center's patients to get vouchers with their prescriptions, letting them purchase medications 15 percent to 30 percent off the regular price.
The center focuses on signing up children eligible for state-funded health insurance for low-income families. But it often takes a few months for that process to work, and, sometimes, the medical need is urgent, Horan said.
But, squeezed into just two small rooms, the center is not able to help as many people who need it.
Only one doctor can work at a time, and appointments often fill up. On Monday, the clinic opened at 9 a.m., but by 7:30 a.m. parents and children were already lined up outside the door.
The $2.7 million expansion will allow the center to offer even more services to more children, Horan said. A dental clinic will offer extractions and fillings. Extra examination rooms mean more children will get urgent care.
The school district has donated the land for the building and roughly $1 million from bond money. Chandler contributed $500,000. Private companies will pay for another $100,000, and the center is still working to raise the rest of the needed funds.