If health centers were judged on looks alone, the Glen Burnie HealthCenter on A Street wouldn't win any awards.
"It's kind of ugly," said Reeda Corbitt, holding her 2-month-old daughter, Courtney, in the cramped waiting room Tuesday. "It needs to be a little updated. Look at the floors, the ceilings."
Alas, a recent tour of the busy community health center proved Corbitt right. The little clinic is ugly. The brown-and-green floor is missing tiles, the ceiling is stained in many places, the furniture doesn't match.
But beneath the surface, a number of Glen Burnie residents see a health center that could be a model the community would be proud of. To this end, the Glen Burnie Health Center Association, which is responsible for maintaining the building, has launched a capital improvements campaign aimed at spiffing up the place and, as oneorganizer put it, "bringing it into the 1990s."
Katherine DeGrange, chairwoman of the capital improvements committee, said the nine-member health center board plans to raise $140,000 by the end of this year for renovations.
The committee hopes to get most of the money in a block grant from the county's Office of Community Development. But Degrange estimated that volunteers will have to raise at least $25,000 to bring the project to fruition.
The first of several planned fund-raisers will be Feb. 21 -- an art show and auction at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie, which is donating its facilities and services for the event. DeGrange said committee members are already pushing the $5 tickets, which cover snacks, deserts and drinks. Organizers hope the event raises at least $7,000.
Board members recentlysigned a $7,000 contract with Development Facilitators Inc. of Severna Park to develop construction plansfor the project, which they hopeto start next summer.
The group obtained a schematic plan for theproject using the Baltimore-based Neighborhood Design Center, a non-profit organization helping other non-profits in the region with community-based projects. DeGrange and board President Barbara Turner, who is also working on the project, said they found out about the Baltimore group "by a fluke," but working with the group has already savedthem money.
They are planning the renovation project on a tight budget: For $140,000, they intend to replace the windows, roof, flooring, ceiling, and "ancient" furnace and its oil storage tank.
They also plan to reconfigure the interior space to "find" extra room. Although the clinic is cramped, DeGrange said it cannot expand outward or upward because of zoning restrictions. But the center will run moreefficiently and seem more spacious just by improving the floor plan,she said.
About 200 to 300 area residents use the clinic each month, said Maureen O'Brien, a nurse who also manages the center. Most of the clients are young families, part of the "working poor," she said, who lack health insurance benefits through their jobs but do not qualify for Medicaid.
O'Brien said the center is crucial for delivering many health services to this population, since many might not beable to afford the necessary care through private practitioners.
All the programs offered at the center, including the Children's Health and Family Planning clinics, are run by the Anne Arundel County Health Department, which delivers many of its health services through community clinics.
The center offers a Chest Clinic for patients testing positive for tuberculosis and administers flu shots and other immunizations. Nurses also do a lot of outreach work, O'Brien said.
Clients waiting for services at Tuesday's Children's Clinic said thestaff was excellent and the health care provided very good.
The only aspect of the center called into question was its physical appearance.
DeGrange said she hopes the renovation project will reverse years of physical neglect.
"We want it to be a place we're proud if," she said. "We want people to feel good about coming here."