Will You Be On The Bus?

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Will You Be On The Bus?

Sue Head, Executive Director of The Keeter Center for Character Education at College of the Ozarks and local businessman Ed Akers invited a group of community and religious leaders, business owners, health professionals, community volunteers and a gathering of other interesting folks to an informal luncheon earlier this week.

As usual, the food at the Keeter Center was delicious and the company was certainly gracious, but it was a simple statement that keeps replaying over and over in my mind.

We need your help. Will you be on the bus with us?

On the bus? What bus? When I think of buses I think of my 5th grader, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, heading off to expand her mind, play with her friends, baby-step her way into a promising future. Or I think about my dad as a young enlisted airman riding twenty hours on the Greyhound to see my mother one last time before they were separated by the Korean War. Or I think about Rosa Parks and the legacy she left for all of us on her courageous bus trip into fairness and decency.

Ok, I’ll bite. What’s so important about this bus trip?

It turns out that this bus is bound for Memphis. But it isn’t going to Beale Street, Sun Records, Graceland or B.B. King’s blues club. This bus will be stopping, quite frankly, at a medical clinic. But it’s not just any clinic.

The Church Health Center Clinic, founded in 1987 by Dr. Scott Morris, a family practice physician and ordained United Methodist minister, is described as a place where the working uninsured, their families and the homeless, can find quality, compassionate and affordable medical care. It works through a broad base of financial support from the local faith community and the volunteer efforts of doctors, nurses, dentists and others of generous heart.

On the first day it was opened, 12 patients sought treatment from Dr. Morris and his one nurse. Today the on-site staff of six physicians, one nurse practitioner, two dentists, an optometrist, a psychiatrist, a pastoral counselor, a social worker, nurses and support staff serve more than 50,000 patients. A network of 600 volunteer physicians, nurses, dentists, and other health care professionals keep the Clinic open nights and weekends.

Hope & Healing, a wellness center with the emphasis of promoting good health practices and illness prevention, was also established for the community in Memphis. What has become the largest privately funded, faith-based, non-profit, primary health-care clinic has been a model for at least 20 other such ventures around the country.

Why should we be concerned about a clinic in far-away Memphis? The answer to that is readily apparent if you think about it. Branson and the surrounding communities in Stone and Taney Counties have a significant population of the same working uninsured, their families and homeless folks that Memphis has reached out to. Typically, when situations become dire, these people , our neighbors, seek treatment at the local emergency rooms. Or they don’t seek treatment at all. They don’t have a family physician or dentist or eye doctor.

Back to the Bus! During the June 19th and 20th bus trip to Memphis, we’ll learn why faith-based health ministries can work, how connections within the community are created, and how the patients are best served through these types of programs. The experts in Memphis are eager to share their stories with us. And they are eager for us to reach out to our community and make a difference.

Please consider riding the bus! Learn how you and I and our families and our friends can change the face of healthcare for our local at-risk population.

For complete information about the trip to The Church Health Center Clinic, please contact:

Sue Head, Executive Director

The Keeter Center for Character Education

P.O. Box 17, Point Lookout, MO 65726 • 417-334-6411, ext. 4242

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