(L-R) Brent Allen of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Executive Director of Good Samaritan Tammy Sorrells, , Pickens County Finance Director Faye Harvey and Pickens County Commission Chairman Rob Jones pose with the award given for the exemplary Good Samaritan building project. PHOTO BY WAYNE TIDWELL
Good Samaritan Health & Wellness Center building project gets national recognition
BY WAYNE TIDWELL
The Good Samaritan Health & Wellness Center of Pickens County formally received the Council of State and Community Development Authority’s Presidential Award March 28 at a ceremony at the center, for it’s building project to replace older temporary buildings.
Brent Allen, grants manager/field services for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, presented the award.
“The reason I am here is to present this award to Good Samaritan Pickens County,” Allen said. “This award is from the Council of the State and Community Development Authority. It is a national organization that we lobbied to get more money to do more good things like this project. We present awards to the best projects. Good Samaritan won the Presidential Award. It’s a big deal.”
Allen read part of his speech that he prepared for the national awards ceremony in Maine last year.
“Imagine someone walking into your county chairman’s office and asking him to donate county land so they could build a medical center to provide free medical services to the uninsured. Their plan is to buy old mobile home trailers to house the center, and to get volunteers to renovate them. They don’t have the money to buy the trailers or furnish them, but they will raise the funds through donations. They plan on offering medical, dental and optometry services, all from volunteers, all year round. They will even stock a pharmacy, with volunteer pharmacists. All services will be free to the uninsured. If the center has to refer a patron to a specialist or hospital, the center will pay for the services, with donated funds.
“Your county chairman would likely think this was a joke that it would be impossible to make even half of that happen. Well, the story above is the story of Good Samaritan. A small group of volunteers at a food pantry noticed many of the patrons had health care issues, but no way to address them. Starting with that small spark of volunteerism 16 years ago, Good Samaritan has grown into a full medical center comprised of over 400 volunteers, logging in over 41,000 hours per year.
“The volunteers include 10 medical doctors, six dentists, two optometrists, two pharmacists, one physician assistant, four nurse practitioners and 51 registered nurses. Since opening, the center has seen over 8,000 patients, with over 14,000 visits counted yearly. It is a most improbable story, but a story that shows what a community can do when they put their hearts, minds and backbones together. They came to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs asking if we could help them build a permanent home for their clinic. We were thrilled to play a small part in this larger than life story. Pickens County received a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant in 2014 to help construct a 15,000-square-foot, two-building facility with a total price tag of $2,570,000. Good Samaritan has been a lifeline for many lower income residents in Pickens County. They hope their story can be an inspiration to other communities.”
“That plan would not have gone far in most communities,” Allen said.
The project was a joint effort of Pickens County, The State of Georgia and Good Samaritan staff and volunteers.
“The teamwork we had between the state, county and Good Samaritan was phenomenal,” Brad Herren, building committee chairman, who managed the building project, said. “The support that the state and county gave Good Samaritan was, bar none, the most that I have seen in any project that I have been involved in.”
Allen said the Good Samaritan project is being used as an example to other communities that have similar needs.
“It’s amazing how far this reaches beyond Pickens County,” Allen said. “It really is an improbable and successful story.
In 2017 the Good Samaritan Health & Wellness Center celebrated its 15th anniversary of existence.
Good Samaritan is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit health center that provides health services to the people of Pickens County and surrounding counties regardless of insurance status.
For more information about Good Samaritan Health and Wellness Center and how you can participate in this worthwhile event can be found at goodsamhwc.org
The award trophy will reside at the Good Samaritan facility in Jasper. PHOTO BY WAYNE TIDWELL