Thursday night’s dinner wasn’t just a celebration of Good News Clinics’ 25th anniversary.
As the Gainesville-based free clinics’ biggest annual fundraiser, it was meant to keep the funds rolling in so that other anniversaries could be observed.
In a pitch for financial help, the Rev. Bill Coates, pastor of First Baptist Church on Green Street, told some 500 people gathered in his church’s banquet hall a poignant story about a family unaware the clinics even existed.
The wife of a man who had just died told Coates that her husband never went to a doctor — he couldn’t afford it. Coates asked her if he had ever been to Good News Clinics.
“She said, ‘What is that?’” the pastor said.
“I want more and more people to know about this clinic,” Coates told the audience. “And I’m very grateful that people like you are making it possible.”
The Christian-based clinics, which began at Good News at Noon homeless shelter but later became its own entity, had a goal of raising $100,000 by the end of the dinner, said Liz Coates, the clinics’ community engagement director.
Some $69,000 was raised in table sales. Liz Coates said the clinics hoped to raise the rest through donations at the event.
To mark its 25th anniversary, the clinics have started another giving initiative. Officials are asking for 100 people to pledge to give $2,500 — to be paid over two years — for a total $250,000 in donations.
“First Baptist Church doesn’t know it yet, but they’re going to match my grant,” Bill Coates said, drawing laughter from the audience.
Another highlight of the dinner was an awards presentation.
The Sam Poole Community Volunteer of the Year Award, named after the clinics’ first medical director, was presented to nurse practitioner Eva Johnson.
I feel like what I do is my service for the Lord. And this is the most wonderful clinic I’ve ever been at, and (it) will continue to work hard to take care of all these patients.Eva Johnson, Sam Poole community volunteer of the year
“I feel like what I do is my service for the Lord,” Johnson told the crowd. “And this is the most wonderful clinic I’ve ever been at, and (it) will continue to work hard to take care of all these patients.”
The center treats some 3,500-4,000 people without insurance annually, with a roster of doctors providing voluntary services. With an annual budget of $1.4 million, Good News Clinics officials say it provides about $21.8 million in health care services.
The clinics have income requirements, such as a monthly income maximum at $3,075 for a family of four and $1,508 for a single person. And patients must be Hall County residents.
The Anne Warren Thomas Volunteer of the Year Award, named after a longtime clinics supporter, went to Kevin Price, who has served on the clinics’ board of directors throughout its history.
“We have very good health care here for people who can afford to pay and those who can’t,” Price told the audience. “We are very blessed.”