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Changing Of The Guard: Bringing The “Health Brigade” Logo Into The Now

Fan Free Clinic becomes Health Brigade; changes name for first time in 50-year history

For the first time in its nearly 50-year history, Richmond’s Fan Free Clinic has a new name.

The organization announced Thursday that it is now called the Health Brigade, which Executive Director Karen Legato said better reflects what it provides to the community. 

“We really took a look at who we’ve been and what our core values are to get to the essence of what Fan Free Clinic has been all these years and how we want to position ourselves moving forward,” she said.

The group provides a variety of health services to Richmond-area residents, especially for the poor, disadvantaged and underserved. Leadership within the organization has considered rebranding since at least 2011, according to Legato, but the idea really took traction about a year ago.

Roger Neathawk of locally based marketing and advertising agency ndp, Kim Farlow of Kim Farlow Communications, Erin Bishop of EAB Research, and Karen Grimm of ideaspring all donated time and services to develop the new name and brand.

In fact, the organization did not pay anything for the rebranding work, which is valued at more than $50,000 according to a news release. The entire transition to its new name should be completed by December, and temporary signage has been placed over its building at 1010 N. Thompson St. 

The name Health Brigade helps the organization pay homage to its past while also looking toward the future, Legato said. Located in the Museum District, the clinic is closer to Scott’s Addition than it is to the Fan District, nor is it solely a clinic, as it helps its patients with everything from food pantry services to housing.

The “free” portion of its old name also may have limited the organization, Legato pointed out, because it is considering implementing sliding-scale payment options in which care would be priced according to patients’ income. All those factors, she said, indicated it was time for something new. 

“(Health Brigade) really does capture this sense of a fighting spirit that we’ve always had, because we’ve been strong in our advocacy work and social justice for the people that we serve,” Legato said. 

Founded in 1968, the organization was the first free clinic in Virginia and one of the first in the country, Legato said. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it focused on women’s access to oral contraceptives and offered primary care to the poor and uninsured.

In the 1980s, the organization’s website states, it provided support in the wake of the AIDS pandemic, establishing the first community-based HIV/AIDS outreach program in the state.

For the past 10 years, it has been providing primary care services to the transgender population and has expanded its mental health services. It serves local residents who live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level — which, for a family of four, is $48,600, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

The organization serves about 10,000 people annually through its medical clinic, mental health services and HIV-testing services. It has 30 staff members, and its work is supported by 500 volunteers.

The name Health Brigade encompasses how the organization approaches its patients, Legato said.

“Health is what we do, and the concept of a brigade is how we do it,” she said. “The word health encompasses the whole person, and that’s really what we’re about — holistic care.”

Stating that most primary care providers spend an average of only 15 minutes with each patient, Legato said physicians with her organization — many of whom work on a volunteer basis — spend an hour to 90 minutes with each patient to get the full picture of what may be contributing to their health issues, such as environmental or community factors.

She also invoked the idea of a bucket brigade, which at one time was an important way of putting out large fires, in explaining the name.

“The whole notion of passing buckets of water to put out fires really captures our early history of running into those situations that no one wanted to deal with at the time, that were risky, but that required a crisis response at some level — particularly with the HIV and AIDS work,” Legato said. 

“Being able to call in the community in some way to lock arms with us — or to get in line with us with buckets — was very purposeful, very planned out, a very efficient way of putting the fire out.” 

Along with a new name, the organization has a new logo as well: a light green flag sporting a multicolored cross made out of small squares, with the “L” in Health Brigade serving as the pole. The cross references the American Red Cross, capturing the medical side of the organization’s work. 

“The diversity of the colors really does reflect the diversity of the patients we serve, the volunteers who work with us, our staff and our board, as well as our donors,” Legato said. “We do think it gives a nod to where we’ve evolved from and is broad enough for us to move wherever we need to go.” 

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