Published October 16, 2014
This is the second of a three-part series on churches and ministries in the area surrounding Macon where the GBC annual meeting will be held Nov. 10-11. This series profiles Georgia Baptists who are actively serving Christ in their communities.
In this issue The Index focuses on the efforts of the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation to bring quality health care to the Mid-State area. Such efforts, tied to local churches and associations, provide opportunities for Baptists to share the Good News of spiritual life while ministering to those with physical concerns.
Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Will Bacon oversees the ministry’s outreach which begins in Georgia and extends globally.
DULUTH — With 1.4 million members in Georgia, the Georgia Baptist Convention remains the state’s largest faith group with about 15% of the population. But Georgia Baptists are more than a group that gathers on Sundays to worship; they are actively involved in bringing quality health care throughout the state to those who are uninsured or underinsured.
For those in the Macon area, that translates into $892,500 in greatly reduced health care costs through direct funding of that amount. Those funds are more than doubled when services – such as medical/dental office visits and procedures – are counted.
Since the launch of the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation in 2004, Georgia Baptists have awarded more than 422 grants representing over $33,000,000. This investment in Georgia communities, as well as some international outlets, has provided free or reduced health care to more than 3 million individuals.
The majority of clients receiving assistance know their health care is being heavily subsidized by Georgia Baptists. They receive the service regardless of whether they take advantage of spiritual counseling, but the option is available if desired.
Of that total amount $892,500 has been invested in the Mid-State area – including $200,000 in 2014.
Those funds have assisted groups to help clients with issues ranging from life-threatening medical concerns to those seeking assistance with unexpected pregnancies to needy vision and dental care. In the Mid-State area surrounding Macon, those funds were distributed to five non-profit, public-service health care organizations. Among those:
► Butts County Pregnancy Resource Center received $100,000 for medical assistance;
► Caring Solutions Pregnancy Center of Macon, with a new office in Warner Robins, was awarded $30,000 for new ultrasound equipment;
► Disability Connections of Macon, which works with churches to increase accessibility of those with disabilities, received $250,000; and
► Georgia Lions Club Lighthouse Clinics received $212,500, some of which was channeled to the W.T. Anderson Health Center in Macon to help those in the Mid-State area with impaired vision.
Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Will Bacon said the grants are representative of Georgia Baptists’ commitment to provide assistance to individuals who could not otherwise help themselves. While the nation continues to sort out a national health care plan, the Foundation helps thousands who live at or below the poverty line – many of whom are identified as the working poor.
“Nearly 22 Georgians die every week due to lack of health insurance, according to a June 2012 report published by Families USA,” Bacon explained. “Approximately 1,161 Georgians died in 2010 for the same reason.
“Between 2005 and 2010, the estimated number of adults between the ages of 25 and 64 in Georgia who died because they did not have health insurance was more than 5,624. The Institute of Medicine estimates that nationwide, 26,100 adults died in 2010 because they did not have health insurance.
“It is obvious that a lack of health coverage is a matter of life and death for many people. Through their concept of ‘a hospital without walls’ Georgia Baptists are committed to standing alongside the working poor and others who are under-insured or uninsured to provide health care necessary to keep them well.”
For Warner Robins resident Vickie Dunn, the Rehoboth Dental Clinic was nearly a lifesaver. Literally.
Seriously ill with eight broken and abscessed teeth, Dunn had no means of paying for corrective dental care estimated at $1,600. Staff at nearby Mid-State Dental referred her to the Rehoboth clinic where uninsured and under-insured are eligible for free or reduced cost treatment.
“I had no money, no transportation, and no hope of anything changing for the better,” she says. “I was so depressed I was considering taking my own life.”
Over the course of several visits – preceded by a round of antibiotics to reduce the infection that had spread throughout her body, Dunn received the treatment that restored both her physical health and mental outlook.
When the ordeal was over Dunn paid only $88 out of pocket – due to grants from the Health Care Ministry Foundation – for her dental services. All of the labor was provided by skilled dentists and dental assistants who donated their time and skill.
“Today Vickie is free of dental pain and has received medical assistance and is on her way to getting her life back as she knew it before and pain and emptiness set in,” best friend Fran Wade explains. “No one can put a price on being free of pain, embarrassment, hopelessness, desolation, and fear.”
The ministry is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation and is located in a renovated home at 3208 U.S. Highway 41 N in Byron. The clinic can be reached at (478) 953-7770. Licensed nurse Yesmin Wilson, who oversees the ministry, can be reached at email@example.com.
The clinic is a ministry of Rehoboth Baptist Association, which is served by Associational Missionary Tim Millwood.
In nearby Jackson, Archola Childs visits the Butts County Pregnancy Resource Center for information on classes that teach how to develop or refine parenting skills.
Clients who enroll in the program receive “Mommy Bucks” which are credits that can be redeemed for a variety of baby needs from clothes to diapers to a baby carrier.
“We provide everything a baby needs from birth to its first birthday as long as the mother continues in the class,” Executive Director Cheryl Kish explains.
The faith-based pregnancy counseling center that began operating from the trunk of a car in 2006 now has its own building and is expanding its presence to a second location. It moved into its first permanent structure in early May, following the renovation of an older home near Veteran’s Memorial Park. It nearly doubled its space from 700 square feet to about 1,600, said Kish added.
The soft-spoken Kish, a member of First Baptist Church of Jackson which was instrumental in the founding of the agency, knows her field and brings years of expertise to the pregnancy resource center. In addition to being a woman’s health nurse practitioner she served as director of nursing at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville prior to retirement.
And she knows a thing or two about babies, having assisted in the delivery of nearly 5,000 babies during her career.
The clinic does not plan to stand still following its recent relocation. Kish says plans are in the works to expand with a satellite clinic in Jasper County because that area has more pregnant teens and abortions than in Butts County.
The center received $100,000 from the Foundation in February. Bacon noted. It was one of 53 recipients chosen from 100 applicants statewide to receive the grant.
The center is located at 153 Dempsey Avenue. Client hours are Monday and Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Tuesday and Thursday, noon to 7 p.m.
► The Caring Solutions Pregnancy Resource Center also offers education classes for mothers-to-be, a “Mommy Bucks” rewards program, and free ultrasound scan purchased with funds from its Foundation grant.
Bacon, who oversees the grant distribution from his office in the Georgia Baptist Convention Missions and Ministry Center, says all four entities benefit from the repurposing of the Georgia Baptist Health Care System, a network of five hospitals and five skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities. The network was dismantled in 2004 and led to the creation of the Foundation with a $124,000,000 endowment.
The concept of “a hospital without walls” has continued the original vision of the network and today results in annual grants that bring free or low cost health care to Georgia communities, he noted.
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