Tree of Life clinic finds new home

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Tree of Life/Arbrol de la Vida Free Clinic will have a permanent Tupelo home with help from Calvary Baptist Church.
The new space in a former savings and loan building at 541 W. Main St. will give the Tree of Life clinic room to expand beyond once-a-month clinics in the future, said founder Dr. Joe Bailey of Tupelo.
“It’s a perfect fit,” Bailey said. “The church was looking for a community health project.”
Calvary owns the building, which has been sitting unused. In addition to supplying the facility, the church will cover the utilities.
The Tree of Life Clinic will handle the building liability insurance and organize volunteers for basic renovations.
Partnering with the Tree of Life clinic serves the Christian mandate to take care of the least among us, said Calvary Baptist pastor Rev. David Eldridge.
“The DNA of Calvary is the commitment to be the hands and feet of God outside the church,” Eldridge said.
The Tree of Life Clinic began seeing patients once a month in January, using the basic medical care model Bailey and other physicians have put to work on medical missions in impoverished countries.
The only requirement to be seen is that patients not have private health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.
“We’ve had more than 100 there every time,” Bailey said.
Because the clinic has no residency, employment or age requirements, it fills an unmet need in Northeast Mississippi, organizers say.
The group’s April 17 clinic will still be held in its borrowed space at 670 Crossover Road, behind North Mississippi Medical Center, while volunteers make basic renovations to the old savings and loan building. Bailey hopes to be able to hold the May clinic in the new building.
Later this summer, the Tree of Life board will decide how on how to expand the clinic, Bailey said.
The Tree of Life has been an ecumenical project, bringing together members of churches across Tupelo.
“It’s not just about Calvary, it’s just being a part of what Christians across the area are doing,” Eldridge said.
Dr. Bill Hilbun, a retired Tupelo pediatrician and Tree of Life board member, brought the idea to his church’s leadership.
“Everybody was enthusiastic,” Hilbun said. “What better way to reach out in the community than to host this clinic?”
It’s an natural fit for Calvary, which has a long history of supporting medical missions in improvised countries.
“We’re excited we can use the building … in a medical mission that serves our community,” said Greg Pirkle, a Tupelo attorney who serves as the Calvary’s board of deacons chairman.

Contact Michaela Gibson Morrisat (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.