First-of-its-kind Collaborative Health Fair set for Putnam County

exterior of Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center building
Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center. Mercer University photo

PUTNAM COUNTY — Mercer University’s School of Medicine, McAfee School of Theology and the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center (GRHIC) have joined forces with community leaders of Putnam County for the first-of-its-kind Putnam County Collaborative Health Fair on Saturday, Oct. 28, in downtown Eatonton.

The event will be a cornerstone initiative of the Faith in Rural Health Program (FIRH) designed to address the health needs of rural counties by fostering collaboration between faith leaders, health care providers and community members.

“We are physical, mental and spiritual beings,” said Simone Jones, pastor of Texas African Methodist Episcopal Church in Eatonton. “If you don’t deal with all of life, you are not going to get all that life has to offer.”

Paul Byrd, Faith in Rural Health program director, said the idea for this health fair came from a dinner meeting between a mix of Putnam County’s faith leaders and health care providers who were dreaming of ways they could work together to address health care needs in the county.

“Their shared vision of working together is inspiring. There is a contagious energy in these community leaders to work hard together to improve the lives of everyone living in Putnam County,” Byrd said. “They are an inspiring image of community and collaboration.”

With the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life throughout Putnam County, the free, community-wide, all-day family health fair brings together more than 30 vendors and will feature health education and resources for the whole family, including:

  • Blood donation
  • Flu and COVID-19 vaccines
  • Bike safety
  • Car seat checks
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes           
  • Vision and hearing
  • HIV
  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Medication interactions
  • Mental health

Dr. Craig Williamson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Eatonton, says the goal of the event is to involve all the churches, health providers and community organizations that share a passion for the county and its people.

“People might say we can’t do it, but I trust we find ways with this health fair to literally and metaphorically ‘heal the sick, cure the leper, and even raise the dead.’ It is amazing what a little tender care does for people,” he said.

A full day of events is planned in downtown Eatonton before and after the health fair, including a Fun Run and 5K, Fall Festival and Gospel Sing.

Saturday, Oct. 28 Schedule
Steeple Chase 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run
7:30-11 a.m.
Starts at Eatonton First United Methodist Church
103 Magnolia St. Eatonton
Visit here, for more information or to register.

Collaborative Health Fair
Saturday, Oct. 28
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Downtown Eatonton’s Main Street Stage
Visit here, to sign up for blood donation, screenings and vaccines.

Gospel Sing and Fall Festival
2-6 p.m.
Downtown Eatonton’s Main Street Stage

Participants in the Health Fair include:

  • American Red Cross
  • Department of Public Health
  • Family Connections
  • First Baptist Church Eatonton
  • First United Methodist Church Eatonton
  • Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center
  • Mercer Medicine
  • Morehouse School of Medicine
  • Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church
  • New Life Outreach Christian Center
  • Putnam General Hospital
  • Putnam County 4-H
  • Texas African Methodist Episcopal

If you, your church or your medical practice are interested in participating in future events, please contact Cecil Kilgore:, Craig Williamson: or Paul Byrd:

About Faith in Rural Health Started in March 2022, the Faith in Rural Health program aims to support the physical, mental and spiritual health of people in rural Georgia counties by coordinating the efforts of clergy, physicians and health care professionals. The purpose of the three-year project is threefold: to assess areas of need and opportunities for collaboration, to collaborate with existing sites for holistic care modeling and student training, and to create relationships between medical professionals and local clergy for synergetic work. The initiative is currently underway in Berrien, Putnam, Toombs and Montgomery counties.