The opening of a new, larger medical center on St. Helena Island will be celebrated Sunday at a ceremony to name the building after one of the area's most influential black leaders.
Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services will transfer the name "Leroy E. Browne Medical Center" from the old clinic on Ball Park Road to the new one, which is less than a mile away at 33 Penn Center Road on the historic Penn Center campus.
The $2.6 million center was paid for with a federal grant and took about a year to build. Its doors will open to patients July 9. The current building will close July 6.
The new center spans 10,551 square feet, almost 2,000 square feet larger than the current building. The extra space allows for seven exam rooms, up from four in the current building. Four rooms for dental care were also built.
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The center will also continue to provide family practice, internal medicine, pediatric and OB/GYN services and will have a pharmacy. It will also provide home health nursing care, dental care, nutrition counseling, radiology services, migrant-worker health services and senior services, according to a news release.
It serves 5,900 St. Helena residents, the release said.
The Sunday ceremony will start at 4 p.m. at the new location. The keynote speaker is John E. Maupin Jr., president of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. A group of about 25 seniors from the area will sing, and attendees can tour the new building. Browne's son, Leroy E. Browne Jr., will speak. The event is free, open to the public and refreshments will be served.
Medical center executive director Roland Gardner said the decision to name the clinic after Leroy E. Browne Sr. was an easy one.
In 1960, Browne became the first black man elected to the Beaufort County Board of Directors, which later became Beaufort County Council. He served for 20 years.
Browne also worked at the Penn Center for 25 years as superintendent of buildings and grounds and helped establish the medical center, which started in Penn Center dorms in the early 1970s and moved to Ball Park Road by 1978, according to Gardner.
Browne died in 2007 at age 91.
Browne's daughter Rosalyn, of St. Helena, said the new location is an even greater recognition of her father's legacy because he was a student at Penn Center as a child.
The Penn School "instilled in him ... a commitment to give back to his community," she said. "He was a man for the people, and he loved St. Helena Island."