The Central Virginia Free Clinic to Host its Eighth Annual Downtown Loft Tour
In years past, Downtown Lynchburg resembled a ghost town in many ways. Charlotte Allen, who has lived in the area for over 30 years, has seen astronomical changes. She has always loved spending Sunday afternoons strolling about downtown, admiring what she calls the “outstanding” architecture. She realized, however, that hardly anyone took advantage of sauntering through the historic downtown.
“There was no one walking,” Allen said. “When I first moved downtown, there was nobody out on Sundays.”
Over the years she has enjoyed watching the downtown area grow, as more people moved into lofts, the Community Market opened and additional businesses were established. Events such as the annual Downtown Loft Tour also helped attract people and this year, the Free Clinic of Central Virginia—which hosts the tour—hopes to bring in even bigger numbers. Last February, over 500 people enjoyed touring 11 lofts in downtown Lynchburg.
“It’s a huge event—it’s really quite amazing,” Allen said, who has been involved with the Loft Tour for three years, serving on the committee and opening her loft to visitors in 2010.
This year’s tour will be held February 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with all proceeds going directly to the Free Clinic. As a profitable fundraiser, The Free Clinic of Central Virginia partners with downtown businesses and individuals who are willing to show the lofts above their buildings.
“All of the lofts downtown are unique in their own way,” Allen said. “That’s what makes it so much fun.”
Every year, Robert “Bob” Barlow, Executive Director of the Free Clinic, says they aim to feature new lofts for visitors to tour.
“We try to have eight or 10 new lofts that have not been shown before on the tour that are decorated,” Barlow said, adding that some of the lofts are lived in, and others are decorated as model apartments. “We also usually have one or two repeater lofts, like the Borel Loft, where the loft was so spectacular people want to see it every year.”
This year, Barlow anticipates having at least eight new lofts on the tour. The finalized list of lofts should officially be determined this month, which the Free Clinic believes will be a mix of the right lofts that will interest participants that also offers an adequate touring route.
“You have to find a route that flows,” Barlow said. “If you spread out to too many streets then people can’t walk it easily.”
A shuttle bus will be provided to transport people to each building every 20 minutes, providing an opportunity for those who are unable to walk distances to participate.
“Usually about two-thirds of the lofts are handicap accessible,” Barlow said.
The tour is similar to any home tour, where each participant receives a map, may start at any point and visit as many lofts as desired.
“It’s a nice way for people to come downtown and spend the day,” Allen said.
The fundraiser began in 2004, though the idea began to germinate in 2003. Barlow read about a clinic in Kansas City that hosted a loft tour as a fundraiser. The story piqued his interest, and he wrote them for more information.
“We figured that as a downtown nonprofit, it made a lot of sense for us to partner with the businesses and the rental properties downtown for a fundraiser,” Barlow said. “It brings people downtown and it publicizes that the Free Clinic is downtown.”
While this win-win fundraiser now brings beneficial exposure to downtown businesses and restaurants, in the first year of the tour, only 150 tickets were sold—something Barlow attributes to lack of proper marketing to the public.
“People didn’t know what it was, and my staff and my board said it was not very professional,” Barlow said.
Over the last several years, however, the fundraiser has become more professional and has significantly increased in size.
“The attendance each year has crept up by 50 to 100 people,” Barlow said.
With more than 500 tickets sold last year, Barlow and his team are optimistic that this year’s total will exceed 600.
Since the Free Clinic of Central Virginia opened in 1987, its goal has been to provide top-notch medical, nursing, dental and pharmaceutical services to lower income individuals without insurance. The clinic has nearly 5,000 active folders on file, and treats up to 75 patients a day.
Although the Clinic does receive funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia, United Way, individuals and others, fundraising remains crucial. The Downtown Loft Tour is one of their larger, more profitable fundraisers.
“It’s now a fairly significant fundraiser for us,” Barlow said. “Last year, we raised over $10,000.”
It usually takes between 100 and 150 volunteers to run the event, but finding help is usually not an issue for the Free Clinic—over 500 people volunteer for shifts at the clinic on a regular basis.
For more information about the Central Virginia Free Clinic or the Loft Tour, visit www.fccv.net.
Tickets will officially be available February 1, 2012 at the following locations:
- The Free Clinic of Central Virginia
- Beeswax Candles
- The Silver Thistle
- Lynchburg Visitors Center
- Lynch’s Landing
- Bedford Visitors Center
- The Good Cherry
- Westminster Canterbury