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beacon of dedication
Story by Susan O'Connor, Photo by Dero Sanford

For 15 years, Frankie Grisham has given huge amounts of her time and expertise to the Jonesboro Church Health Center (JCHC), without pay, without accolades. She is truly a beacon of dedication.

A friend invited Grisham to the first organizational meeting of the proposed center in 1992, a charity conceived by visionaries such as Rev. Emil Williams, the late Flo Jones and the late Dr. Weldon Rainwater. It was a cause Grisham immediately believed in.

“I knew I had some extra time,” she said. “I felt like I needed to contribute to something worthwhile.”

Grisham’s only daughter had recently given birth to her only child, Samantha, now 19, an event that precipitated Grisham’s retirement from full time employment.

“I decided that life is too short not to spend time with her,” she said of her granddaughter.

A business education teacher at the high school level for 13 years, then a secretary for Arkansas State University, the Monette native was not one to sit still. When she wasn’t babysitting her granddaughter, she volunteered her clerical skills at the center. Now, she works Monday through Thursday mornings.

As of the end of April, approximately 16,130 patients have been served by the JCHC, according to Grisham. For a flat $15 fee, patients without Medicare, Medicaid or other insurance receive excellent care from a paid staff of four, as well as volunteer physicians and dentists from throughout Jonesboro’s medical community and volunteers in many other capacities. The paid staff includes a secretary, two registered nurse practitioners and a licensed practical nurse. Dr. Willie Hurst is the clinic’s medical director and also a longtime volunteer.

The center also receives assistance from both St. Bernards Regional Medical Center and NEA Baptist Hospital, Grisham noted.

“Everyone who does anything is valuable,” she said. “There are so many people who work behind the scenes to keep this clinic running.”

JCHC serves not only Jonesboro residents, but anyone in need of medical care. There is currently a two-month waiting list for new patients. Grisham said patients come from all over Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri.

Last year, after providing medical services for 17 years in a former downtown Jonesboro motel owned by First Baptist Church, JCHC moved into a newly constructed clinic at 500 Kitchen St. The staff is clearly proud of the professionally equipped new facility.

“Over the years the clinic grew, and they needed more help from volunteers. I was able to give it – I wanted to give it. By that time, they had become my second family. Today, if my family can’t find me, they’ll call the clinic and see what my schedule is instead of them trying to keep up with me,” she said with a laugh.

Grisham said many patients also feel the family atmosphere there.

“We have people who have been coming to us for years and they reach the age of Medicare or qualify for Medicaid and they beg to still come see us. We’ve had them cry because they had to leave us. This clinic has just been one of a kind in the area, and it still is.”

What is the secret to your dedication as a volunteer? I don’t have a secret. It is just a joy to be a part of the JCHC family.

What is most rewarding about your work at the clinic? Seeing the results of helping meet the health needs of our patients.

If you could choose another profession, what would it be? A lawyer.

If you could grant one wish to the City of Jonesboro, what would it be? There are so many charitable organizations/groups here and I would grant our city the ability to continue to do even more in reaching out to all those who are struggling in difficult times.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Cracker Barrel.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Disney World.