Big-hearted volunteer wins Pat Patrick award

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

COVINGTON -- Tuesday was a special day for the Newton Fund of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. The nonprofit organization celebrated its 10th anniversary and gave away the 2nd Annual Pat Patrick Award to recognize outstanding volunteer work.

The celebration took place at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning in downtown Covington.

The man of the hour was Ed Jenkins, a retired pharmacist who founded Willing Helpers Free Medical Clinic, a health care service based out of Solid Rock Baptist Church that assists patients without insurance.

Jenkins received the Pat Patrick Big Heart Award, established in 2008 to honor a local community volunteer who gives back through service and time to a Newton-based nonprofit organization. The award was named for Joseph E. "Pat" Patrick, founding chair of the Newton Fund. The recipient is given $2,000 to designate to a nonprofit of his choice.

Willing Helpers is open a few hours one night per week and sees about 30 patients a night. About a dozen nurses, 25 doctors and many volunteers work there.

"Without Ed's vision, leadership and plain, old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves hard work, this would never have happened," Patrick said while presenting the award. "He has a true passion and love for helping others."

Jenkins recalled traveling to Florida to visit a similar clinic and feeling compelled to start one in Newton.

As he stood in the old sanctuary of his church with his pastor, Mike Franklin, Jenkins asked God to provide a location for the clinic. Then, he had a revelation.

"I turned around and said, 'Mike why can't we use the old sanctuary?'"

Since that time, the clinic has served more than 3,000 people and saved them an estimated $3 million in medical costs.

The clinic is booked solid through January, and an expansion to the facility is being considered.

Jenkins is just one inspiring example of the good a philanthropic spirit can do, and it's the aim of the Newton Fund to help foster that spirit throughout the community.

During its 10-year history, the Newton Fund has donated $221,350 to 50 local nonprofit organizations, with another $20,000 to be distributed in January.

The annual donations are supplemented with $10,000 in matching funds from The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

The fund also provides information to individuals and groups on local non-profits and allows them to establish their own funds benefiting organizations of their choice.

During the past five years, more than $3 million has been donated to Newton County charities through such funds, according to Alicia Phillip, president of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

"The whole objective of a community fund is to create raging philanthropists. As I look around the room I see a lot of raging philanthropists," Phillip said.

Kay Lee, a past chair of the fund, said she initially thought only the very wealthy could participate. But after learning more about the organization, she said she discovered that anyone can make a difference.

"If you want an opportunity to give that builds a legacy and is very, very simple whether you have a lot or not so much, the Community Foundation has a place for you," Lee said.