Last Thursday, Lee Smith presented a $25,000 check to McDuffie County Partners for Success to be used at the health clinic located in the Good Samaritan House in Dearing.
The president and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Central Savannah River Area had already approved a $10,000 grant for the free walk-in clinic just weeks ago. He and others recognized the need as well as evidence of the good already done at the clinic during its first four years of existence.
Sandra Turner works with a patient at the Dearing clinic.
The money will go to purchase medicines, lab equipment and expand the services that Sandy Turner and her nursing students noticed as a need in the rural community years ago.
"The reason why we started it was ... there was no health care available at all to the people in the community," said Dr. Turner, who is the head of the clinic in addition to her duties as chair of advance practice nursing and associate professor at the Medical College of Georgia.
"We tried to do kind of a stop-gap thing because people were having to take off full days of work to travel either into Augusta or into Thomson to get any kind of health care at all," she said.
The clinic started with blood pressure checks in November of 2000 on the bottom floor of Dearing Baptist Church. After church members and students from MCG spent spare days repairing the house that the church owned, the clinic opened at its current location in May of 2002.
Open Mondays from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., the clinic is completely free to the public. Dr. Turner said between 25 and 35 people are treated, advised or provided with medication each week. Health problems seen there range from colds to life-threatening illnesses.
Volunteers from MCG come to staff the clinic under the direction of Dr. Turner. Dearing Baptist also provides volunteers to man the waiting room and provide spiritual counseling if needed.
Dearing Baptist Pastor Mike Timmerman said overall, it is a complete community effort, one he has not seen the likes of in many other places.
"We don't have to pay for volunteers; the church donates the building," Dr. Turner said. "Some of our patients actually donate money to the church to pay for some of the utilities. We have donations of drug samples from some of the drug companies."
Several church members have been volunteering their time to help with the clinic since the beginning because they felt it was a worthwhile effort.
"I just enjoy the fact that it's such a great thing for people that are in need of some free medical assistance," said clinic volunteer Billie Wells. "I just feel like we get so much more out of it than they do."
The church leadership also felt like the idea for the clinic was one that fit the mission of Dearing Baptist, and it was one whose time had come. Dr. Timmerman said that is why the church was so eager to get involved and stay involved.
"I feel like that part of what we as a church need to be doing for our community is helping those who are in need," he said. "While the spiritual needs are of primary importance because we want people to come to know the Lord, I think if we're not careful we can overlook the physical needs. Jesus never did that."
The clinic has morphed over its years of existence into a way for those with inadequate health insurance to receive care. The size of that need in the community took clinic personnel by surprise.
Dr. Turner is currently researching how much the level of wellness has been affected in the Dearing community since the clinic's inception. She hopes to find that visits to area emergency rooms from Dearing residents have decreased.
"A lot of people say that frankly they have no place else to go. So I do think that there has been a benefit," she said. "It's a very rewarding experience for me. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to see that I'm helping a little bit, and I think all the volunteers feel the same way."
Anyone interested in volunteering or donating to the clinic can come by on a Monday afternoon between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. to talk to the staff.