Nonprofit health facility expands

Tradition of helping continues in home

For more than a century, the Widows Home on Greene Street was a refuge for women.

The home, which closed in 2003, reopens next month to once again serve those in need.

On Wednesday, Christ Community Health Services dedicated the home, which has undergone nearly $2 million in renovations to transform the 42-room mansion into a modern health care facility.

The Christian nonprofit will provide affordable primary health care to the poor, homeless and uninsured. The doors open to patients in mid-August.

More than 250 people gathered for a celebration and tour, in which a plaque was unveiled honoring the new Ann Boardman Widows Home.

In 2005, her son, Augusta developer Clay Boardman, purchased the property for $230,000 and donated it to Christ Community Health Services, provided that it would be renovated into a health care facility.

The decision pays tribute to the site's historic roots. The property housed the original City Hospital, which became University Hospital, and the Medical Academy of Georgia, now known as Georgia Health Sciences University.

The building, which was built in 1886-87, features 12 new exam rooms, which will allow staffers to see more patients, three-quarters of whom are uninsured.

"This building is a testament of God's faithfulness and his provision for Christ Community Health Services," said Thomas J. Drake, its executive director.

The health center was founded in 2007 by Drs. Robert Campbell and Grant Scarborough to "serve the underserved," Campbell said.

The doctors opened the center with four exam rooms in a renovated warehouse on D'Antignac Street, which University Hospital owns and provides rent-free.

Christ Community now operates with 23 staffers and 10 exam rooms.

That first month, the doctors recorded 65 patient visits. Now, the center averages 900 visits a month, said Ron Skenes, the director of communications and development.

With the Widows Home fully operational, the center will be able to handle more than 2,000 patient visits a month, or about 25,000 to 30,000 a year.

The Widows Home isn't complete yet.

Christ Community has raised nearly $2 million, but an additional $500,000 is needed for the renovation of the second story. The second floor will eventually house a pediatric physical therapy suite, counseling office and classroom.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $3.1 million, which includes $2.5 million for the renovation of both floors, $300,000 for medical equipment and a $300,000 endowment.

Christ Community plans to temporarily suspend operations at the D'Antignac Street office while staffers settle into the Widows Home, but it's clear the D'Antignac office is still needed and will be reopened in the future, Skenes said.

Christ Community plans to bring on two new physicians next month to help with the demand.

The growth has been made possible by the support of other health care facilities in town, in addition to contractors such as R.W. Allen and countless churches and individuals, Skenes said.

"They understand that the emergency room is not the right place to take care of diabetes or high blood pressure," he said. "We provide primary care, often for someone who has never had that before."

Patient success stories abound, he said.

"You hear from people who are healthy now, who were in serious medical distress when we first met them," Skenes said. "This ministry is having that sort of impact."

Three years ago, Ruth Hailey's mother was bed-bound with arthritis. She couldn't find a doctor who would travel until she heard of Christ Community, she said, and Campbell offered a home visit.

"He's been our doctor ever since," Hailey said. She closed Wednesday's dedication with a prayer, thanking God for "visionaries" like Scarborough and Campbell.

They're "saints of God," she said, who have obeyed and trusted in the Lord to bring the center into fruition.

"The vision," she prayed, "has come to reality."

What's next?

- Christ Community Health Services of Augusta has nearly completed the first floor renovation of the historic Widows Home. Over the next month, they'll finish floor restoration and prepare to move in medical equipment.

- In mid-August, CCHS will temporarily close its clinic on D'Antignac Street to make the transition into the Widows Home. Operations are expected to begin sometime in mid-August.

- Fundraising to renovate the second floor of the Widows Home continues. An estimated half million dollars is needed.

- The clinic on D'Antignac Street will eventually reopen, though no date has been set.

 

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