In the summer of 2013, health care in rural Greene County, Georgia took an unprecedented turn for the better with the opening of the $48 million, critical-access St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital. And it didn’t take long for the new facility to attract the attention of the medical world when it was awarded Georgia Small Hospital of the Year and one of the Top 20 Critical-Access Hospitals in the U.S.
Many Reynolds residents threw their support—physical and financial—behind the creation of the hospital. One of the most exuberant was Riezl Baker, who moved to the Lake Oconee area 20 years ago from Atlanta where she worked with Hyatt Corporation.
“I have been a realtor at Reynolds for 17 years,” says Baker, “and I’ve had the perfect vantage point to watch this community evolve, including a major milestone: the opening of The Ritz-Carlton hotel.
It has been very exciting. The one critical piece we were missing was a new hospital, and that became a reality in 2013.”
Baker and fellow St. Mary’s Foundation members played a big part in shaping the new hospital. “In 2013, the Foundation was tasked with raising $8 million in additional capital to furnish equipment for the operating rooms, including the medical specialty of nuclear medicine. In three years we reached our $8 million goal— well ahead of projection,” she proudly proclaims.
Baker comes by her philanthropic priorities naturally. “My grandfather was the longest serving Mayor of Manila in the Philippines. During his tenure, he and our family contributed financially and through land holdings to the improvement of educational opportunities for the people. As a family, we believed you should share your talents and use them to enrich the quality of life of others where you live and work. I still firmly believe that,” she says.