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Mercy Heart clinic opens doors to the public
Welcome: (Left to right) Kylie Rowlands, R.N.; Debora Armstrong, COO of Rockdale Medical Center; Darlene Hotchkiss; Hilda Maniscalco, volunteer director; Greg Smith, president of Mercy Heart; and Lisa Gillespie, medical director of Mercy Heart. - photo by Submitted Photo

 The Mercy Heart free medical clinic opened its doors to patients on Tuesday, bringing to fruition years of planning, struggle and work by a group of dedicated volunteers.

At a dedication ceremony on Thursday, Mercy Heart Board president Greg Smith was moved as he thanked the volunteers.

 "They’re the real heroes of Mercy Heart," he said. "The individual volunteers are the heroes… There are so many of you who mean so much to me. If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be here."

 He also thanked the contributions of groups including First Baptist Church of Conyers, which donated the building and facility; former First Baptist Associate Pastor Howard Greer, who created and championed the project for years; Snapping Shoals EMC; United Way; Kaiser Permanente; Rockdale Medical Center; the Beech Foundation; and the Rockdale Rotary Club. Smith pointed out that because of the donations of time, money and resources, the clinic was able to open with no debt and a little money left in the bank.

 "It’s truly been a miracle to see how all this community support and all the hours and hours of people behind the scenes pull this together. If God is for us, who can stand against us?"

 The clinic saw six patients on its first night on Tuesday.

 Medical Director Dr. Lisa Gillespie said even though she had put in a full day’s work before coming to the clinic on Tuesday, after seeing the clinics first six patients, "I went home, I couldn’t even sleep, I was so excited about the opportunities that I had, the patients that we saw." The patients she saw realized the clinic would not be able to meet all their needs, but were appreciative and thankful, she said.

 United Way of Rockdale Director Claire Cline said the clinic was "truly a showing of a community living united." She described stakeholder’s meeting three years ago that eventually became the Health Safety Net coalition and identified areas of need: clinics, transportation for non-emergency medical visits, and building the resource base.

 Mercy Heart’s first dental clinic will be held Thursday,
Feb. 25.

 The clinic is open Tuesdays for dental care and Thursdays for medical care 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The appointment phone line, (678) 374-5132, is open Mondays from 10 a.m.
to noon.

 For information about how to volunteer, call Hilda Maniscalco at (678) 374-5132 or visit