In 1939, Sister Marie Therese Solomon joined the order of the Sisters of the Company of Mary Our Lady, founded by Jeanne de Lestonnac in 1607, and took up its mission to educate the poor. After a long tenure as a missionary in Brazil and Africa, Sister Marie Therese was transferred to St. Jeanne de Lestonnac School in Tustin, CA where she taught music and French. It was during her time at the school that she recognized the under-served's overwhelming need for medical care in Orange County. Upon her retirement, instead of focusing on her talents as a poet, painter and composer, on January 6, 1979 she opened a free medical clinic aptly named, St. Jeanne de Lestonnac Free Clinic in Orange, California.
Under Sister Marie Therese's leadership, and over the next 20 years, the tiny two-room clinic grew into a full-scale, nondenominational medical facility, staffed entirely by volunteers. Along with expanding the clinic and recruiting physicians to volunteer their time, Sister Marie Therese also recognized the need for health education and saw that the clinic also offered diabetes prevention, pre/post-natal care, and nutrition classes to the needy for free.
When asked about her concept of a free clinic Sister Marie Therese recalled an experience she and several friends had after delivering food baskets in the community.
"We saw poor people suffering so much. We saw hungry, suffering children without any money to go to a doctor. Pregnant mothers did not know where they were going to have their babies delivered because they couldn't afford hospitals. There were so many people in dire need of help. We thought we'd help these poor people by opening a little clinic."
Under the vision of the clinic’s current Executive Director, Edward F. Gerber, and through the dedication of over 250 volunteer health care providers, and 120 clinical and administrative volunteers, Lestonnac Free Clinic continues to offer primary, specialty, vision and dental services for free.
The clinic has continued to expand its service area and now includes satellite clinic locations in Artesia, Buena Park, Compton, Garden Grove, Los Alamitos, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and a mobile medical unit visiting Riverside, Jurupa Valley, Murrieta, Moreno Valley, and Perris. Additionally, the clinic partners with local community organizations and city officials to offer free medical, dental and vision services by participating in ten annual health fairs in Los Angeles and Orange counties.