Fulfilling A Life’s Passion to Deliver Quality Health Care
As a child Charles Range didn’t mind the slow drive along country roads from his home in urban Richmond, California, to the more rural community of Martinez whenever he or his nine siblings needed medical care. The trek would take an hour or so. Not so taxing for a kid, but it was the long wait once they got to the county clinic – the one place where his poor and uninsured family could afford health care – that he remembers with some sadness.
Sometimes it would take all day before they saw a doctor.
“They didn’t fall over to give us service,” says Mr. Range, now CEO of the South of Market Health Center (SMHC) in San Francisco. “The treatment was like a Band-Aid; they would give us something and send us home. At the time the experience that African Americans had was horrendous. The quality care wasn’t there.”
These experiences as a child planted a seed of empathy in Mr. Range at an early age, “I had a tremendous feeling for people and their particular needs and also the obstacles that prevented them from getting access to care.”
It is no wonder that Mr. Range takes special pride in the four-year-old, state-of-the-art health facility serving one of San Francisco’s poorest districts that he helped champion. An even more amazing feat consider that in its previous location, the building was damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the rooms were sorely underequipped, and patients had to navigate an alley strewn with trash and broken glass to enter.
“Would you want your mother to walk down an alley with glass everywhere and homeless people sleeping nearby?” he says of the urgency he felt to find a new site and create a clinic from scratch.
Seeing that vision through, however, took almost 17 years.
Mr. Range – known for his humility, integrity and friendly manner – drew on his business administration degree and extensive background in social welfare to see the project to completion. His ability to build strong relationships and partnerships within the clinic’s South of Market neighborhood was one of his biggest assets in taking on a huge project like building a new health care facility in San Francisco.
“Mr. Range is very passionate about this work and cares deeply about the community this health center serves. You can see it when he tells their story. It took many years to make this facility a reality and it would not have happened without Mr. Range. I’m thrilled that Capital Impact could support his vision,” said Kathy Jolly, Capital Impact Partner’s director of portfolio and asset management.
The project began as a grassroots effort in the neighborhood. Mr. Range remembers attending a community advisory meeting where he was quickly elected as a representative. Members of the community met with him and said that they would like to have a modern health clinic in the SOMA neighborhood.
Building on this momentum, Mr. Range, then got the support of the City and County of San Francisco, as well as the former Redevelopment Agency. He teamed up with Mercy Housing, which now provides affordable housing above the health clinic, building strong linkages to the support services the low-income residents of the community desperately needed.
Beyond the relationship building, Mr. Range also realized the daunting financial realities of building a new health center. It was a risky proposition that most traditional banks did not want provide capital for. Then, at a conference of the National Association of Community Health Centers, he heard talk among the center directors of the skills of Capital Impact Partners, a mission-driven Community Development Financial Institution.
“Without Capital Impact’s support, their sensitivity, their receptivity to looking at areas that need assistance, a project like ours would never have gotten off the ground. Capital Impact worked very closely not only with SMHC but with the City and County of San Francisco to pull together the right package of funding to build this institution. They are more receptive to understanding that even though we are serving a low-income population we need top resources,” says Mr. Range of the funding that allowed the health center to buy its current site and construct the gleaming facility.
“We saw the promise in Mr. Range to create a facility that would have tremendous social impact for the homeless and underinsured population of San Francisco,” said Scott Sporte, chief lending officer at Capital Impact Partners. “Serving as both a partner to and lender for the South of Market facility was an inspiring experience and we are thrilled with their success.”
Today’s facility sets a new standard for what community health centers can be. The modern, airy building has 18 fully equipped treatment rooms and a dental center with six stations. The waiting rooms are comfortable and uncrowded, and the staff is renowned for their caring manner. Patients are proud to enter and often speak about how the facility has transformed their lives.
As a young man Mr. Range never dreamed he would enter public health administration, but looking back at his childhood, he’s gratified that he’s in a position to provide services that weren’t available to his family.
His philosophy about being at the helm of SMHC speaks volumes for who Mr. Range is as both a CEO and a person, “You have to approach it as a business but have that humanistic feeling about people.”