Sister Marianna Koonce isn’t afraid to power a 40-foot mobile medical clinic around the back roads of East Tennessee, but the driving force behind the effort to bring medical care to rural areas in the Diocese of Knoxville might be the 80 volunteers who help her.
On Nov. 7, those volunteers were honored with a special lunch and music at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris.
“People here in East Tennessee are very generous, said Sister Mariana who is a licensed medical doctor and a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan.
“The volunteers heard about the clinic primarily through word of mouth and they wanted to be a part of it. They are extremely generous with their time,” Sister Mariana said.
Roughly 35 volunteers, the St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic board members and staff attended the lunch. Many came from near the areas served— Crab Orchard, Athens and Washburn. Sister Mariana says the clinic, which hit the road in January 2014, will soon begin visits to Decatur in Meigs County.
“When we’re out with the clinic it is usually a full day of work, plus the travel time back and forth. They give all their time freely so we’re just very blessed to have some very generous people who contribute.”
Sister Mariana says the twice-a-month visits to Crab Orchard have kept her volunteers busy.
“In part because we have such a dedicated volunteer pool and they’ve actually done quite a bit of community outreach themselves and then the public health department has been a source of referrals there, so Crab Orchard is probably our most robust site.”
SMLC volunteer Judy Schmidt was named Volunteer of the Year.
“Judy was one of the very first people to jump on board. She has just offered herself generously from the very beginning, even before we received the clinic, even before we started going out, she made herself available to do anything and everything I have asked her to do.
“When I was the only driver and I needed somebody to go with me to empty the sewer tanks she would go with me. She would go with me to fuel it up. She would go with me to go look at supplies or go look at a practice site.
“She’s just been there from the beginning willing to do any job, any task, any activity– she has been there.”
The volunteers honored at the lunch included drivers, office support and medical personnel including nurses and nurse practitioners.