Tree of Life gets boost from Toyota

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Toyota is investing money and expertise in Tupelo’s Tree of Life Free Clinic.
On Tuesday, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi announced a $20,000 grant to pay for medications and shared the fruits of a partnership with the Kentucky-based Toyota Production System Support Center to streamline the operation of the clinic, which is run completely by volunteers.
“We are happy to donate our time and energy to this important community project,” said Masafumi Hamaguchi, president of Toyota Mississippi.
The Tree of Life clinic, which is open twice a month, provides free medical and basic dental care to patients who have no public or private health insurance and cannot afford care.
Since it opened three and a half years ago, the clinic has logged 5,000 patient visits and filled 30,000 prescriptions.
Since January, Lisa Richardson, a Toyota Production System Support Center team member, and Toyota Mississippi team members Kevin Burgess and Tony Banuelos, observed and measured the clinic operations.
“We have a unique opportunity to share the Toyota way of production,” said Richardson, who works with companies and nonprofits across the country for Toyota’s nonprofit arm.
After watching and measuring the clinic’s operation in January and February, the Toyota team recommended several changes such as reorganizing the filing system and pharmacy and rearranging the waiting room, installing an audio system so patients could hear their names being called.
“It has been inspiring for our team members,” to be involved with the clinic, said Doug Formby, vice president for Toyota Mississippi, who has joined the Tree of Life board.
The simple changes paid off. Patients visits decreased by 24 minutes; volunteer time in the clinic decreased by an hour.
“We had no idea how efficient we could be,” said clinic board member Polly Bailey.
In all, Toyota has invested $40,000 in grants for the clinic over the past two years and committed to an ongoing partnership.
“We’re just very fortunate to have them as a partner,” Bailey said.

Get Help
NONPROFIT AGENCIES can apply for free assistance form Toyota Production System Support Center. For more information, visit

Click video to hear audio