Photo, above left: Pharmacists take inventory in preparation to
help doctors and nurses treat up to two dozen walk-in patients. Right: Nurses
from several area churches come straight from work to tend to patients at the Free Clinic.
Below, Dr. Billy Burk is one of the clinic physicians. (Photos courtesy of Free
Clinic of Rome, Ga.)
Volunteers attack homelessness on two fronts
Major Frank Duracher
Southern Spirit staff
volunteer groups have partnered with The Salvation Army in Rome, Ga., in an
ongoing effort to provide comfort and sustenance to the homeless population of
Both the foot-washing ministry and the Free Clinic of Rome
alternate services on Monday evenings, providing needed services to walk-ins
and those staying at the Army's emergency shelter. Most of the guests are
men, but women and children come to be fed and cared for by caring volunteers
of both groups.
Elizabeth Wallace, a former nurse, read an Atlanta
newspaper article about a foot clinic ministry and proposed the idea to her
fellow congregation members at the First United Methodist Church of Rome. A
partnership with The Salvation Army soon formed and is now in its fifth year of
Wallace coordinates a group of about 20 volunteers who come to
the Army's shelter on the first and third Mondays of the month. They help
serve that evening's hot meal prepared by Army staff members and use the
time to speak to the homeless guests while they eat.
"This gives us
a chance to get to know more about them, and some we've gotten to know
quite well," Wallace said. "We invite them to come to have their feet
washed, and many do come to our five stations that provide
Students from Berry College belonging to HHOPE (Hunger
& Homelessness Outreach Programs and Education) are very involved in the
foot-washing ministry, as are volunteers from other churches throughout
"We give each person a pair of shoes, and a bag containing new
socks and toiletries," Wallace said.
Photos, left (top): Gift
bags containing new socks and hygiene products are decorated and filled by
children in the Rome area. Middle: The 20 volunteers of the
foot-washing ministry say that they wash the feet of guests as if they
were performing the act for Jesus. Bottom: Volunteers prepare to serve hot
meals to guests of the foot-washing ministry.
after the foot-washing ministry began, a group of doctors formed the Free
Clinic of Rome, Inc., a second partnership with The Salvation Army focusing on
immediate medical care for the homeless. The group includes physicians, nurses,
pharmacists, lay volunteers and a social worker provided by the State of
Steven Pruett, M.D., and a board of directors coordinate the
service which operates on the second and fourth Mondays of the month. Most
medical volunteers are members of local churches, including First Methodist,
First Presbyterian and St. Mary's Catholic.
The Free Clinic is a
well-organized structure, with every component donated by the volunteers and
their supporters. Manpower, equipment, supplies and prescription drugs are all
provided by donation, with no line item cost at all to the Army.
walk-in clinic provides the free service to patients, many of which are
referred by the local hospital and the family practice clinic. Medical records
are stringently kept on each patient, with confidentiality and HIPAA (Health
Insurance Portability and Accounting Act) rules faithfully observed. The
group's mission is to serve those who have no access to medical care or
"We see anywhere from four to 24 people on a given Monday
night," Pruett said. "Some extreme cases involve hypertension and
high blood sugar, which may involve EMS transportation to the
Most important, Pruett insists, is that each patient is
treated with the utmost respect.
A free dental clinic has grown from
this program, conducted by Dr. Randy Green with seven other dentists, sponsored
by the Rome/Floyd County Dental Society and the Northwest Regional Health
Department. Dr. Charles Roszel provides a specially-equipped van complete with
two dental chairs and x-ray equipment. The dental team performs extractions
The foot-washing ministry and the clinic are partnerships with The
Salvation Army that have proven to be valuable assets to the Rome community, as
well as providing much-needed care from two fronts for the
"It is incredible for us to witness the good that is being
done here every Monday night," said Captain Eileen Farrell, Rome corps
officer. Both projects, she said, help fulfill the Lord's command to
minister to people who need them most.