JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's their mission to help those who need it most, but they have been doing it with little to no recognition. A devoted group of local Muslims provide much-needed medical care to people who cannot afford it, and many people have no idea.
They've been doing it for years, offering more than 5,000 doctors' appointments at a St. Johns Bluff clinic in Jacksonville -- without charging a penny -- and their acts of goodwill are saving lives and healing hearts.
Zachary Tilley, a patient at Muslim American Social Services, has had a rough year. He had a stroke and heart problems.
"I lost my job because I couldn't work at the time that I had the stroke," Tilley told News4Jax.
He also lost his insurance. With no money to pay the bills, he wasn't able to get the medical treatments he needed -- until someone referred him to the clinic.
"If it wasn't for them, I don't know," he said.
Tilley and more than 2,000 other patients have all been able to come to the clinic and see a number of top-notch doctors for free.
"Right from the first time the response was overwhelming, and at that time we realized the need in the community," said Dr. Mohammad Ilyas, co-founder of Muslim American Social Services.
Since 2009, Ilyas, and about 30 other doctors from all different specialties, have volunteered their time, treating Jacksonville's underprivileged and sick.
"All for free. No charge to the patients," Ilyas emphasized.
They do it with donations from the local Islamic Center, and partnerships with hospitals and nonprofits. They take off from their full-time jobs to come to the clinic and provide services ranging from simple checkups to major surgeries.
"We are trying to do our part, serving beyond any ethnicity, beyond any religious boundaries," Ilyas explained.
Jacksonville's Islamic community has grown so much over the years. They went from about 10 families in the 1970s to more than 8,000. And as the population began to grow here, they wanted to help others here, and that's why they started this clinic.
Giving back is one of the pillars of Islam, something that the local faithful say they'll do no matter what. In a time when there's so much scrutiny and discrimination against people who practice this religion, this public service is healing hearts one patient at a time.
"I hope that in the bigger picture, this thing will try to change the face of the Muslims in this country," Ilyas told News4Jax.
"It is very, very helpful. We are really blessed," said Nertila Muskaj, the daughter of a patient at the clinic.
The clinic has been a big help to Muskaj's family, who just moved to Jacksonville from Albania.
"It's tough to be a single mom and do everything by yourself and take care of your parents," said Muskaj.
The clinic shows the true colors of people who are often misunderstood or wrongly judged.
"There is no discrimination based on anything. A lot of people have definitely been surprised about it," said clinic worker Laura Abney, ARNP.
The clinic is not about spreading the Muslim faith, but more about faith in mankind.
"They really helped me when I needed help," said Tilley.
Besides giving medical attention to those who otherwise wouldn't be able to have it, the clinic also helps cut down on the load at local emergency rooms -- which usually have to shoulder the debt for the poor who can't pay.
Not all of the volunteers at Muslim American Social Services are of the Muslim faith. They come from all different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Muslim American Social Services information
- Those below the poverty level
- Those without any insurance
- Those who live in Duval County
Make an appointment:
The clinic is located at 2251 St. Johns Bluff Rd. S. It is open four days a week, and if you qualify, you can call to set up an appointment or schedule one through its website.
- (904) 419-8006
- Schedule online
The clinic offers a wide range of medical and support services including:
- Adult health care
- Senior health care
- Diagnosis and treatment of illness
- Disease screening and prevention
- Management of chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure
- Women’s healthcare that includes breast cancer screenings
- HIV testing, counseling, and primary care
- Referrals to specialist services through We Care Jacksonville
- Food Pantry
- Linkage and referral to community programs and services
- Linkage to substance abuse services
- Family support services
- Transportation assistance for those in need
- Medication assistance for those who qualify
- Health education and outreach services
How you can help:
If you like what this clinic is doing, you can donate your time or money. To donate your time, the clinic is looking for individuals with skills in the following categories:
- Registered Nurse
- Medical Assistant
- Office Administration
- Book Keeping
- Grant writer
- Photoshop Expert
- Video Editor
- Java Programmer
- Sales Force Programmer
- Web Site Development
You can fill out a volunteer application or make a financial donation here.