As the health care debate continues to rage in Washington DC, a South Orange woman is showing that actions speak louder than words.
Fran Reibman co-founded the Children’s Emergency Medical Fund of New Jersey to provide health funds and services to children in need.
And she's teamed up with South Orange grocery store Eden Gourmet in an effort to make sure no child goes without medical treatment.
The store is donating a percentage of its takings on Wednesdays to the organization, which offers children medical care, prescription and non-prescription medications, assistive technology and counseling, clothing and groceries. The group also teams up with sister organizations to renovate homes to make them handicap accessible or safe for the children.
In 1993 Reibman, a clinical engineer and physiologist, was working at the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey, and realized that there was a caste system in healthcare. She saw the rising costs of preemptive healthcare and medicine made it inaccessible to many and she was driven to to set up C.E.M.F.
Members of the New Jersey Pediatric Society and community members would inform Reibman and her co-founders of sick children who were in need of assistance.The C.E.M.F would send those children to one of their members for no charge.
“We have an obligation to our children,” Reibman said. “It is outrageous to me that any child in the U.S. would go without health care."
One of their children was born with his feet attached to his knee caps. The boy needed double amputations. The foundation was able to get him into Shriners Hospital for Children where they did the surgery at no cost to the family. C.E.M.F also got him prosthetics, and continues to help the family with food and clothing.
“Seeing a child walk for the first time, what more could you ask for in life?” Reibman said. “There’s no house, there’s no jewelry, there’s no car, yacht, no nothing that can give you that kind of feeling.”
The foundation also works on getting kids vaccinated. Over 15,000 were given last year.
“(The foundation) is amazing people doing amazing things,” Reibman said.
A lot of what C.E.M.F does comes from the founders’ own money. It is a no frills organization based on donations and is 100% dependent on volunteers.
Unintentionally, the focus is the working poor who earn a little too much to get public assistance, but cannot afford the great costs of medical care.
But Reibman’s ambition is to put her organization out of business.