Located at 107 Mountain Brook Drive, the faith-based nonprofit opened its doors nine months ago as a free clinic on Saturdays, but expanded its services in March to become a low-cost clinic during weekdays to provide revenue to fund the free clinic.
Founder and executive director Karen Fegely said she began her journey in the medical field when she had a job at the Cherokee County Health Department 12 years ago.
“I just really fell in love with the county and learned to appreciate what was here,” Fegely said.
After she left the position, she said she later found out that many of the department’s services had been cut. She always wanted to provide her own clinic, so she went back to school to become a registered nurse practitioner.
“It really gave me the autonomy to start something like this,” Fegely said. “I have family members who don’t have medical insurance. I think every one of us is touched by that in our lives.”
Fegely said her daily motivation is seeing how needed basic medical services are throughout the community.
“I’m really a regular person who sees a need,” she said. “This is much, much bigger for me. This is about the people and the churches of Cherokee County really coming together. We can’t turn our heads.”
After becoming licensed, she began to see patients about 18 months ago at homeless shelters, churches and other areas throughout the county.
Then she found her desired location for the clinic was up for sale. She said she immediately began contacting friends to help raise money for a down payment.
“Within a week’s time, we raised the money,” she said. “We purchased the location in September and opened in October.”
At the time, Fegely was working full time in Calhoun, so the clinic was only able to provide the volunteer-driven services on Saturdays.
“Finally, I decided in February I couldn’t do both,” she said. “I felt it was the right time to make a step of faith and leave my job, leave my benefits, leave everything for this.”
When Bethesda Community Clinic finally opened full-time in March, they saw about 100 patients in the first week, Fegely said.
As of now, the clinic provides acute care for adults and children, manages chronic illnesses, provides women’s healthcare, performs laboratory services, provides wellness education classes and is forming a network of specialists and affordable diagnostic services for patients. Basic office visits cost $45 per patient.
Dr. Donna Gregory, one of the main doctors who see patients with the clinic, said the clinic has now seen well over 400 patients at the Saturday free clinic with just a staff of volunteers.
“We hope to really increase awareness of our presence in Cherokee County—both for those who need our services and those who could help us out,” Gregory said.
Fegely said the non-profit has big plans for expanding its services, as it has already begun to provide some dental services and will start diabetes education classes next week.
She also hopes to purchase the suite next door to be able to serve more patients.
“Our size is too small for what we have already,” Fegely said.
The clinic has a paid staff of three and is supported by more than 50 volunteers, including doctors, registered nurses and administrative staff.
But Fegely said the clinic is always looking for more.
“No matter what your background, we could always use your help,” she said.
The Saturday free clinic is for eligible patients and by appointment only. During the week, the low-cost clinic has no eligibility requirements and walk-ins are welcome.
The clinic is open Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays from 12 to 8 p.m. and Fridays 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
For more information, visit www.bethesdacommunityclinic.org.