Healthcare is a hot topic in the news today. It is always a hot topic for Dr. Cindy Brown. The Hartwell native is dedicating her life to caring for people’s medical needs here in Calhoun regardless of social or economic situation.
With degrees in both internal and pediatric medicine, Brown is equipped to help every generation within a family. She serves patients during the week at Gordon Adult and Pediatric Medical Associates located at 815 Curtis Parkway. But once a week, you will find her and many other volunteers serving those with nowhere to turn for medical help,
“God laid on my heart a long time ago the desire to do local medical missions,” Brown said.
That dream became a reality when the Healing Hands Clinic of Gordon County opened on February 20. The clinic operates out of space provided by Dr. Lidelle Hare, located in the suite beside North Star Hospice at 216 Newtown Road off Red Bud Road.
When the clinic first opened, patients were seen in a portable treatment trailer provided by Adventist Health Services. That trailer is still parked behind the building, but the operation has moved inside for the most part. Before the doors are opened, everyone volunteering gathers in a back room for prayer. Brown says it is a reminder of why we are all here.
“We all love serving. We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. We love His Kingdom, and are simply giving back some of what has been given to us,” Brown said.
Following prayer, the clinic opens at 5:30 p.m. and begins seeing patients on a first-come, first-served basis. As the patients arrive, they are signed in. From there, the patients are taken to the intake room where they fill out paperwork. The paperwork is needed to determine if the patients are eligible for the free services.
The clinic is designed to serve patients with no insurance, and living at 200 percent above poverty level based on the 2014 Federal Poverty Guidelines. For a single person, 200 of the federal poverty level means the person earns less than $23,340 a year. For a family of four, the total household income would be $47,700. Help is available for people with both chronic and acute health problems, which include things like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The clinic is not equipped to provide mental health care or treatment of chronic pain. Right now, there are no eye doctors or dental care, but the hope is that those services will be added in the future. Brown says there is much they want to do, “We are trusting God when it comes to our expansion. We will add services as the doctors willing to volunteer their time come forward. The first expansion plan is developing a process to handle those who need surgery.”
Brown is quick to point out that The Healing Hands Clinic represents a true community, and ecumenical effort. Brown, her husband Marty and their children Copelan, Karcyn, Kyndal and Jadon attend Calhoun First United Methodist Church. But almost every faith tradition is represented among the volunteers and Board members.
One of the volunteers, Calvin Anderson, recalls how it all began, “A group of concerned Christians saw a need for medical services for those residents of Gordon County who could not afford them on their own. Almost two years ago now, Dean McDaris and Dr. Cynthia Brown met and discussed their shared vision to establish a free clinic to provide much needed healthcare for the working poor and uninsured of Gordon County. Their idea was shared with other visionaries in the community, including Drs. Brent Box and Don Starkey.”
As Brown reflects on those early days, she likens it to a chess match, “I could not help but think God was up there playing chess, just putting all the pieces in place so that this dream could become a reality.”
Brown made no secret of her desire for a free clinic. It is something she has been talking about, and dreaming of almost since she arrived in Calhoun in 2001. Then a couple of years ago, others who shared her vision joined forces, “Dean McDaris was working at Tallatoona with patient assistance. He encountered people who really needed to be evaluated by a doctor, to have medicine prescribed. When he heard about what I wanted to do, he approached me about working together toward a common goal.” And that is exactly what they have done.
That was back in September of 2012. Now, less than two years later, The Healing Hands Clinic of Gordon County is a fully incorporated non-profit organization. While the Clinic operated under the auspices of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Georgia Volunteer Health Care Program, the state provides no funding or oversight. Brown says the state’s Good Samaritan law was a key factor to moving forward, “This way, we are legally protected.” The Clinic saw it first patients February 20, 2014. There were 16 patients that first night, which is about the average each week. Dr. Brown says, with more doctors and nurse practitioners volunteering, more patients could be seen, “Having more doctors would also help prevent overload.”
It has taken a lot of volunteers to get to this point. Kim Mann, a local graphic artist designed the logo at no cost to the clinic. Hare is providing facilities at no cost to the Clinic. And Pete Weber, CEO of Gordon Hospital, and his administrative staff have been supportive. The list goes on. In the interest of not overlooking any of the many volunteers, we won’t attempt to provide a list.
The clinic needs your support.
As Brown explains, “If it can be used to clean a house, or run an office, or anything you think a medical clinic can use, we will take it. Of course, the greatest need is financial support for the supplies which cannot be bought at the general store.”
There is a website set up with more information and to receive donations, www.healinghandsclinic.com/donate. Donations may also be mailed to Healing Hands Clinic of Gordon County, P.O. Box 765, Calhoun, Ga. 30703, or dropped off at the Greater Community Bank of Calhoun, 305 W. Belmont Drive. If you are interested in volunteering, please email the clinic at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rev. Ann Mann, M.Div., is an Emmy Award Winning Journalist now serving as pastor to Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church in Calhoun. You can contact Ann at email@example.com.