PARRISH - Paul Kennedy, executive director of the Walker Area Community Foundation, said if it was not for David Jones, Capstone Rural Health Center "would still be operating out of a couple of mobile homes on a hilltop in Parrish, Alabama."

Kennedy said Jones, the clinic's executive director, has been instrumental in the growth of Capstone, which has how culminated into a new $1.9 million facility that has opened in Parrish, with plans for a open house in February and fundraising efforts underway to set up a dental clinic inside.

He said thanks to Jones' and the board's vision and cooperation, the clinic has satellite facilities also in Jasper and Nauvoo, a "pharmacy, the likes of which you are not going to find anywhere else" in Capstone's Nauvoo facility, and the major new Parrish facility.

"Who else has put a $2 million investment in Parrish, Alabama, in the last two decades, short of maybe a fast-food restaurant?" Kennedy said.

Kennedy said Jones has skill to sell a big vision.

"He lulls you into complacency," he said to laughs around a meeting held recently at the new facility. "He's calm and you think that crazy thing is actually doable. So you go, 'Yeah, David, that sounds like a great idea.'"

Kennedy said he was glad to see a hometown guy with a heart for missions and a stack of academic degrees to come home "with the heart and ability to make a difference in the lives of the rest of the county."

For his part, Jones and the staff are grateful and adjusting to the new Parrish facility, which opened Dec. 3. He said punch list items still have to be handled and parking is extremely tight - so much so that Jones moved his own vehicle for the news reporter to park. The old mobile unit was still in place the day of the interview, and plans were being made to remove it soon to make way for more parking.

"We're still seeing 50 or 60 a day here" at the new facility, Jones said, which was about the same as the old mobile facility. "I'm hoping the parking lot will be done by the first or second week in January," he said, adding that landscaping is also being worked on by Jeremy Harbin. He also noted the use of LED lighting and solar panels on the building, as well as video conferencing.

Funding for about half the building came through Obamacare capital improvement funds through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Other health centers across the country got $1 million, but Capstone got off the ground sooner to avoid competing with hurricane-related needs, he said. Also, he noted the experience of Darryl Odom of Odom Construction of Parrish on medical facilities was helpful overall to the project, as was the lower cost of materials.

A total of $200,000 was received from the Appalachian Regional Commission, as well as $100,000 from the Walker Area Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, and $25,000 from Honda of Jasper.

The balance came through a Rural Development U.S. Department of Agriculture loan, Jones said. "They fund 2.7 percent over 40 years," he said. "It's a good loan."

More than anything, after years in a mobile facility, the staff is adjusting to all the extra space available.

"We've gone from 4,000 square feet to about 10,000," Jones said of the two-floor facility.

Jones said the top floor, the patient area, is about 6,000 square feet. A board room and administrative offices are on the bottom floor.

As for future improvement, Jones said he wants the community to come behind long-term plans for a dental area set aside in the Parrish building, to be called the Dr. Buddy L. Thorne Dental Clinic due to various support arranged by the family of the retired Jasper dentist. Beth Thorne-Stukes, on behalf of the Walker Area Community Foundation and the Barbara Drummond Thorne Fund, has been actively involved.

While the building had plans for 10 exam rooms, two of those have been set aside for dental exam rooms, with gas lines already installed and the rooms outfitted for dental chairs. He said the problem of uninsured dental care is affecting thousands in the area.

With $400,000 in one-time funds and a good dedicated dentist the first year, he thinks the dental service would be self-sustaining after that, thanks, in part, to sliding fees and Medicaid.