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Free medical clinic receives major grant
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Good shepherd

A healthcare clinic in Dawson County that provides free medical services to hundreds of needy residents has received the largest donation in its four-year history -- a total of $50,000.

The Georgia Baptist Healthcare Foundation last week presented a check to Jane Stuckey, chair of the Good Shepherd Clinic board of directors, and Penny Putnam, director at the clinic.

"What this means is we can offer medications and supplies which we could not offer before, such as blood pressure monitors and strips (for testing blood sugar levels)," she said. "We would never have known about applying for a grant if it weren't for Dr. Jim Gaines. And we couldn't have got it written without Jane Rice."

Gaines is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dawsonville. He endorsed the grant application. Rice is a former volunteer at the clinic and a nurse at a school in Forsyth County.

"We were one of 55 charities that received funds," Gaines said.

He explained that when Georgia Baptist sold its hospitals and clinics, profits were put into a trust, and every year its healthcare foundation disperses funds for medical missions.

Good Shepherd Clinic was a good fit.

"This is going to be exciting," said Dr. Larry Anderson, medical director at the clinic. "One thing we're doing is evaluating patients for metabolic syndrome, and we'll work aggressively with them to prevent diabetes and hypertension."

The clinic will focus on treatment and prevention with classes set up for patients to learn about nutrition, weight loss, eating habits and healthier lifestyles.

A fasting blood sugar of 100 puts patients into a pre-diabetic category. Patients with blood sugar of over 120 means they are diabetic, he said.

"The classes," he said, "will help patients be more cognizant of total calories from food groups and help them avoid foods that are high in calories, but low in nutritional value. Men need to keep their waist measurement under 40 inches, and women under 35 inches."

A study of diabetes and hypertension is ongoing at the clinic.

"We then check cholesterol and try to keep HDL (high density lipoproteins, the good cholesterol) above 40 for men and 50 for women."

Doug Powell, treasurer at the clinic, said the grant puts the clinic in better financial shape.

"We are just delighted and gratified beyond words," he said.

The clinic's formation was a dream of Mark Weaver, former pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church. Weaver died in May 2010.

"He and Larry (Dr. Anderson) dreamed big and started the clinic in the basement of the church, and here were are enjoying a partnership with Northside Hospital," Donna Weaver, Mark's widow, said. "Dr. Anderson has been vital to this whole initiative. And this is Mark's legacy. He was very passionate about social justice."

The clinic's hours are Thursdays, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., for qualified patients. Patients seeking free medical care may visit the clinic on Tuesdays, 1 p.m. - 6 p.m., to complete paperwork.

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