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Clinic celebrates annual Tomato Sandwich Party

Photo by Joel Hall
Dr. Charles Johnson (from left), Jane Enniss, Lisa Page, and Michelle Pourron hold up ripe tomatoes outside the Good Shepherd Clinic on Monday. On Aug. 7, the clinic will host it's eighth annual Tomato Sandwich Party, with the goal of raising $50,000 to support the clinic's operations.

Photo by Joel Hall Dr. Charles Johnson (from left), Jane Enniss, Lisa Page, and Michelle Pourron hold up ripe tomatoes outside the Good Shepherd Clinic on Monday. On Aug. 7, the clinic will host it's eighth annual Tomato Sandwich Party, with the goal of raising $50,000 to support the clinic's operations.

For the last 10 years, the Good Shepherd Clinic in Morrow has been a lifesaver, providing free, primary medical care to the county's needy and uninsured.

Around this time every year, however, some of the patients at the Good Shepherd Clinic in Morrow begin to exhibit interesting symptoms, such as being round, red –– and a tomato.

Right now, doctors and staff members are making sure all the tomatoes coming through their doors are in top form, in anticipation of the eighth annual Tomato Sandwich Party on Aug. 7, from 5 to 8 p.m.

In celebration of the clinic's 10th year of operation, the annual fund-raiser will be hosted at the City of Morrow's newest facility, the Morrow Center.

According to L.C. Thomas, chairman of the Good Shepherd Clinic Board of Directors, the clinic saw only 590 patients in its first year of operation, compared to 2,452 patients in 2009. The growth of the clinic, he said, has been largely supported by the success of the Tomato Sandwich Party, which raised more than $40,000 for the clinic last year.

"I think the clinic is an ongoing miracle that God has blessed ... He blessed it with people to volunteer and grants and support from the community that we need to survive," said Thomas. "It [the Tomato Sandwich Party] has expanded our base. It made more people support us, and that's what we need.

"I like to think of the Tomato Sandwich Party as a family reunion," he added. "Every year, we hope that family grows, because we depend on that growth as we expand our services."

Good Shepherd Clinic Administrator Lisa Page said that this year's fund-raising goal is $50,000, much of which will be used to pay for medical supplies, particularly insulin for diabetic patients. She said that more than 50 percent of the clinic's operating budget comes from individual donations, and she considered the clinic being around for 10 years as "a milestone."

"It's an exciting time," Page said. "We're bigger than we anticipated."

Page said much of the clinic's success depends on volunteers, doctors, and medical professionals being willing to donate their time, and for the first time, this year's Tomato Sandwich Party will feature a volunteer recruitment table. She said there will also be a table urging people to sponsor a patient or a diabetic.

Thomas said that with each $50 donation, the clinic can perform $449.44 worth of medical treatment, which is "a pretty good return on your investment," he said.

Over the years, the Tomato Sandwich Party has grown from being a political fund-raiser for former Clayton News Daily publisher and past State Rep. Jim Wood, into a large, community fund-raiser for the Good Shepherd Clinic. For the past few years, the party has taken place at First Baptist Church of Morrow, but this year, It will move to the Morrow Center.

Steve Sullivan, director of the Morrow Center, said hosting the Tomato Sandwich Party will serve as a way to showcase the new facility, as well as attract new people to the cause of the clinic.

"This is their 10th anniversary, and they just wanted to do a big hoopla for it," Sullivan said. "As part of the community, this is a way we can assist. It's not a political issue, it's not a religious issue, it's a human issue, and that is something we can all relate to."

Wood, a member of the clinic's board of directors, said he is proud of the progress the Tomato Sandwich Party has generated. However, he said the event will stick to its roots of being a simple community gathering around tomatoes.

"I think it [the new location] gives the Tomato Sandwich Party room to grow," Wood said. "The tomato sandwiches won't be any worse or better, but the surroundings will be a little fancier."

The Morrow Center is located at 1180 Southlake Circle, Suite 100 in Morrow. For more information about the Tomato Sandwich Party, call the Good Shepherd Clinic at (770) 968-1310, or e-mail godshep@bellsouth.net.