Cross to raise funds for clinic

CROSS -- After years of trying to get politicians to direct some state and federal money to expand the overcrowded free health clinic here, residents are taking matters into their own hands.

They plan to work through the churches to raise $850,000 for a new clinic.

That was the message at a community meeting Tuesday night at Cross High School.

The Cross Health Center is a small brick building with green trim on Old Highway 6. A doctor and a nurse rotate duties between two exam rooms. The lobby can handle about 25 people, and it's always crowded.

"We're overwhelmed," lab technician Brenda Dingle said before the meeting. "Sometimes it's like wall-to-wall people."

The clinic is run by Franklin C. Fetter Family Health Center Inc., a network that operates free clinics throughout the Lowcountry. Board Chairman Lonnie Hamilton said expanding the Cross clinic is a top priority.

"I'm ashamed of it," Hamilton told about 60 people who attended the community meeting. "We can do better now."

The Rev. Michael Mack, facilities chairman for the Fetter clinics, outlined a vision for a new building with more than three times the space, 10 exam rooms, an education room, a pharmacy and more restrooms, to name a few improvements.

"We're going to use all the resources we have, all the connections we have to make it happen," Mack said.

Berkeley County Councilman Caldwell Pinckney, a Cross High School graduate, helped organize the meeting. "It's on paper now, but it's going to be a reality," Pinckney said. "We've got to have some money."

Pinckney pointed to Goose Creek Councilman John McCants, who also has been working to raise support, even though he doesn't live in the area.

The Rev. Alphonso Jones with the Ministerial Alliance said he will work to get pastors on board, and then churches will follow.

"I believe," he cried out.

"I believe," the audience echoed.

Edith Jenkins of Goose Creek was there representing the governor's office. She expressed her support but didn't promise any state money.

Willie Mitchell, Connie Shuler and Linda Harkins spoke as members of a citizens committee supporting the project.

Harkins said she's involved with the Screven Baptist Association, which represents 60 churches, and will work to get the women involved in raising money.

"Affordable health care is a need that touches every one of us," she said.

Her husband, John Harkins, stood up to say they have helped people in need all over the country through the Southern Baptist relief program, and now it's time to help the community.

"I think this is one of the greatest opportunities to work together to help ourselves," he said.