Jackson-area churches 'Craft' new ministry


By Woody Woodrick

Advocate Editor

On the day it opened, Craft House Ministry was without electricity thanks to a blown transformer.


Those involved in the south Jackson ministry believe, however, it will prove to be more powerful than a few kilowatts.


Craft House Ministry is a medical clinic set up by members of several Jackson-area churches to provide services to area residents who often have to do without.

“I think the clinic will have a major impact on the area,” said Barbara Shepherd, a nurse practitioner working at Craft House.


The clinic seeks to serve the homeless, working poor and those on Medicaid, said board chair Terry Pitts.


The clinic is located next to Alta Woods United Methodist Church, but board members attend several churches, including Epworth UMC in Jackson, Crossgates UMC in Brandon, Aldersgate UMC in Jackson and New Dimension Church of Jackson.


“This clinic shows that we have an open heart for getting out and being willing to help the community; that we’ve noticed the needs of the community,” Pitts said.


Four years in the making

Craft House became a reality on Sept. 9, but it started four years earlier. Pitts said some members of Alta Woods’ homeless ministry commented that some of its clients needed medical care. Dr. Bob Rester heard about that need, and began working with folks at Alta Woods on fleshing out the idea.


Not long after, Alta Woods held a homecoming service that attracted several members of Crossgates UMC. They embraced the idea and asked if they could be involved. As it grew, other churches became involved.


James Craft owned a brick house on the south edge of Alta Woods’ parking lot. He offered the building, and the group set about getting it in shape for a clinic. Refurbishing the house took a while, and just when it appeared ready, disaster struck. Literally.


Pitts said the clinic was just about ready to open in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina roared out of the Gulf of Mexico into Mississippi. Winds from the storm blew a tree onto Craft House, causing extensive damage.


“After the hurricane, we had a professional come in and put it back together,” Pitts said.


Craft, who owns a nearby office supply store, helped pay for the repairs, she said.

As the ministry developed, Pitts said those involved sought the aid of larger, more established medical groups. Baptist Medical Center donated used exam tables and other office equipment. Pitts said the ministry hopes to form an alliance with other medical groups to provide some donated services, such as lab work. One medical lab has offered eight free tests per month.


Elaine Dye of the Mississippi Conference Health and Wellness Initiative said the clinic will serve a key need.


“They are serving their constituency,” she said. “Individuals on Medicaid know what a hassle it is to go to regular doctor, so they go to the emergency room.”


Starting slowly

Craft House Ministry opened with little fanfare. Board members gathered for an early morning consecration service. In the first couple of hours, no patients came in, mostly because few folks knew the clinic was open.


Pitts and Clinic Director Catherine Cheney said they were advised to take such an approach.


“Starting slowly is an opportunity for us to learn what to do and what we haven’t thought about,” Pitts said.


Leaders plan to use word-of-mouth and fliers left in places where potential clients might go to spread the word.


“I think just being here we can offer a whole lot to the community,” Cheney said. “We don’t know where we’re going to go. We’re going to offer some medical help folks couldn’t get anywhere else. We hope they’ll see God’s love through us.”


Shepherd said a couple of nurses have volunteered their time. Board members plan to help out with office work, although more volunteers are needed, Pitts said. At the moment, no doctors have been able to volunteer. Pitts said the ministry hopes to find a doctor who can give time for examinations.


“Some of the doctors who can’t give their time have offered money,” Shepherd said.


Initial services will focus on treating chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and women’s health issues, Shepherd said.


The clinic plans to offer flu and pneumonia vaccines. The state Department of Health has agreed to sell Craft House the medicine, but funds are needed to purchase it.


Pitts said non-medical volunteers are needed to help with patient registration, waiting room management, transportation and other duties.


The clinic plans to be open from 8 a.m. until noon on alternate Saturdays. Shepherd said she hopes the demand will lead to being open all day each Saturday.


The clinic is funded primarily by Alta Woods, Epworth and Crossgates. Pitts said the clinic is working to obtain tax-exempt status.


“We are taking (cash) donations through Alta Woods right now,” Pitts said. “We’re also taking donations of sample medications, especially flu vaccine.”

Other needs will likely arise Pitts said, but right now those are unknown. She’s put her faith in God to discover and meet those needs.


“Some of us don’t know what to ask for,” she said. “We don’t know here God is leading us. We’re waiting to see.”