Letter to the Editor: Good Samaritan Bill Whitlatch

Dear Editor,

Generous donors and unpaid volunteers are essential parts of Visalia’s community values. The Samaritan Center (clinic) located in Northeast Visalia is a prime example as it delivers free medical care to 200 to 300 patients per month who are unable to access health care through conventional programs such as MediCal. I recently asked my friend Bill Whitlatch for a tour.

The clinic provides the last possible health care solution for many and few questions are asked. During my visit I noticed a very pregnant young woman waiting to be seen. She indeed looked like a frightened stranger lost in a strange land seeking a “Good Samaritan.”

Bill Whitlatch has served as a founder and Board President of the organization for nearly all of its 19 years in existence. His work to provide free health care for the poor began 30 years ago when he and Craig Mangano first launched the Good News Medical Clinic. The Samaritan Center later took over that mission in an abandoned building donated by the City of Visalia – it took a lot of donated cash and labor to restore it.

Every nurse and doctor donates their time and skill. Kaweah Health’s Dr.Guzman, who leads the Street Medicine Team, frequently brings his student Residents to help and learn. Claudine, Marisa and Becky were very busy nurses when I visited and all were retired or semi- retired RN’s.Many volunteers left during the Covid pandemic – usually to care for family members. They will gladly welcome more help.

The Center also has a full Dental Clinic and the Tulare County Dental Association provides volunteers. There is also an office available for attorneys willing to provide pro bono legal advice. Donated medical supplies such as used wheelchairs are always welcomed.

Bill and the Board do ask for donations to cover utilities and medications. Anonymous donors recently raised $20,000 in just 3 days to replace failing AC units. He said that is an example of a network of families and individuals who silently support many charitable programs in Visalia without expectation of recognition or reward.

Bill then offered a tour of his other pet project, the Imagine U Childrens Museum. He is one of the founders and Board members.The idea began with a suggestion by Dana Berry as friends discussed various ideas over coffee 20 years ago. Take your kids or grandkids for a visit – they will enjoy hours of fun and also learn much about our valley.

Besides his charity work, Bill owns The Whitlatch Group which deals with commercial real estate and development and he has served as a Tulare County Planning Commissioner for 24 years. He is a U.S. Navy Veteran from the Vietnam War era and later worked in law enforcement in both Huntington Beach and Visalia. He belongs to Rotary and numerous other government boards.

Bill and his wife Clare have been married for 54 years. Like many other mostly anonymous local families, they are generous with time and money to make Visalia the “Gem of the Valley.

Jerrold (Jerry) Jensen

Visalia, Calif. 

[email protected]

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