In recent years, donors have become more vocal in urging nonprofits to collaborate to address community problems and needs, believing collaboration will result in the more efficient use of dollars donated.

Indeed, the nonprofit landscape in Gwinnett is fragmented and reductant to a large degree. For many nonprofits, referral arrangements have been mistaken for collaboration and limited mutual investing and risk-taking has taken place.

Recently, however, two very different but complementary nonprofit organizations, North Gwinnett Cooperative and Good Samaritan Health Center, have come together to address a complex problem in an innovative fashion.

A significant challenge facing the poor and uninsured of Gwinnett County is finding convenient access to charitable healthcare. Gwinnett is home to only two full-time charitable medical organizations. Those clinics are located in the cities of Lawrenceville and Norcross.

Many in Gwinnett struggle to utilize a public transportation system that primarily services the southernmost portion of the county. There is no Gwinnett Transit route extending to Buford. The absence of public transit in Buford places a burden on the clients of the North Gwinnett Cooperative who need convenient access to charitable medical services. The distance from the Cooperative to the Good Samaritan Health Center is approximately 20 miles and typically requires a 40-minute, one-way commute. For many, the cost of private transportation services given that distance is prohibitive.

The North Gwinnett Cooperative and Good Samaritan Health Center have agreed to collaboratively address the needs the poor and uninsured of Buford by launching a small, limited service primary care clinic within the Cooperative’s new expanded facility opening in September.

The North Gwinnett Cooperative will provide Good Samaritan office space so that Good Samaritan can render onsite low cost general medical services to individuals and families served by the Cooperative. Good Samaritan staff will initially see patients at the Cooperative one day a week and may increase its presence as patient demand grows.

This collaborative arrangement uniquely enables Good Samaritan Health Center to expand our reach without launching an expensive capital campaign, and permits North Gwinnett Cooperative to broaden its service offerings without having to hire medical staff. Last year, our organizations coauthored a grant and received funding to launch this initiative.

While neither of us point to our collaboration as a game changer in Gwinnett, we are pleased with the result of our thinking outside the box and hope our coming success will inspire other complementary nonprofits to collaborate similarly so that the whole of Gwinnett’s nonprofit network truly becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

The North Gwinnett Cooperative was formed in 1991 as a ministry that provides food, clothing, financial assistance, and spiritual support to those in need in the Buford, Sugar Hill and Suwanee communities. From 2004 to present, the Cooperative has served more than 125,000 clients.

The Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett provides health and dental services exclusively targeting the poor and uninsured. Achieving its goals helps to eliminate health disparities for poor and uninsured populations, and reduces the cost of indigent care on the healthcare delivery system. From 2005 to present, Good Samaritan Health Center has provided more than 170,000 patient encounters.

Greg Lang is executive director of Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett.

People Helping People is a publication of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health & Human Services. For more information contact Ellen Gerstein at ellen@gwinnettcoalition.org or at 770-995-3339.