Remembering Lalai

 
Lalai Hamric   Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida, Inc. remembers its founder and former President/CEO, Mrs. Lalai S. Hamric, who died Wednesday, December 21st of an apparent heart attack. 

Lalai was inspired to pursue a career in community health service after watching Edward R. Murrow’s “Harvest of Shame,” a documentary about the plight of farm worker families which aired on Thanksgiving Day 1962. Its influence on her and on public policy resulted in a relationship that would span more than 40 years.

In 1964, through a small grant to the Lee County Health Department from the U.S. Public Health Service consisting of funds for a sanitarian, one public health nurse and a half-time clerk, a small migrant health project began. In May of 1967, Lalai joined the Lee County Health Department as part of their public outreach effort.

 

     In the beginning, there were just four trailers set up outside a migrant camp. By the mid-1970s they were serving other community individuals at or below the poverty level as well as those who had Medicaid. As the project grew, it provided the only health care available to many thousands of needy people, and for that, Lalai was instrumental. By writing grants and applying for funds that were becoming available as a result of the 1977 Migrant Health Act, she helped this “little migrant project” incorporate as the Lee County Migrant Health Council, Inc.

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Lee County Migrant Health Centers organization in 1979 (Lalai S. Hamric, back row, circled)

     
     With her guidance, this corporation merged with and assumed responsibility for the Hendry County program in 1985. Her diligence and commitment spurred them forward and culminated in February of 1991 when they re-incorporated under the laws of the State of Florida, becoming the legally registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit federally qualified health center known today as Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida, Inc. A board of directors was established and Lalai S. Hamric was named the first President and Chief Executive Officer, a title she held until her retirement in 2009.

     During her tenure, Mrs. Hamric held numerous offices and positions at the state and national level, including: President/Chair of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers; Legislative Committee member of the National Association of Community Health Centers; and member of the Board of Directors for the National Migrant Resource Program Board. She was appointed by Governors Bob Graham and Robert Martinez to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Farmworkers Affairs, served on Congressman Porter Goss’ Health Task Force, and was appointed to Congressman Connie Mack’s Healthcare Roundtable Panel as well as to his Health Advisory Committee.

A lifelong resident of Fort Myers, Mrs. Hamric served her community immeasurably and left a great legacy to Family Health Centers.