Today begins the first day of SC Mission 2011: Midlands at the Carolina Coliseum in Columbia. The event will bring together local health care providers to provide free medical, vision and dental care to South Carolina’s uninsured.

The doors opened at 6 a.m. for the patients, many of which had been waiting since early yesterday. Barbara, 62, of Columbia, who was the first person in line arrived around 10 a.m. to ensure that she would be seen first. A retired CNA without health insurance, she only seeks medical care when it is absolutely necessary.

“I don’t go unless I am sick,” she said. “And thank God I am healthy.”

Barbara, who’s first priority is to have two teeth extracted said that she would seek all services that are available to her. She hasn’t seen a physician on a regular basis since she retired about 5 years ago.

Her sentiment was echoed by the 50 or so other people that had lined up along the Coliseum by 9 p.m. on Thursday in different chairs along the Assembly Street side.

“I’m so thankful that everyone has come together for this,” Charles of Columbia said.

More than 1,200 clinical and nonclinical volunteers will donate their time at the two-day event.

This is the first time this event will be held in the Midlands. A similar event was held in Greenville last year at SC Mission 2010: Greenville where about 2,000 patients were helped.

“We don’t know how many patient we will see during the event,” said Jenny Greenhaugh, RN. “We are prepared to see about 5,000 patients.”