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Fairhope’s Hope Center provides care for ‘body, mind, spirit’comment (0)

December 1, 2011

By Anna Keller

For nearly a decade, the Hope Center was just what its name implies: a hope of Church on the Eastern Shore, Fairhope.

Senior Pastor Mark Price saw a similar ministry in Florida and envisioned bringing the concept to his Baldwin County community.

Nearly seven years later, he shared his dream with Dana Smith.

“We prayed about it for a little over two years, and then things were set into motion,” said Smith, director of the center. “This is not your average place. We offer dental, medical and counseling services, and we also share the gospel with every single patient.”

The center was created as a place for the uninsured or underinsured to receive quality health care. Though there are fees (for those who can afford them), no one is ever turned away because he or she is unable to pay.

Since opening its doors in the fall of 2009, the center has treated more than 2,300 patients, and its numbers continue to increase. In fact, it is quickly outgrowing its space and is looking for alternative locations.

As for medical professionals, the center has partnered with several local physicians and dentists who volunteer their time — perhaps a few days a month or one day a week — to offer care. There are also several nurses who volunteer, including Lisa Field.

“When I became aware of the organization about a year and a half ago, I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to be involved,” Field said. “I hadn’t practiced in awhile, but Dana said that was fine. She explained to me that caring for the needs in our own community was a holistic approach to health care: body, mind and spirit. What I didn’t realize was that I was the one who was spiritually in need.”

Smith and others at the center recognized her needs and began to minister to her. Soon she started attending Eastern Shore and was baptized in the summer of 2010.

“This entity has turned my life upside down and around, and it has broadened my nursing perspective,” Field said. “It’s humbling to be there, to see the hope offered these patients. We are providing them with hope in their lives, with options and with resources so they can help themselves.”

The center relies completely upon donations and operates exclusively with a volunteer staff.

It has an active relationship with Eastern Shore as well as Thomas Hospital in Fairhope, which helps out with radiology and lab tests, but it is always looking for additional support — particularly as its outreach continues to expand.

Russell Creel, Eastern Shore’s discipleship pastor and a member of the center’s board of directors, envisions the center growing to encompass even more ministry outlets. It is currently in conversations to partner with a women’s facility and would like to open a transitional housing component at some point.

“We want the Hope Center to meet any need God puts before us,” Creel said. “It’s sort of cliché but the center really does reflect its name: hope. We constantly come into contact with people who have lost hope, and we can offer that and hope to be able to offer it in even more ways in the coming years.”

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