Monthly Archives: September 2018

Paying It Forward

Photography by Addie Strozier

Photography by Addie Strozier

Medical services are in demand at FaithCare Clinic – and so is the need for more volunteer physicians. 

Most churches are relatively quiet on a typical Tuesday evening. At Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans, however, every other Tuesday night is full of energy and activity. 

On those nights, the education building is converted into a healthcare facility where 30 to 40 people volunteer their services to provide free medical care at the FaithCare Clinic from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The clinic, which was the brainchild of former WUMC pastor Glenn Ethridge, provides patients with acute minor illness and ongoing primary medical care, professional counseling and some prescription drug assistance. 

Patients must meet three criteria to be eligible for treatment at the clinic. They must be Columbia County residents, have no health insurance and be below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

“This is one of the wealthiest counties in the state, but we have a significant amount of individuals in our county that don’t have access to medical care,” says Lewis Bandy, a retired medical administrator and the clinic’s administrator.

Volunteers-with-ComputersNowhere Else to Turn
FaithCare originally operated at Evans Surgery Center when it was founded in 2002, but it moved to the WUMC education building about 3.5 years ago. The clinic includes a check-in area, waiting room, interview room, nurses’ station, electronic record keeping and a pharmacy assistance program. Sunday school rooms are converted into exam rooms.

FaithCare is part of the Greater Augusta Healthcare Network, which was established in 2007 to address the need for quality, affordable healthcare in the area.

The network includes four hospitals, seven community clinics, the east Central Health District and eight community service providers. Of the seven clinics, FaithCare is the only one in Columbia County.

On a recent Tuesday evening, 35 volunteers took care of 25 patients at the clinic. The volunteers included four physicians, four nurses, a counselor, a dietitian, 17 administrative personnel and eight students.

Of the patients, 15 visited the clinic for medical appointments, five visited the pharmacy, four came for counseling and one received a dietary consultation.

In addition, says Bandy, “Doctors Hospital provides routine lab and x-ray services for free.”

The clinic sees patients by appointment only, and they are treated most commonly for high blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory ailments, obesity and smoking. The clinic also offers free flu shots, which are funded through a mission of the church.

Dr.-Richard-Melcher-with-Student“Wesley has always been very community-oriented,” says volunteer Ross Meschke, a pharmaceutical drug representative and WUMC member. “Many of the patients are among the working poor or are single women who have lost their health insurance because of divorce. Most of our patients have jobs, and most of our need is chronic.”

Natalie, an Evans resident, was at the clinic for pharmaceutical services, which she receives once a month. She first came to FaithCare when she had a broken leg in June 2017.

“When you walk in the door, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. The love of God is shown when you walk in the door, and they get you what you need,” Natalie says. “My life has changed drastically by coming here and seeing these people and seeing the smiles, the love and the outpouring of hope and prayers we’re given.”

James, an Appling farmer who has no insurance, has received medical care for knee and back pain from the clinic for two or three years. He also has been referred to Project Access to take part in a sleep study.

Project Access is a Richmond County Medical Society outreach program that provides healthcare for uninsured, low- to moderate-income residents of Richmond and Columbia counties. FaithCare refers patients to this program for specialty care.

Sr.-Laura-Mulloy-&-Student“They help me a lot,” James says of the clinic volunteers. “I don’t know what I would do without the clinic. It would be real rough.”

Patients usually hear about FaithCare by word-of-mouth, but currently the clinic is not accepting new patients because of the shortage of volunteer physicians. Bandy says it is particularly difficult to find behavioral health caregivers. “A lot of patients are in need to talk to somebody,” he says.

However, Paul Schantz, a retired VA chaplain, has filled that void by volunteering at the clinic. “You come in here, and you see hurting people who have nowhere to turn. I try to be a positive presence for them and offer encouragement to them,” he says.

Through its pharmacy assistance program, FaithCare provides its patients with no- or low-cost prescription drugs. However, the clinic does not prescribe narcotics or controlled substances.

Meschke helps arrange for the provision of sample drugs from major drug companies and helps patients understand the free or reduced-cost programs the drug companies offer. He also trains volunteers to fill out the necessary paperwork. Meschke, along with Dr. Laura Mulloy and retired RN Joe Kendall, have been with the clinic since its beginnings.

Medical-Student-Volunteer-CoordinatorsTraining Future Physicians
The patients are not the only reason the FaithCare doctors volunteer at the clinic, however. The opportunity to mentor medical students is a big draw for them as well.

“The clinic is good for the community, but it’s also good for training our future physicians,” says Mulloy, a professor and the chief of the Division of Nephrology at Augusta University. “It helps first-year students feel comfortable in their skin in a white coat.”

The medical students talk to the patients in the interview room about their history and present their findings to the physicians.

“Being able to interact with real patients is better than interviewing someone who is acting,” says Julianne Gillis, a Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University student volunteer coordinator. “We also have to present to the doctors, so they really help us get experience that we’ll have to use throughout residency.”

Her fellow MCG student clinic coordinator, David Reehl, finds other benefits from volunteering at the clinic.

“It’s good exposure to faith-based medicine to an under-served population in the community,” he says. “We learn how to integrate faith and spiritual healing into our practice.”

The student coordinators also make sure patients at the clinic are seen in a timely manner, which is an indispensable part of the services.

“I love taking care of the patients, and I love having students here. Teaching is my first love. I wouldn’t be in medicine if I couldn’t teach,” says Mulloy, who has served as FaithCare’s medical director for about nine years. “And it’s valuable for the students to give back and do community service early in their careers. Ninety percent of what we do is listening to people and talking.”

The doctors benefit from listening to the students as well. “Talking to them is refreshing,” says Dr. Nathan Brandon, an anesthesiologist and pain physician. “They ask questions and keep my brain awake.”

Brandon also finds that the variety of medical needs at the clinic gives him a break from the routine of his practice.

“I like it when the patients say, ‘thank you,’” says Brandon, who has volunteered at the clinic for six years. “I get to know these people.”

After the last patient leaves, Mulloy presents a case study to the students.

“I like to teach. I come up with a clinical vignette. I usually pick something I’ve seen during the day,” says Mulloy. “The students can ask questions. There’s not a lot of pressure. They’re not getting a grade. We’re just here to help them learn.”

Marie-Melcher-&-NataliePhysicians Needed
Since it was founded in 2002, FaithCare Clinic, a free, appointment-only clinic that provides primary medical care to uninsured Columbia County residents, has treated about 700 patients. The clinic, which operates from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every other Tuesday at Wesley United Methodist Church, currently serves 70 to 90 active patients, but it is not taking new patients at this time.

The clinic staff draws from a pool of about 45 volunteers, but only four of them are physicians – Dr. Laura Mulloy, a professor and the chief of the Division of Nephrology at Augusta University; Dr. Karen Phelps, a family practice physician at Eisenhower Army Medical Center; Dr. Richard Melcher, a retired internal medicine physician; and Dr. Nathan Brandon, an anesthesiologist and pain physician.

However, they would love to have some company. 

“We’re not asking doctors to come every other Tuesday for the rest of their lives,” says Mulloy, who also serves as the clinic’s medical director. “If a doctor could volunteer three or four times a year, that would be a gift. They could work for two hours a night, or agree to see five patients. It’s a public service to the community. As health care providers, that’s part of the reason we’re here. They can come one or two times and see if they like it.”

In the past, the clinic has had eight to 10 volunteer physicians. However, some no longer volunteer because they have moved away or their practices have changed. The FaithCare doctors also have found that other physicians are hesitant to volunteer because of concerns about liability or being overwhelmed with patients.

Case-Study-2However, the doctors are covered for malpractice by the Georgia Volunteer Health Care Program through the state Department of Public Health. FaithCare physicians are not under contract, and the appointment-only nature of the ministry prevents them from having to see more patients than they can handle in an evening. The volunteers even get a free meal prepared by WUMC members.

In July, FaithCare had to cancel one clinic because there were not enough physicians available. And if more doctors volunteered, then the clinic could expand its reach to serve more patients.

“Come visit and see what we do,” Brandon says. “Once they see what we do, they wouldn’t be worried about malpractice.”

For more information, email the clinic administrator, Lewis Bandy, at

By Leigh Howard

A Magical Spell


Main-photo--Cinderella,-carriageColumbia County Ballet will help the Imperial Theatre celebrate its 100th anniversary with a performance of “Cinderella.”

No one needs a fairy godmother to have a ball at Columbia County Ballet’s new, original production of “Cinderella,” at the Imperial Theatre.

This production, which features about 65 dancers ranging in age from 10 to 20, is choreographed by Columbia County Ballet alumnus Michael Viator.

“Michael has taken his trademark approach of presenting this classic story in a non-traditional way. He brings his main concentration to the power of the music, which is not the traditional Prokofiev, and the power of the movement he creates for the dancers,” says Ron Jones, Columbia County Ballet artistic director.

Jones and Renee Toole, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School fine arts director, are weaving together the scenes to connect the details of the story. Lia Daniele, dance instructor at SAIL, is joining them to rehearse the dancers and prepare for curtain.

“We decided to bring a new story ballet each fall to the Imperial stage and donate the proceeds from ticket sales to the theater,” Jones says. “The ballet has thus far raised $29,000 on behalf of the Imperial, and with this final presentation to support the 100th, we are looking forward to adding to that figure.”

If You Go:

What: Columbia County Ballet’s “Cinderella” 

When: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. Friday, September 21

Where: Imperial Theatre

How Much: $14 – $30

More Info: (706) 860-1852 or; (706) 722-8341 or

Bringing Back the Music

Photo courtesy of Augusta Symphony

Photo courtesy of Augusta Symphony

Augusta Symphony’s 2018-19 season includes traditional favorites as well as a new series in Columbia County.

Augusta Symphony kicks off its 64th season this month with a theme of New Horizons, and the performance series will offer broad appeal for all ages.

“We are embracing the future at the Augusta Symphony,” says Dirk Meyer, music director. “We have a new hall, a new brand and look, a new music director – yours truly, and the orchestra is performing at an all-time artistic high.” 

At the same time, the symphony is diversifying its audience, he says. “This upcoming season features several concerts that will certainly speak to our loyal patrons but, at the same time, appeal to newcomers to the symphony. Our opening performance, for example, features a world-class soloist and repertoire that is hugely popular. But it also features a new composition by American composer Michael Daugherty that revolves around the famous comic book hero, Superman.”

The Symphony Series, which includes six concerts at Miller Theater, will showcase the orchestra performing masterworks by some of the greatest composers from history through today. The first concert of this series and of the season, Obsession, featuring 23-year-old Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, will be Friday, September 28.

In addition to Daugherty’s Red Cape Tango, the concert will include Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. During the second half of the performance, audience members can download EnCue app to receive real-time program notes as the orchestra performs. 

The Pops! Series, also at Miller Theater, will feature four concerts this season that include a tribute to the Eagles, a Holiday Spectacular, The Wizard of Oz and a performance by magician Michael Grandinetti. The orchestra will perform Harold Arlen’s musical score live during the screening of The Wizard of Oz

This year Augusta Symphony also debuts its Family Concerts at Columbia County at Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center. This series, which features the Holiday Spectacular in December and “Peter & the Wolf” in March, is ideal for introducing children to the symphony. 

“These hour-long concerts are specifically designed for young concertgoers and will be fun for the entire family,” says Meyer. 

The music director also is happy to be able to call the Miller Theater home. “The acoustics at the Miller are wonderful. Everyone on stage can hear each other, and that makes performing there a real pleasure,” he says.

Meyer believes it is crucial for Augusta Symphony to be an integral part of the community, and it needs to adapt to changing times to have success.

“We constantly need to evolve and keep up with new developments. To make orchestral music relevant to a large section of our community, we need to ensure that our performances have relevance to the people in Augusta. We hope to provide just that in the upcoming season,” says Meyer. “Augusta Symphony is embracing its past and its community and, at the same time, heads towards its future. A wider offering and more diverse programming are our first steps towards new artistic horizons.” 

If You Go:

What: Augusta Symphony’s Obsession

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 28

Where: Miller Theater 

How Much: $22 – $67; season tickets are also available

More Info:


By Leigh Howard 

Kick the Dust Up


_Main-photoAwarding-winning country music singer Luke Bryan brings his 10th annual Farm Tour to North Augusta. 

Each fall since 2009, country music superstar Luke Bryan has taken his high-energy tours to farms across the country to celebrate his Leesburg, Georgia upbringing and to honor American farmers. This year the fifth stop of his six-city Farm Tour will bring him to Misty Morning Farms in North Augusta.

More than 100,000 fans have attended the tour each year since its inception. Through the tour, which is celebrating its 10th year this fall, Bryan has given back to the farming community by awarding college scholarships to students from agricultural families that are attending colleges or universities near Farm Tour stops. To date, more than 50 scholarships have been granted.

“I can’t believe we’ve been doing this 10 years,” Bryan says. “Our goal was to bring a show into towns like the one I grew up in that normally wouldn’t get this kind of opportunity while honoring the American farmer at the same time. I can’t express how much it means to me that these towns continue to support this vision. 

The country music artist and “American Idol” judge garnered his 20th career No. 1 single in March when “Most People Are Good” hit the top spot on the Country Aircheck and the Billboard Country Airplay charts. This was his 12th straight Billboard No. 1, the longest current streak among all artists. The song also was the second consecutive No. 1 hit from Bryan’s What Makes You Country album.

Bryan is a two-time Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year, a five-time host of the ACM Awards and the 2017 Super Bowl LI national anthem performer. He has sold more than 10 million albums and more than 40 million tracks with three billion music streams, and has performed for millions of fans on tour.

At the concert, chairs and blankets can be set up in designated areas but no coolers will be allowed. Tickets must be presented for access to parking areas, which open at 2 p.m.

The Farm Tour concludes October 6 at Doug Yates Farms in Ringgold, Georgia.

If You Go:

What: Luke Bryan Farm Tour

When: 6 p.m. Friday, October 5

Where: Misty Morning Farms, 306 Currytown Road, North Augusta, South Carolina

How Much: Tickets – $51 in advance; $60 at the gate, $175 VIP; parking – $5 in advance; $20 day of 

More Info:

Dive On In


1. National Public Lands Day JSTScuba divers – along with terra firma-loving volunteers – can participate in a cleanup effort at J. Strom Thurmond Dam. 

In conjunction with National Public Lands Day, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking for volunteers to participate in a cleanup at J. Strom Thurmond Dam at Clarks Hill Lake on Saturday, September 29. 

The event also is affiliated with Project Aware, a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to cleaning up ocean environments. 

NPLD_2015_SBR_9194_4x6H“Project Aware focuses on oceans, but everything eventually will end up in our oceans,” says Tara McNaylor, manager of Bubbles or Not in Harlem. “We have a huge problem with trash as a society.”

Volunteer scuba divers and kayakers, who help transport trash to shore, will conduct debris cleanup of the river side of the dam. Landlubber volunteers can help clean up along the shore.

Land projects will include debris cleanup, brush clearing and trail and park maintenance along the shoreline, islands, recreation areas, coves, old road ends and bridge areas. Land volunteers should wear closed-toed shoes and long pants and bring plenty of water. 

NPLD (1)The cleanup will begin at 8 a.m., and a barbecue lunch for volunteers will follow at noon. Check-in for the event will be at the Below Dam South Carolina Recreation Area, 384 Power Plant Road, Clarks Hill, South Carolina.

Volunteers should plan to arrive a few minutes early for check-in and a safety briefing. They will receive a free T-shirt (while the supply lasts). Volunteers can register as individuals or groups, and they are asked to sign up by Wednesday, September 12. 

The divers will attempt to dive below the dam if the power generation schedule allows. Alternate sites will be East Dam and West Dam. 

Martinez resident Justin Walter, who is a member of the dive teams for Columbia and Richmond counties, first organized a group of divers to volunteer for the cleanup five years ago.

NPLD 2017 (1)“It’s a great way to help the environment. You see a lot of trash and debris when you dive underwater in this area,” he says. “The cleanup also provides a free opportunity for local divers to dive.” 

Last year was the first year that Bubbles or Not volunteers participated in the cleanup. “We had about 30 divers and support staff with Bubbles or Not for the dive cleanup, and we hope to have at least that many this year, too,” says McNaylor.

Divers found items including TVs; fishing lines, lures and poles; auto and boat batteries; boat motors; mattresses; bottles and cans.

Bubbles or Not, which partners with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, will offer two classes in conjunction with the cleanup as well. A three-hour class to teach non-divers about ocean conservation will begin at 5 p.m. at the store on Friday, September 28.

Underwater Cleanup DiveThe shop also will offer a Dive Against Debris class, which includes PADI certification, during the cleanup. This class will include a brief overview before the cleanup and the dive itself.

Bubbles or Not also will sell mesh, reusable cleanup bags for $10 for the event. “Every penny goes directly to Project Aware,” McNaylor says. The bags are included in the Dive Against Debris class fee.

For more information or to get a volunteer registration form, call Bubbles or Not at (706) 901-5045 or Ranger Ben Werner at (864) 333-1131. Forms also are available online at Completed forms can be dropped off or mailed to the Thurmond Project Office, 510 Clarks Hill Highway, Clarks Hill, SC 29821. 

They also may be faxed to (864) 333-1150 or emailed to 

In the event of severe weather conditions, National Public Lands Day events will be cancelled. No rain date is scheduled. National Public Lands Day is a nationwide day of service for volunteering at local, state and federal park lands.

The cleanup also is part of Georgia’s statewide Rivers Alive program.

Get in the Race


1.-Main-photo-the-runFeel the burn for a worthy cause – a 5k run that benefits firefighters and their family members who are battling cancer

While wearing their gear and air packs, Grovetown resident Phillip Weathers, a firefighter at Savannah River Site, and his co-workers have been regular participants in races to raise awareness about local charities. Then Weathers decided to up his game. Five years ago he founded FireK FiveK to help fellow firefighters and their family members that are battling cancer. 

In 2010, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health launched a study, which was completed in late 2015, of almost 30,000 firefighters in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco. The results of the study showed that the firefighters had higher rates of certain types of cancer than the general U.S. population.

2. Firefighters“We know what the risks are, and for most of us, it wouldn’t matter. We’d still do the job,” says Weathers. “We want to raise money for the firefighters that need help. We also want to raise awareness and find better ways to do the job.”

Once the proceeds from this year’s race are distributed, FireK FiveK will have given more than $10,000 to firefighters in need in the past five years. 

The 5k typically attracts 120 to 150 runners, and this year Weathers hopes to have 200 racers in the field. Participants can register as individuals or as teams. The course, which is fairly flat and has multiple water points, is USA Track & Field-certified this year. It also is on the list of races for Run & See Georgia Grand Prix, a series that encourages runners to travel and race across the state. 

3. trophiesTop performers in each age group, as well as the top male and female finishers, will earn trophies. In addition, says Weathers, “Firefighters will compete for a bragging rights trophy that looks like the Stanley Cup.” 

The family friendly event will include a live DJ, inflatables for kids, face painting, displays of firefighting apparatus and more. Hot dogs, hamburgers and beverages will be available at no charge, but donations are welcome. Prizes will be raffled off at the event, and calendars featuring firefighters that have been helped by the fundraiser will be sold as well.

“In the last one or two years, the support has been outstanding from the people that have come on board. This year is shaping up to be a big year for us,” Weathers says. “It’s really cool to be a part of this.”

4. Ninja turtleIf You Go: 

What: FireK FiveK

When: 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Saturday, October 6; check-in begins at 7:30 a.m.; race begins at 9 a.m. 

Where: Lady A Pavilion, Evans Towne Center Park

 How Much: $30 – $85 for race participants; spectators are free 

More Info: