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March 13, 2013

Disciples Clinic of Athens in need of volunteers

Athens — The Disciples Clinic of Athens gives Henderson County low income residents access to health care they might not be able to find elsewhere.

The clinic has served more than 1,000 patients since it opened three years ago, with 850 to 900 currently active, co-founder, Chief Medial Officer Gary Williamson said. The clinic’s funding comes only from private donations, so volunteers are necessary to keep the doors open.

The clinic’s goal is to provide health care for those who are working, but do not have enough income for health care. The patients range in age from 19 to 64, bridging the gap between government programs for children and the aged.

“The people who work there are amazing,” Williamson said. “Over time, volunteers get tired, and we have had a core of about 20 people who have run the clinic for the last two years.”

The volunteers must be dedicated to a job for the long haul.

“A lot of people want to be involved, until they realize that working in a doctor’s office is hard. You’ve got to learn a lot of stuff,”  Williamson said.

Chief Administrative Officer Layton Holt, who is also co-founder, said the clinic has an immediate need for qualified individuals to step up and help. Volunteers must be 18 years of age or older, and doctors and nurses must be licensed. They must have training in medical procedures.

“Our most critical need is for more volunteer doctors and nurses,” he said. “We also need clerical help in the business office.”

At last report, the Disciples Clinic has seven doctors that volunteer, with some coming every-other week, and some once per month. It takes about eight people per shift to operate the clinic for all of the different departments.

“Interest is waning now,” Holt said. “Anything you start new, people are enthusiastic about it, and over time, they just kind of lose interest in it.”

Williamson began working in emergency medicine in 1994. In 2005, he took the idea for the Disciples Clinic to the leadership of the First Christian Church. Eventually, the project expanded to include other churches and community organizations.

The Disciples Clinic of Athens is located at 604 York St.  in a building donated by Premira Iglesia Bautista Baptist Church rent-free.  The building was overhauled to fit the needs of a health clinic. The facility is open Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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