More on Jubilee partners in following entries… I’m fast forwarding to our next stop in Athens, Georgia, today, and a tremendously refreshing and innovative “free clinic.” While the health care debate grinds on in D.C., a solution — at least a partial solution — is evolving in the trenches out here. Mercy Health Center (MHC) is “…a community of volunteers [that] provides quality healthcare in a Christ-centered environment to our under-served neighbors.” MHC was started at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Athens in 2001. Over time, it became ecumenical and moved to a new facility on Oglethorpe Avenue. Like an Amish barn raising, the clinic was partially built by appreciative patient capenters, plumbers, electricians… Each morning at the clinic is started with prayer among the staff and volunteers. And in the course of a month, there are some 400 volunteer doctors, nurses, general citizenry and University of Georgia students doing medicine, intake, janitorial, filing… There are also six full-time and three part-time paid staff. Mary Baxter is an assitant administrator here. During a tour, she told me that several churches in town donate monthly to the clinic, several others donate quarterly. Besides monetary donations, other churches provide “in-kind” donations. For instance, several churches cook dinners for the evening clinic workers a couple times a week and local places like Subway and Chic’ Filet donate food. Another church does yard work at the clinic. It’s Ms. Baxter’s contention that it is, indeed, the church’s responsibility to help the poor. And MHC is, indeed, trying to do it’s part. Last year there were approximately 5,000 patient visits for people below the poverty line who have no health care insurance. And the clinic provides a full scope of services from dental, to cardiology, to gynecology, to physical therapy, to vision, to neurology, to general surgery, to orthopedics… In fact, one of the most poignant (and inherently tragic) health care stories was of a local woman who had a severe, compound leg fracture. MHC Director Tracy Thompson told me the woman had no health care insurance and couldn’t, in any way, afford the $3,600 she’d need to put up front for an orthopedic doctor. She excrutiatingly limped around on this badly broken leg for 10 days, finally connecting with MHC in desperation, and tears. “I prayed with her on the phone,” said Ms. Baxter, who then arranged for her to come in. MHC’s orthopedic doctor assessed the extent of the injury, then helped set in motion a series of things that would allow her to get surgery at Athens Regional Hospital, for free… Ms. Thompson gave me a fact sheet on MHC. It noted MHC has served over 2,950 patients since 2001. In 2009 alone, approximately 12,562 hours were donated to the clinic. The majority of MHC patients are “working poor.” Approximately 35% of MHC’s clients are Hispanic… Ms. Baxter also explained the medical help is intertwined with spiritual help here. That is after each medical visit, patients are given the option of going to another part of the complex where members of “prayer teams” talk and pray about an individual’s concerns, etc. An holistic approach that is so much the essence of the ethos of the clinic. Note: MHC also has a pharmacy stocked with things like doctor free samples and financed, in part, by a $2,000 a month stipend from Athens Regional Hospital. Among it’s programs are: “Mercy on the Road” (in partnership with St. Mary’s Hospital). Mercy volunteers take a “medical bus” around the countyr to screen blood pressure, blood sugar levels and provide medical resource information… “Lay Health Promotion Program.” This is a programt hat trains people from at-risk communities to become health advocates in those communities. A 40-hour course trains people in detecting high blood pressure, breast cancer and diabetes.