For Pastor John Long, it didn't take much to convince the members of his Son's Light Fellowship Baptist Church to help the Hearts and Minds Health Clinic.
Clinic founders had hoped to open last year, but they could not find a suitable location to deliver treatment. Long heard about the clinic's plight and brought the issue to his church in October.
"It was unanimous from our members to do whatever we could to help and that started with giving them a place to house the clinic," Long said. "The Lord gave us this opportunity to help some people who really need it."
On Saturday, Long, church members and volunteers with the Hearts and Hands Clinic held an open house at the church on Highway 301 South. The church is in an old motel and several rooms are being used for check-in, triage, and as a patient waiting area.
The treatment area where patients are seen by physicians was completely rebuilt by church member Dennis Nelson and employees of his construction company -- American General Maintenance Corporation.
"We gutted the entire area and started from scratch," Nelson said. "The people who are coming to the clinic I know would be grateful for the services no matter the condition of the rooms. But I wanted to do more. I wanted to make a place that is like other doctors' offices in town. Everything is new."
Andres Montes, who co-founded the clinic, said Nelson and his crew donated all their time and the materials to build the treatment rooms.
"Mr. Nelson is an angel," Montes said. "That's how I describe all he did for the clinic. It's remarkable what Pastor Long and his church have done to help the clinic finally get to the point where we are about to open."
The idea to open Hearts and Minds began in January 2009 when Georgia Southern pre-medical students Montes and Emma Boyer saw a need.
"There are a lot of people in our nation and our community who have no access to health care because they have no insurance," Montes said. "I've heard estimates as high as 25 percent of people in Statesboro and Bulloch County are not insured. These are the hardworking men and women who make enough money not to qualify for government assistance, but who don't make enough to purchase their own health insurance."
Montes said the clinic is not an urgent care center and will not offer emergency services. It will provide primary, preventative health care like seeing people with viruses, helping patients monitor diabetes or high blood pressure, Montes said.
Montes said five community physicians will be involved in the start-up, including Dr. Mark Bisseck and Dr. W. Scott Bohlke.
"My wife Jennifer and I are very excited to be a part of the project to establish a free health clinic here in Statesboro," Dr. Bohlke said. "There is a definite need for one in our community. I look forward to continuing to reach out to the medical community on behalf of the Hearts and Hands Clinic and encourage my peers to join this effort."
Montes said the plan is to open the clinic at Son's Light Church in June, but dental and vision services should be available sooner.
Jarrett Walden, DMD, helped recruit eight volunteer dentists, Montes said, and patients will be seen at Ogeechee Technical College.
"In conjunction with Ogeechee Tech, the logistics of our dental care are being finalized thanks to OTC president Dr. Dawn Cartee and her wonderful team members in their Health Sciences Department," Montes said. "OTC offered the use of their dental chairs to the dentists to use to work on our patients."
Montes expects dental services to start operating in about a month.
Also, Montes said Hearts and Minds will hold an eye vision clinic through the Statesboro Lion's Club on March 10. He said patients will be seen by Dr. Krystal Bragg, and blood glucose screenings will be offered, as well.
Montes said while the delay in opening Hearts and Minds has been frustrating at times, he believes the clinic is stronger because of it.
"We re-organized our board and had individuals such as Dr. Cartee, DeWayne Grice, Jennifer Bohlke and Mr. George Chappell offer their full support in organizing Hearts and Hands," he said. "Furthermore, individuals such as Mr. Bruce Yawn, Dr. Bohlke and President Brooks Keel of GSU offered their support and advice of how to better structure the clinic."
For more information about the clinic, call (770) 833-8571 or (912) 344-8463. You can also go to The-Hearts-and-Hands-Clinic on Facebook, or to their Web site at web.me.com/heartsandhands. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to The Hearts and Hands Clinic, Inc., P.O. Box 224, Statesboro, GA 30459.
Montes admits he may have been naïve when he started pursuing the idea of founding the clinic, but he is confident his faith is well founded.
"The goal of Hearts and Hands is to unite a community in helping those suffering silently," Montes said. "And also to unite a university and town who sometimes share differences . . . just simply to show that humanity is still that, humane."