As featured in the Fall/Winter 2019 issue of The Executive, an online magazine featuring members of Gwinnett Chamber’s Chairman’s Club.
By 2040 nearly 50,000 Gwinnett County residents will be considered poor and unable to afford basic health and dental services according to estimates by the Atlanta Regional Commission. Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett, nicknamed Good Sam, is working to provide non-emergency healthcare and dental services for those poor and uninsured patients now and in the future from two locations in Norcross.
The nonprofit organization, which is based on the Christian parable of the Good Samaritan, was started in 2005 with the mission to “Demonstrate the love of Christ through providing quality, affordable, and accessible health and dental services to the poor and uninsured.”
The dental aspect of Good Sam’s services was a recent addition to their mission and one they would like to expand. “There are very few charitable dental care options in our area. People might wait more than two years for charities in Atlanta for dental work,” said Greg Lane, Executive Director at Good Sam. Dental patients are accepted at both Good Sam clinic locations, but there is still a two-month waitlist for a cleaning. “I don’t think we will ever not have a waiting list, but I’d like it to be under 30 days,” Lane said.
Increasing the number of dentist chairs is part of the expansion goals for Good Sam’s 2020 Capital Campaign, which started in February 2018 and will end in June 2020 with a goal to raise $2.8 million. The money will go toward replacing Good Sam’s East clinic, now located in a strip mall on Jimmy Carter Boulevard, increasing its general capacity to serve both healthcare and dental patients. The East clinic’s current space cannot accommodate the additional dental chairs without significant retrofitting and its shared parking lot is often full. “We want to expand our dental program and provide private parking for our patients so they can more readily access our services,” Lane said.
Through funding from the Gwinnett County Community Development Block Grant program, Good Sam has found a new stand-alone property and hopes to take ownership by mid-October. The funds raised through the 2020 Campaign are earmarked for the construction of the new multi-service healthcare and dental facility. At the time this article was written, Lane said they had raised more than $1.4 million of the $2.8 million goal.
“We want to serve as many people as possible. The only thing we ask is that you are uninsured,” Lane said. “Because our doors and windows are so open, we get busier and busier every year.” Busier and busier at a staggering pace; Good Sam grows 25 to 40 percent annually. “When I started at the organization eight years ago, we served 3,200 patients a year,” Lane said. “We are on track to serve about 36,000 patients in 2019.”
With the increased demand, comes an ever-increasing need for capital. Good Sam is funded almost entirely by private donors and organizations. Though that was a deliberate decision the organization made to not compromise its Christian-based evangelical mission, it makes fund-raising efforts especially important. “We break out in a sweat over our funding, but we succeed each year,” Lane said. “We are blessed every year to sustain ourselves and meet the rising needs in the community.”
One of the reasons an investment in Good Sam is appealing is the organization’s business sense, said Lane. “We understand we are a business. A nonprofit business, yes, but that doesn’t free us from the efforts to make a business successful. One of the things I’ve heard from our investors is that we are unique combination of head and heart. We’re wise about the decisions we make.”
Good Sam is a recent addition to the Chairman’s Club and Lane said he admired the philanthropic spirit of Gwinnett County’s business leaders. “I really came to believe joining Chairman’s Club was a worthwhile expense because of the caliber of the members,” he said. “By coming alongside as a peer of those members, it would help us open doors we have never been able to open before.”
Future plans for Good Sam include more opportunities to partner and create satellite clinics with other organizations who serve similar populations. Two such clinics will be opening in the fall, one at a homeless shelter and one a food bank. “This will probably be our expansion model going forward—more satellite clinics—to overcome the high cost of installing a specialized medical clinic,” Lane said. This strategy also addresses the difficulty of cross-county public transportation that some of Good Sam’s patients experience in Gwinnett. “We can go to our patients, instead of them trying to get to us,” he said.
Lane encourages anyone interested in Good Sam to drop in at either clinic location. “Everyone one who works or volunteers here is ready to give a tour and answer questions,” he said. “The doors are open. You don’t need an appointment to come see what we can and are doing for the community.”