St. Joe oncologist Phillip Stella was volunteering at Ypsilanti’s Hope Clinic when he saw a patient with a nagging cough–which turned out to be treatable early stage lung cancer. Without the clinic, which provides primary care for the uninsured, “that patient might not have survived,” Stella says.

Thanks to a volunteer force of more than 100 doctors and other clinicians–most from Ann Arbor–the clinic asks only a $5 donation from its patients. But with hard times, “we have more patients than we can possibly see,” says nuclear medicine specialist John Freitas, who volunteers evenings. “The first twenty-three [to arrive] get seen. The next thirty do not.”

At other locations, Hope also runs the county’s only free dental clinic and provides social services. But “the facilities are physically exhausted, in terms of space, and we really cannot bring on the number of volunteers that are needed,” says staffer Peggy Cole. She’s coordinating a $3.6 million fund-raising effort to combine all three programs in a new building. With $2.4 million already committed, the Kresge Foundation has pledged a $400,000 challenge grant, but Hope needs to raise another $800,000 by the end of the June to claim it.