By Joel Hall
With a few cash donations, a home donated to First Baptist Church of Morrow, and a few dedicated doctors, the Good Shepherd Clinic began operating in 2000 as one of the first local organizations to provide free, primary health care to Clayton County's poor and uninsured.
Since 2000, however, the clinic's board of directors has never owned the house in which it operates. On Monday, First Baptist Church of Morrow deeded the home and the land around it to the clinic, giving the clinic full ownership of the property for the first time.
On Monday evening, during a special ceremony on the porch of the clinic, First Baptist Church of Morrow Pastor Thomas Quisenberry gave Good Shepherd Clinic Board of Directors Chairman L.C. Thomas the deed to the clinic, as well as a large, wooden key signifying the exchange.
Thomas said the clinic, which sits adjacent to the church, will continue to use the church's parking lot, and draw from the church for its volunteers. Having the deed to the house, however, gives the clinic's board of directors greater freedom to determine the clinic's path, he said.
"It [the deed passing] gives us total independence to make decisions that affect the clinic," Thomas said. In the past, "we would always have to get permission, which always delayed things. [Now] if you want to make a decision as a board, you can just do it.
"We will never do anything that is not in the light of the church next door, because we are a faith-based organization," he continued. However, "in order to grow, you really need to own your own property. I think the church is really generous and gracious to give it to us. It really shows their commitment to missions."
In 2008, the Good Shepherd Clinic completed a 1,200-square-foot expansion, more than doubling the clinic's space and allowing for a greater patient load. Quisenberry said that with the deed to the property, the clinic's staff will be able to apply for larger grants to support the clinic's growth.
"They have just blossomed," Quisenberry said. "With the economy being tighter and people losing their jobs, the need for those services has become even greater. A lot of the grant agencies may say, 'We don't want to give money to somebody who can be kicked out.' That was never a threat to the clinic ... but for grant purposes, they need some proof. This was a way to grow their ministry. With the clinic owning it, the possibility for good to be done is endless."
Quisenberry said the goals of the church and clinic are "intertwined" and that the deed passing will not change the church's close relationship to the clinic.
"The average person will not see a change," Quisenberry said. "We're going to do what we have always been [doing] ... to be the best of neighbors. The goal of our church has always been for the community to have what it needs. One of those best resources is the Good Shepherd Clinic."