The United States Department of Agriculture has approved a grant of $63,600 and low interest loan of $26,400 to the Zara Betterment Corporation. The money was provided to enable the corporation of open and operate the clinic, which is located about 17 miles east of Elizabethtown on NC 87.
In announcing the awarding of the grant, Congressman Mike McIntyre said, "This is fantastic news for the residents of Carver's Creek and Council! Access to health care is an important issue for many of our rural residents, and the opening of this clinic will be of tremendous help. Congratulations to all who were involved in making this project a reality!"
On learning of the grant, Samuel Brown, Jr., chairman of the corporation, said, "Zara Betterment Corporation is happy and blessed to receive this grant from the USDA. This makes our goal to provide health care in Carver's Creek and surrounding communities a reality.
"Many lives were saved because of quick access to health services here at this health center in the past (the center was operated by Bladen County Hospital until January 2001). I speak for all the citizens in this area when I say we are delighted that we have these services open here again.
"Many thanks and appreciation to everyone involved in making this grant/loan possible, especially our Congressman, Mike McIntyre."
Zara Betterment Corporation became involved in the effort to retain medical services in the community when it became apparent that Bladen County Hospital would no longer operate the facility because of financial considerations.
When the hospital elected to close the clinic early last year, a group of eastern Bladen residents banded to form a group to look for ways to purchase the building from the hospital and continue to offer medical services to residents of the community.
The group made an offer to the hospital for the property and worked to access funds to reopen the clinic. Zara applied for the grant funds to reopen the clinic and get it on its feet.
The services of a physician and family nurse practitioner had already been secured before the grant was approved, and they are offering medical services two full days a week.
Dr. Melvin Gerald and Marie Campbell, family nurse practitioner, operate the clinic on Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Plans call for opening the clinic on Wednesdays as well in the near future.
A free prostate screening clinic will be held at the clinic on Saturday, May 11, from 9 a.m. until noon.
In addition to the clinic, Zara Betterment Corporation administers a youth program promoting character building, drug use prevention, and teen pregnancy prevention.