Some of Newton County’s biggest hearts gathered at The Center on Tuesday to celebrate a decade of philanthropy and volunteerism.
The Newton Fund, a non-profit organization that promotes local philanthropy, celebrated its 10-year anniversary and gave out its second annual Pat Patrick Big Heart Award for volunteer of the year.
The award is named after Joseph "Pat" Patrick, who was the founding chair of the Newton Fund, and was given to local retired pharmacist Ed Jenkins for his work as director of the free Willing Helpers Medical Clinic.
Located at Solid Rock Baptist Church on Brown Bridge Road, Willing Helpers is open every Thursday evening to help residents without medical insurance. The clinic sees around 30 patients every Thursday and since it was opened in October 2006, the clinic has helped more than 3,000 people."Simply stated, without Ed’s vision, leadership and plain old-fashioned roll-up-the-sleeves hard work the Willing Helpers Free Medical Clinic would not exist," Patrick said in his speech. "Ed has a true passion and love for helping other people. And that’s what this honor and the award of $2,000 that goes along with it is all about."
Jenkins was able to donate the $2,000 to any non-profit of his choice, and he chose Solid Rock Baptist Church, which has housed the clinic for the past three years. Pastor Mike Franklin, who is also the chairman of the clinic board, accepted the check on behalf of the church.
People can go to the clinic by appointment only, but Jenkins and others spend many hours working with uninsured patients to set up those appointments. Jenkins said 12 doctors, 25 nurses and a board of volunteers donate their time and effort to the clinic.
"It was exciting to get this started. The doctors have been so supportive and we’ve been so blessed," Jenkins said afterward.
Jenkins said the average cost of an emergency room visit is $1,000 so the clinic has saved residents more than $3 million in hospital expenses. He said there are around 13,000 uninsured people in Newton County and the number is growing every day.
Local doctors in a variety of fields donate time at the clinic and also accept clinic referrals at their regular office. Jenkins said the clinic is growing and the next goal is to find a dentist to volunteer his time.
Patrick said that the spirit of volunteerism, exemplified by Jenkins work, is one of the most important things in life.
"I believe a major milestone in any man or woman’s life is when one can truly say that he or she takes greater pride in playing a supporting and supportive role in the accomplishments of others than in their own personal achievements," he said.
The Newton Fund seeks to facilitate these volunteer organizations by supporting them directly and by helping others start their own philanthropic funds. One of the earliest members of the Newton Fund, Sandy Morehouse said it has been great to see how much the giving spirit has grown in the county.
When the Newton Fund started first started 10 years ago, it and the Arnold Fund were the only two in the county. Now there are around 15 separate funds. Many of those funds have been helped by the Newton Fund and its parent partner, the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta.
"Congratulations on your 10-year anniversary. You’re just a child, but you’re growing," Morehouse said. "This is a wonderful organization. It’s very quiet but very good …. It’s doing a lot to solve the problems in the county."
Barbara Morgan, the incoming Newton Fund chairwoman, said the group has given more than $221,350 over its life to more than 50 different county nonprofits, including Newton R.E.A.D.S, Smart Growth Newton and the Washington Street and Rainbow community centers. She said the annual competitive grant process is carefully administered and only four of the 50 organizations are no longer operating.
"So that’s our story. We have had and are having an impact on local issues and problems. We believe we change lives. We ourselves are changed in the process, and giving becomes as natural as breathing," Morgan said.
Kay Lee, Newton Fund board member, said she was someone who never thought she would have her own fund, but she does because of the generosity of friends and strangers. She said the Community Foundation makes the process so simple. Meet with an employee, sign a form, donate some money and then start giving that money to non-profits. In between the foundation invests your money wisely to help it grow.
"I wanted to leave a legacy of giving for me and my children," Lee said. "For me, it’s just give, don’t think."