Local church to build free clinic

Residents that live in New Albany’s Northside neighborhood will have a new addition to the neighborhood when a local church builds a free medical clinic in the fall.

The clinic, which will be located at the corner of North and Alabama Streets, will be named Agape Health Services and is being planned and supported by Bethlehem United Methodist Church. Agape is the Greek word for love and is the reason for that name, according to one of the founders and Bethlehem member, Dr. Eric Harding.
Harding, who works with The Internal Medicine and Pediatric Clinic of New Albany, PLLC, said he had the idea approximately 10 years ago to build a mission-based free medical clinic in New Albany.
Jeff Lawrence, pastor at Bethlehem United Methodist Church, said that three years ago a friend of the church purchased the property where the medical clinic will be housed.
“He wanted to know if the church wanted the property to do mission work and Harding had the idea of having a medical clinic as a mission project. I think it is a great opportunity to do mission work in New Albany,” said Lawrence.
The house is currently being gutted out and remodeled on the inside. The house has original hardwood flooring and those floors are being kept intact.
Lawrence said that initially the plan is to have the clinic open for two days a week and see how the business progresses from there.
There are companies that are volunteering their time and services to this project. Union Lumber Company is providing lumber and other supplies, Will Denton is volunteering his time as an architect, Jamie Riddle with Riddle Heating and Air is providing help with heating and air, Wade Ligon is the contractor on the project, and LabCorp will provide free lab services.
Agape Health Services is in need of volunteer work and especially has a need for plumbers and electricians.
The clinic will be run all by volunteers and is free to anyone who does not have insurance, cannot afford insurance, cannot get Medicaid or Medicare.
There are two free clinics in Tupelo and the people that work there said that there are many people that drive from New Albany and Union County every week to go there.
“We will not turn people away that need help. These are tough financial times and this is an opportunity for us to help people in need and is an opportunity to give back to the community,” said Lawrence. “This is also a way to help people with their spiritual needs. We will pray with people and help with prayer requests and if people don’t want us to do that, that’s okay too. We are here to help.”
There will be three examination rooms, a waiting area, a reception area, lab area, and an area for checking patients. The building will be handicapped-accessible as well.
There are some doctors and nurse practitioners in the New Albany area that have agreed to volunteer their time to the practice, such as Harding, Dr. Shane Scott, Dr. H. F. Mason, Dr. Bill Johnson, and a nurse practitioner from Cotton Plant named Phyllis Koonce.
Billy Graham, a resident in the Northside neighborhood, said, “I think it’s very good that there will be a clinic down the road. There’s a lot of people around here that need medical care that don’t have insurance or Medicare. It will be nice to have a medical clinic in the neighborhood that I can walk to.”
The clinic will be a primary care clinic that will be treating people with general health concerns and practicing preventative health and will see people of all ages. Harding said that there will be basic medications on site that would be given to treat common illnesses and conditions like a cold, sinus infection, asthma, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, etc.
“We will keep the medications and dispense on site to the patients. We will also be able to give a supply of the medication that the patient needs and send them home with it,” said Harding.
He added, “We want to reach out to the people in the community and take this on as a mission project. This is a community-based project and we need volunteers. We want to give the same love that God loves us with. The ministry will expand beyond the four walls of the clinic.”
If someone needs medical help that the clinic cannot provide, the patient may be given a referral slip to see another doctor, still at no cost to the patient.
Luis Avila, Northside resident, said, “I think the clinic is a good idea. All of the clinics are full, so it will be good to have one in the neighborhood.”
Parking will be available for patients and there will be an area outside that may be used for community-based games, cookouts, and more.
Agape Health Services is a designated special project with the CREATE Foundation. People can donate directly to that foundation or can donate via the future website, which is currently under construction.
There will also be a Facebook page. The donations will go towards medications and medical supplies.
The zoning committee in New Albany has approved the zoning of this property to be located within a residential neighborhood. However, the New Albany Board of Aldermen need to approve it as well. A public hearing will be held on this matter at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 in New Albany’s City Hall. The public is invited to express their concerns or issues with this matter or ask questions to the aldermen.
For more information or to volunteer, contact Pastor Jeff Lawrence at Bethlehem United Methodist Church at 662-538-7605.

About Chris Elkins

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