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Interview with Elizabeth Grace, May 29, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Elizabeth Grace, May 29, 2008
May 29, 2008
Interview with Elizabeth Grace, committee member of the North Carolina Nurses' Association, District 22 and Vice President of the Board of the Tileston Clinic.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Grace, Elizabeth Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 5/29/2008 Series: SENC Volunteers Length 60 minutes

Jones: Today is Thursday, May the 29th, 2008. I am Carroll Jones with Chris Malpass, for the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Program. And we are in the Helen Hagen Room of Special Collections. This morning we're very pleased to have as our guest Elizabeth Grace, an important committee member of Dosher Memorial Hospital District 22, North Carolina Nurses' Association which recently awarded six outstanding nursing scholarships in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender Counties. Any others?

Grace: No.

Jones: Okay. Well, we'll get to that.

Grace: Okay. But it isn't Dosher. It's the whole region.

Jones: Okay. I'm glad you set that straight.

Grace: Not that Dosher isn't a wonderful hospital, but the District 22 encompasses the several counties, Pender and New Hanover, and Columbus. And so that's what our district does for the Nurses' Day celebration and scholarships. And we give three registered nurses scholarships, or student nurses, and then one of our members gives one in the name of her mother, who was an LPN. So we actually give out four scholarships. And then they have the schools of nursing identify special graduates, their alumni.

Jones: I think perhaps your greatest contribution at this time is your dedication to healing, ongoing healing. It's always healing, and I know that, and serving those with a great need at the Tileston Center, and how it's grown. And finally a dream almost come true, and you're still growing. Betty, thanks for visiting us, and I want you to-- let's go back a bit. Tell us a bit about you and your roots, family, motivations, did you have a mentor in nursing. What brought you from whatever your maiden name was, Betty somebody, rather...

Grace: Talbot [ph?].

Jones: ...Talbot, to take the path you have?

Grace: Okay. I was born in New London, Connecticut, and I'm an only child. My mother was one of 11, so I had a lot of family around.

Jones: Oh, no wonder you were an only child.

Grace: And I did the usual things teenagers do: drive, smoke, have a drink, do everything like that.

Jones: Got it out of your system.

Grace: Absolutely. And had fantastic parents. My mother led me to believe as a woman I could do anything I wanted to do to put my mind at ease, and you know 72 years ago that was not...

Jones: She was ahead of her times.

Grace: She sure was. I could do anything that I wanted to do, and I had a grandmother who taught me all of the old Italian ways.

Jones: Was that their ethnic background?

Grace: Yes. My dad was English, my mother was Italian.

Jones: I was going to say, he must have married an Italian lady.

Grace: Yes, although my mother was blonde hair and blued eyes.

Jones: Well, the northern Italians are.

Grace: Right. And so my grandmother was my path to religion, to our Catholic religion. Taught me many little things that we carried through our life after I was married. Little things that people don't really think about, but it was during the war, World War II. And she would go to church, and when she would see the young servicemen she'd bring them home for Sunday dinner. We always sat-- we always put another place at the table. If there were ten of us we always sat for 11, just in case somebody came to the door, that they would feel that they were welcome and we were ready to enjoy their company. She fed half the neighborhood. And I know my aunt and I, my aunt's only seven-years younger than I am-- older than I am rather, and we used to have to bring all the food to the neighbors. And we kept saying...

Jones: Do what, now?

Grace: We used to bring food to the neighbors. And we had to do that before we served our family, because...

Jones: Now were these people in need, shut-ins?

Grace: Some were, some weren't.

Jones: Or just an economic...

Grace: No, it was just her way of saying thank you for being a neighbor.

Jones: We are family.

Grace: That's it. And they used to be fed first, because she didn't want them to think that she was sending them leftovers. But this was my background. I had...

Jones: What a wonderful background.

Grace: It was always to do for somebody. My dad was like that. He always wanted to be sure that we shared what we had. And grew up always wanting to be a nurse. Never wanted to be anything else.

Jones: Do you have any recollection what started it? Relatives?

Grace: No, I used to read all the Cherry Ames books. And I had a cousin who was a nurse, but she's quite a bit older than I was. But I just always wanted to be a nurse. I have no reason why. My goal was to graduate from high school, go to St. Joseph's College School of Nursing in Hartford, Connecticut and join the Navy.

Jones: Really? A nurse in the Navy.

Grace: Yes, I wanted to be a nurse in the navy.

Jones: And were you?

Grace: No. I worked for the Navy, but I never was a nurse. In my hometown of New London...

Jones: Oh, of course, submarine city.

Grace: Submarine city plus the Coast Guard Academy. And one day a friend of mine brought this young man to my place of business. I worked part-time in an A&P, and wanted to know if I wanted to go out that evening with a couple of other couples, and I said yes. And as of tomorrow that young man and I will be married 50 years.

Jones: Oh, my goodness. Congratulations. Fifty big ones.

Grace: We were blessed. I still wanted to be a nurse. So while he was still at the Academy I went to...

Jones: He was at the Coast Guard Academy.

Grace: Right. So he couldn't be married, and I couldn't be married. So we waited until he graduated and I graduated, and we were married and started 30 years of traveling all over the country.

Jones: Now did he stay in the Coast Guard? He was career.

Grace: Yes, he was. He was career also.

Jones: Well, you're in the right place here, aren't you?

Grace: Absolutely. And the Lord blessed us with four wonderful children, and we have 22 grandchildren, excuse me, 12 grandchildren. Oh, my husband would die with that. We have 12 grandchildren. Our oldest granddaughter is married, so we have them. No great-grandchildren yet, and our life has been ups and downs of a military family. We traveled, I think we transferred about 12 or 13 times. We had our youngest daughter, after she graduated from college, came here to Wilmington, and she was a nurse and she worked at New Hanover. And then met a young man there and they married and went to Virginia. And the Lord called her home seven years ago, and blessed us with the three children that she left us and a fabulous, fabulous husband. So that's, you know, basically what we've done. How did we get to Wilmington? My husband was due for orders from Washington, D.C. He was captain in the Coast Guard. And one night he got a phone call and they wanted to change his orders from Cleveland, Ohio to Wilmington. And when he got off the phone and he told me Wilmington, I said, "Wilmington, Delaware? We don't want to go Wilmington, Delaware." And he said, "No, Wilmington, North Carolina." And I said, "Where is that?"

Jones: Now when was this?

Grace: This was in January, 1980.

Jones: Well, you would have had that attitude then, yes.

Grace: And so his orders finally came through and, what, 28 years ago or whatever it was we came here on our anniversary weekend and absolutely fell in love with the place. I mean we just...

Jones: You got here before I-40 opened...

Grace: Oh, yes.

Jones: ...and the bars downtown.

Grace: It was just the most wonderful place. We found a house, and we moved-- actually moved in in August of 1980. and Ed stayed here until August of 1984, and we were transferred to Long Beach, California.

Jones: How did you like that? A big change.

Grace: A big change, true. But it was close to his family because he's from Southern California. So we decided that that's what were going to do. He thought about getting out of the service, which he could, but the jobs that were offered to him, we'd have to move anyway. So we decided we'd keep our house.

Jones: In California?

Grace: In here, in Wilmington.

Jones: Smart move.

Grace: And we went out to California. We lived two years in Long Beach and Huntington Beach, and then the last two years we lived in government quarters on San Pedro Island.

Jones: Oh, really up there?

Grace: Which was just beautiful, because we had right on the entrance to Los Angeles harbor. And when it came time for us to retire, he had been requested to take a position out there as the safety officer with their underground tunnel that they were making. And I was graduating from University of California at Fullerton with a Bachelor's degree in nursing.

Jones: It took you all that time?

Grace: Yup, because I raised my children and...

Jones: Let me stop you here, Betty. You were in nursing school when you met him?

Grace: No, I was in high school.

Jones: You were in high school when you met, so you entered nursing school after you married.

Grace: No, couldn't. Before I was married. Graduated from high school in 1954. Graduated from St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing in Hartford, Connecticut 1957.

Jones: Is this F-R-A-N-C-I-S or E-S?

Grace: I-S.

Jones: Okay. That Francis. And your nursing was interrupted.

Grace: Yep. Because I had to...

Jones: Because I was going to ask you what did you do about nursing.

Grace: But I worked everywhere...

Jones: This school is located where?

Grace: Hartford. But I worked every place I went. When we first got married our first duty station was Seattle, Washington and I worked in the operating room and recovery room.

Jones: A naval hospital?

Grace: No, just in Seattle. It was Providence Hospital. And then our next duty station was New Orleans, Louisiana, and I worked at Elton [ph?] Ochsner Foundation Hospital. And our next duty station was Virginia, and I worked with the Red Cross there. That was a...

Jones: So you graduated from the University of California.

Grace: In 1988. I went back and got my BSM.

Jones: And that was Fullerton, U State Fullerton. And that was what year?

Grace: 1988.

Jones: My goodness, you were dedicated.

Grace: But I've done a little bit of everything. I've done all kinds of nursing: operating room, delivery room, whatever they needed in the area that I was in. And I taught in some places, school children. I taught the teenagers how to do self-breast exams and things like that. I've always loved my nursing, so I've always tried to do something everywhere we live. And medicine is very different everywhere you go. I mean the basics are the same. But like out in California, they're much more liberal with nurses than they are here.

Jones: I wouldn't doubt it.

Grace: But anyway, when Ed retired, he had this position and he came home from the interview and he looked at me and he said, You know, I can't do this traffic." He said, "I really don't want to stay here." I said, "Don't. We have our house in North Carolina, let's go back." We loved it here. We loved the people the four years we were here, it was just wonderful. We just really, really liked it. Now I didn't work when we were here. What I did was I volunteered with the American Red Cross and I did things with my church.

Jones: When would you say that you're true bent for active volunteerisms took over? Was it Erie, North Carolina? Given the ages of your children I'm sure you had to stay...

Grace: Yeah, because they're a year apart. They're a year apart, and no twins. But yes, I did the volunteer work with my nursing as far as their school, and girl scouts were concerned and that type of thing, and always made sure that I kept up to date. Journals, classes that were offered, and always belonged to the American Nurses' Association. And the state association with whatever state I was in. So we came back to Wilmington and we stayed in a little 24-foot trailer at Fort Fisher until our house had been vacated and redone. And one Sunday, probably the middle of January of 1989 we were reading the paper down there, sitting outside, it was so beautiful. And I saw an ad in the paper that the public health department was looking for an allied health coordinator. So I said to Ed, "You know, I think I'm going to do this. Let me see what happens." So I made an application, and when I went in for the interview I was wonderfully surprised because the supervisor at that time was Karen Hogan [ph?], and her dad, we knew her dad quite well. And one of the other nurses was Joan Wamble [ph?] and her husband was Coast Guard reserve and worked for my husband. So I said...

Jones: There's a big Wamble family here in Wilmington.

Grace: So I said to Karen, "Let me look at what your policies and procedures were, and was your philosophy is, and I'll make a decision." And she said fine. So I did. And I said, "Let's do it this way. Let's work for six months. If I like you, that's great. If you like me, that's great. If you don't either one, that's fine." I stayed with the Home Health Agency for...

Jones: This is with the Home Health Agency?

Grace: Mm-hm, 13 years.

Jones: Would you explain to us, too, as you go along what the Home Health Agency represents?

Grace: The Home Health Agency-- and let me tell you a little bit about this Home Health Agency in particular. It was under the auspices of the New Hanover Public Health Department. And about 1995, I think, I'm not positive of the year, the Health Department gave us-- gave the Home Health Agency to the hospital.

Jones: That's interesting. Okay.

Grace: They gave us to the hospital. There was some reasoning because of the new pay sources with Medicare, et cetera. So we were with the hospital from '95 till about 2000. And the hospital decided that it was best for them to sell us. And they sold us to WellCare, which is a for-profit agency. All the rest, those two other agencies were non-profit. And so that's the timeframe for me. And Home Health is a division of nursing, or medicine that delivers care in the home. And that can be anything from nursing care, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, nurse's aides.

Jones: Now this is different from having a nurses' registry where you call in and need a nurse for a day and night, two days.

Grace: Right. Much different. Home Health Agencies are usually paid for, there's several ways. You can have self-pay, you can call up and ask to have a nurse come to help with medications or whatever. Medicare has certain criteria that you've got to be homebound, which means you can go to get your haircut, to the doctor's appointment or a few things like that, but you can't go grocery shopping and all that type of thing. And then Medicaid is another way. All of it has to be ordered by a physician. And so my position was I was considered the allied health coordinator.

Jones: Allied Health Coordinator?

Grace: Mm-hm. And what I had was, at the beginning I had the physical therapist, the speech therapist, the occupational therapist, and the, let's see what else, I guess that's it, all the therapists. And I also did the education for the certified nursing assistants. And by state law they have to have 12 hours of continuing education a year. So I did that. And then after the hospital, after we were sold and there was some revamping, I became a clinical coordinator for the north end of town, which meant I had the same thing as I had before, except I had nurses and certified nursing assistants. And I loved, loved my job.

Jones: You must have.

Grace: I really did.

Jones: You know what? I just had an opportunity, unfortunately, to be a guest at the hospital for several days. And I know that they've done a complete revamping. But what really gets to me are some really sick people. All of the staff, the nurses and so forth are cheery. They seem to enjoy what they're doing, and their ultimate goal is to keep you happy and make you well. And you don't often see that. Not just nursing, anything. Because nursing can be a depressing job, I think.

Grace: Yes, it can. And I loved my Home Health. And things that I loved about it, number one was I would see someone, I would visit someone at Landfall and then I'd go see the little man under the bridge, or I may go see someone who had no water. I mean it was unbelievable. And I learned an awful lot about Wilmington, because a lot of our clients were natives, especially the older African American ladies. They had been here for a long time and had a lot to tell me about the history. It was just wonderful. I absolutely adored it. And so that was my entrance into volunteer work in Wilmington when we came back in 1989.

Jones: I can think of nobody that would be more fit for it.

Grace: And it started off with Tileston Clinic, Tileston Health Clinic in 1991.

Jones: So you go back to just about the beginning when it was one afternoon a week, Wednesday afternoon. This was 1991.

Grace: Ninety-one, and Jeannie Bell [ph?] was the director. And yes, thanks to...

Jones: But this was all volunteerism.

Grace: Oh, yes. There was no one who was paid. In fact it stayed that way until about four years ago when we began to really grow and someone needed to give full-time to.

Jones: And that was Trish?

Grace: That Trish Doyle, who has done an absolutely phenomenal job.

Jones: I'd go to the ends of the world for her.

Grace: There's no way I can express what she has done. So in 1991 Sister Isaac and Monsignor Haddon [ph?], he was Father Haddon at that time, and several physicians from this area went to Father Haddon and said, "We've got to do something about the health care for the poor." And they got together and that...

Jones: Now at that time, Betty, St. Mary's parish owned Tileston's building.

Grace: Yes, they had just purchased it.

Jones: That's what I thought, because it took a while for that to happen.

Grace: Yes, they had just purchased it. And I'm not sure of the timeframe of when they did, but Father Haddon said that we could have that lower portion. And I tell you, I wish you could have seen that place. It was a mess. And we got in there and cleaned, and people made curtains and got it going. And so we had one night a week on a Wednesday night.

Jones: Wednesday night?

Grace: Yeah. And it was walk-ins. Anybody who needed it. And then about five years after that Sister-- I can't-- Sister Rosemary was here. And she and Joanne Griffin [ph?] and a couple of dentists got together and started the dental clinic. And that started as one night a month on a Wednesday night. Went to every other Wednesday.

Jones: And when did that start?

Grace: About 1995 I think, somewhere around in there. Because remember, I was only coming to the clinic about once a month because I was working full-time. And then it started every Wednesday night. And then they started, and I'm not sure of the year, a diabetic clinic.

Jones: I remember that very clearly, because while doing Eucharist Ministry at the hospital, which I did every Friday, I was told to go visit a young woman who unfortunately had just had a leg amputated. And I asked her if she wanted communion, and she said, "I don't take it." I kind of looked at her, she said, Tileston did this for me because of my diabetes. They're saving my life." And I was overcome. I thought that poor little Tileston is now paying for, with the help of doctors, big surgeries like that. And this woman said, "They've saved my life. Take my leg, save my life."

Grace: And so that started, and again I don't have the year.

Jones: That's all right.

Grace: But we do that and still do that every, the second Tuesday of every month. And that is a wonderful clinic because they have a podiatrist, a endocrinologist, a nurse educator, they have the eye doctor for retinopathy, and they also have a nutritionist. And so they go through the whole system, which is really great. That's run by a really very sweet woman who-- Jean Cradle [ph?], she does that and she does a beautiful job. And then about four years ago things really started. The need was-- just got to be so big.

Jones: Big it and they will come.

Grace: Exactly. And...

Jones: How did the word of mouth get out? Just by people?

Grace: Just that way, yes. In '91 that's how it got out. Some of the doctors would know about it and send people to us. The sad thing about that is, we didn't have an awful lot of Hispanic...

Jones: Hispanic people to understand.

Grace: Well, we had some, but not a lot. But we didn't have any interpreters. Very few interpreters. So sometime we were limited there. But we saw everybody we could on that night. Sometimes we'd be there till 10, 11 o'clock at night seeing everybody who showed up.

Jones: Did you have any parameters at all about seeing people or not seeing people, or sending them elsewhere?

Grace: The parameters were that in the beginning that they just didn't have any insurance. No insurance.

Jones: And that still remains. But because of the wonderful help of the pharmaceuticals, we have to have a limit on income. And it's 150 percent of the poverty level. And since I have to be perfectly honest with you, I do not deal with that. I have the intake people do that so the nurses, with rare exception, the only thing we have to focus on is the medical history and things like that. And when we started getting some grants we were losing out on grants because many people, many of the big grant people, thought that we were attached to the church and that the money would be intermingled with the church funds.

Jones: I can understand that.

Grace: And we could, too. So that's when we got our own 501-3. And so with that and the beginning of new gifts and extra volunteers, Trish Doyle was hired. And...

Jones: Now she was the one and only paid person there for a while, was she not?

Grace: Yes, at that time.

Jones: Probably a pittance.

Grace: Oh, I'm sure. Because she's such an intelligent young woman that there is-- I'm sure she could hold a position that would be...

Jones: Well, she had held some, but she told me that this was just needed, and she needed it.

Grace: But she has such a wonderful vision. You know, you need to have somebody at the helm that has a vision and where you're going and what you're going to do. So we just started adding. We added a pap smear clinic on a one day...

Jones: Now how did you do this? It wasn't just all on grants. Did you appeal to the medical community, the doctors and so forth, for volunteers?

Grace: Yes, we did. And she does a terrific job. She talks to them. and the doctors themselves will. And just after we hired Trish we got a grant to hire a family nurse practitioner. So that was a wonderful help because then we could do our own pap smears and do some women's health. And it just started to grow. And then we started adding Dr. Tamasia [ph?] who comes, is a wonderful cardiologist. He was able to get us funding and gifts. We have a treadmill, he can do stress tests. He can do EKGs. He sees our cardiac patients there. We have...

Jones: This is all in the new facility.

Grace: We saw some of it in the old facility. But it's just grown. And because we have grown with that, and other doctors volunteer, orthopedic physicians, we have psychologists, we have an ophthalmologist that sees at this point in time diabetic retinopathy, but he will see other things. And, I mean, we just see a myriad.

Jones: Let's get back to the original Tileston building where you were probably just spilling out the doors. What kind of traffic control, damage control? You're only open so many hours a week.

Grace: Right, at that point.

Jones: And you have someone who comes to you, or were they sent to you sometimes?

Grace: Some people were. Some people heard through someone else that they were able to be helped there. And up until about a year-and-a-half, two years ago it was all walk-in.

Jones: In other words, for example none of the family services would refer people to you, or domestic violence, or any of the free school's after school programs, neighborhood family thing?

Grace: Sometimes they would. And sometimes, as I said, the people would be interacting with each other and find out about the clinic. How the traffic control worked was absolutely phenomenal.

Jones: You must have had like a triage.

Grace: Yeah, we did. We have a gentleman who spoke Spanish as well as English and was able to triage the patients. We had two fellows who were very instrumental in kind of keeping the peace, you know, you go here, you go there. And I think in the years that I had been there there's only been twice that I can remember that we had unruly people. Other than that they have...

Jones: You mean coming in?

Grace: Coming in.

Jones: Not working there.

Grace: Coming in to be seen. And Don Thompson [ph?] and Dick Twist [ph?] take care of that very nicely.

Jones: I can just see that.

Grace: Yeah. An then the nurses would take the patient and we would do the vital signs, We would ask them why they were there, how could we help them. And if we did not have the service that was needed, we would let them see the doctor and then he would make the decision at that point in time where they'd go. And until we had all of these services, we used to send them to different physicians.

Jones: Okay, that's what I was going to ask.

Grace: Yeah. some may not volunteer at the clinic, but they would see their-- our patients in their office free of charge.

Jones: So you accumulated a list of participating physicians then, and this was because they either called and volunteered or you would call and ask them. And they just stayed on this list. So approximately how many physicians do you have on your list now?

Grace: I think Trish says...

Jones: I heard a huge number.

Grace: I'm not sure. I'm going to say probably 50, if not more. And I'm not sure if that includes the doctors who will see our patients in their office. I have quite a few nurses, interpreters, intake people and that type of thing. Well, as we began to grow, and as you said were popping at the seams, it was very chaotic as far as the nights when we were open because you would have to shift people from here to there and that type of thing. And out of God's graces came a wonderful mentor who bought three buildings and rents them back to us for $1 a year.

Jones: Is this a doctor?

Grace: I'm not sure. I don't know. He's anonymous.

Jones: So he's a true giver.

Grace: He's a true giver.

Jones: Now for our audience here, I know because I've been there. But these are new buildings in the medical area, near the hospital and everything you need for emergency. And they are on like a little campus.

Grace: They are. We have three buildings. They're in the split between Doctor's Circle and Cyprus Grove. We have one large building on Cyprus Grove that the doctors and the nurses are. And then we have two buildings on Doctor's Circle. One houses the administration of offices and the pharmacy, and the other two are occupied, one by a neurologist and the other one by a dentist.

Jones: So you grew from 1991 with half a space that was not even clean and moved over there in 2007.

Grace: Yes. We've been there just about a year.

Jones: So in 16 years you have become a true entity. I mean, not that it wasn't before, but to serve.

Grace: Unbelievable. It's...

Jones: And this was from blood, sweat, tears and grit.

Grace: Yeah. And lot of...

Jones: And love.

Grace: Yes, an a lot of volunteers. As Trish had this vision, she was able to get volunteers as well as funded, (coughs) excuse me. So we have a clinic every day of the week now.

Jones: Seven days a week?

Grace: No, five. Five days a week. And it's great. Now I work every Wednesday night and I am on the board of...

Jones: You're on the board.

Grace: Right, I'm vice president of the board.

Jones: Is this a new board?

Grace: The board's been since we got our own 5013, so I'd say about four, five years. Because before it was run by the Friends of Tileston and that type of thing, which was truly not appropriate, because they're more for taking care of the building. And if they need extra help, if I'm available I'll go in and help. But it's wonderful. Ever since I started I used to tell my supervisor when my nights came, that what I'll do is that that was my fun time, and I loved it. The people are wonderful.

Jones: How many volunteers do you have now? Lots?

Grace: Oh, yes.

Jones: You're stumbling over them?

Grace: Well, no, not stumbling.

Jones: We don't want to say that.

Grace: No, we're not stumbling. But the majority of the volunteers are still working. There aren't that many volunteer retired nurses who are volunteering. And there's a couple of reasons for that. the influx of people who have come from different areas, they have decided not to get North Carolina licenses. So in order to work in the free clinic to represent yourself as a registered nurse, you have to have a license. And those that do have licenses in North Carolina, North Carolina has started a couple of years ago where you have to have continuing education credits to keep your license up, and they don't want to do that. Because, quite frankly, they're expensive. So that is one of the reasons why they don't. so a lot of our volunteer nurses are still working. So they have to come in the evening. And some of them come during the day when they work 12-hour shift. But it is truly one of my loves. I really and truly do love it.

Jones: Obviously. How much time do you spend over there, Betty?

Grace: Probably around ten hours a week. It depends on what is needed and how it's needed that I can help. But it's wonderful. And I have to say, and Trish Doyle will tell you it's because of all the help, but you do need a leader, and she had been fantastic. There's just no way...

Jones: She is a driving force.

Grace: But you know what? I think one of the reasons that she is able to what she is able to do is because she truly believes in it. It's not being a job for her. What it is, is it's a labor of love and she just happens to get paid for it. Not very much, but she does get paid for it. But she's fantastic. She's all over. She'll talk to anybody who'd like to hear about the clinic. We had this past year, 2007 I think there was over $1 million at drugs, prescriptions on the open market that we distributed. We get help from the pharmaceutical company.

Jones: When you said distributed to patients this is legal distribution.

Grace: Oh, yes.

Jones: Particularly with drugs, of medication of any kind because it could interact and make you go screwball, that must be kind of a burden, I've seen you're set up, to keep it in a safe place, number one. Because I know you must have times when you've people in there who are a little drifty.

Grace: Well, the thing that it is, is that we have a licensed pharmacy, because all of our pharmacists are licensed and they're all volunteer. We have no paid pharmacists at all. And we help them. But we do have a young lady who will fill out applications for the drug companies for them, for us. They help us on their indigent drug program. And the hospital helps us. We're able to buy some medications at cost from them. And there are some medications that we just don't supply. We don't have any narcotics, and we don't have any oral contraceptives. We don't have anything like Viagra, anything like that. We have antibiotics, we have diabetic medication, hypertension medication and things like that.

Jones: What is the most common need when someone comes to the clinic? Do they come as families? Do they come as individuals? I know they come as all, but a more typical scenario.

Grace: A scenario would probably be, I'll take an African American male, probably 35-years old, a little bit overweight. He's coming in because he just doesn't feel well. He has headaches, he gets dizzy. And he just doesn't feel good. And so what we look for is hypertension and diabetes. Those are...

Jones: Do you ever do drug testing?

Grace: At the request of some of the psychiatrists-- psychologists, yes, we do.

Jones: I would think you'd have to.

Grace: But it's rare, it's really rare, and we can spot those people right off the bat.

Jones: Can you really?

Grace: Yeah, you really can when you come in. You know, "I've got a lot of pain, it hurts," this. And we normally say, "Well, we'll be happy to have doctor see you. I just want to let you know that we do not have any narcotics of any kind." "Nothing but Ibuprofen?" I said, "Yes, that's just about it." And they'll say, "Well, it doesn't help," and they'll walk out. But rarely, rarely do we have that. And very rarely do we have anybody who wants to take advantage of the situation.

Jones: Who do you turn away?

Grace: People who have too much money. That's the biggest thing.

Jones: Will they admit it up front? Tell me what too much money is.

Grace: I don't know the exact amount, but 150 percent of the poverty level, and then it goes from one person to two persons to three persons in the family.

Jones: How about children?

Grace: That counts. You know, if you have husband and wife and four children, that means you have six members of your family, so then it goes accordingly. And we ask them to bring proof of income such an income tax return...

Jones: A pay slip?

Grace: Couple of pay slips. And several of our Hispanic population send money home. So what do is they're asked to bring the receipts from the mail that they sent home. Like I say, there's very few people who really try to bilt the system. There aren't that many. And they're so grateful for the services that it works out pretty good. But that's not where I spend all my time. I love that place, but I don't spend all my time there. I've helped Sister Isaac a bit on the outreach. Don't do that as much anymore because...

Jones: Tell us about outreach as well, because I know you and I think Jean Bua [ph?] are involved very heavily in that. That's quite a program.

Grace: Yeah, that is. And Sister Isaac does a wonderful job. She has...

Jones: She was honored here recently.

Grace: Yes, with the Switzer Award I think it is here. She has an area on the other side of Tileston, and she has clothing, food, she got a grant and she got special-- a grant for diabetic food. She gets a little bit of money to help with rent, and electricity and things like that. And all of her people are volunteer. To my knowledge there's no one there that's paid.

Jones: How do they get these people? Are they walk-ins, call-ins, referrals?

Grace: Everything.

Jones: Does she go out, or does somebody go out into the living accommodations to verify? I notice often I see requests for more than food or clothing.

Grace: Yes. She'll ask for-- she puts a notice in our bulletin, but she is so connected with this community, all faiths.

Jones: That's the only way it can work.

Grace: Yeah. And they help each other out. And she was great. A friend of mine works for the public health department and she had a patient who had lost his job, and he was a diabetic and had no insurance and no income. A family friend was letting him stay with them. So I took him down to Sister Isaac and she was able to get him his medication right away, and she was able to give him some clothes and things like that till he could get back on his feet. And a lot of the people who get back on their feet will come back and give things to Sister, too.

Jones: So it's a payback, as best they can.

Grace: Yes, it is. Everybody appreciates. You know, the vast majority of people really do.

Jones: Betty, tell me this. I have seen in the last several years, I guess my eyes have been more open to it. There are a number of non-profits in this town and there seem to be more and more growing. Although it's some new name, many of them are doing pretty much the same thing. Not always, but pretty much the same thing. And I know that you spoke of interdenominational help. I know that a number of the churches are working together, Good Shepherd, for example, or food kitchens, and go on from there. And I've begun to wonder, what is it that this town, this county now is about 200,000. We're supposed to be a very fluent county, the second in the state for economic security, education, et cetera. Where is all this poverty and these needs coming from?

Grace: Well, I can tell you...

Jones: Are they moving here?

Grace: Yes.

Jones: Is it all from, I hate to use the term illegals, but many of them are.

Grace: That's some, but I have to tell you that in my other volunteer positions that I do I see where-- I do know for a fact that we have patients at the clinic that have been given bus tickets from South Carolina, Myrtle Beach, Charleston.

Jones: I've heard that story. I've heard that there's a bus that brings people from Brunswick County over to the downtown library on Sundays, dumps them and they sleep out there. Now these are fables, I'm sure.

Grace: Well, I don't but I do know I have seen the people who have gotten the bus tickets. They come from Jacksonville. They come from Fayetteville.

Jones: Why do you suppose here?

Grace: Well, because we have so much here. And there are two absolutely free clinics in this area. One is Tileston, here in New Hanover County. The other one is Good Hope in Brunswick County. The rest of them have a sliding scale, or they charge money. Fourth Street Clinic has a sliding scale. And it depends upon what your choice is. Some of these people have a choice between medicine and food, or rent and nothing else. So that's why we have, as a board, decided that as long as God is good to us and gives us the wherewithal to stay the way we are, we will continue to be a totally free clinic.

Jones: But you do work occasionally with some of the others.

Grace: Oh, yes., absolutely. There's no question about that. You have to. There's no way that everybody can function as an island. They just can't. And I send a lot of people to Tileston Clinic through some of my other activities.

Jones: Tell me about them.

Grace: Well, there's a whole bunch (laughs).

Jones: Go ahead. That's why you're here. You're unusual, you know that.

Grace: Well, I love Wilmington. I really do. They absolutely embraced my husband and I the first time we were here.

Jones: So you're giving back.

Grace: And we have good health. Fortunately we have the financial wherewithal to do what we do, what little we do. But I met a gal here by the name of Jane Jones. I don't know if you know Jane Jones or not, but she is the director of the area on aging. And we've kind of become good friends. And she has put me into everything that can possibly be put in here.

Jones: So you work with that, too.

Grace: Yes. I'm what they call the senior tar heel legislator. I'm a delegate from New Hanover County.

Jones: Senior tar heel legislator?

Grace: Mm-hm. That was put into effect by our state legislature in 1993. We are not a lobbying group. What we are is we are to get information to the public to inform them about things that are going on with the elderly in this legislature-- legislation, rather. We are to bring information to the legislatures on things that important to the elderly in our county. There are 100 counties. They have 100 delegates and 100 alternates. We meet three times a year and we have been extremely successful in getting a lot of things passed. We also want to make sure that we have citizen involvement. We want to be able to let people know that they have a voice, a very important voice. And we have been able to get through the legislature a mandated check-- background check on workers in nursing homes and things like that. And I really like that. That's been a really great informational thing for me.

Jones: We've all read about some of the horror stories, preying on these poor people.

Grace: And this is Region O that we're in, and that encompasses Brunswick, Pender, New Hanover and Columbus Counties. That's what our area is. And so I really, really like it. And it's nice for me because I'm not a native North Carolinian, so I find out about different areas of this wonderful state, so I...

Jones: But you've done more than many natives have.

Grace: Well, you know, it's the old adage, you live in New York and you never go to see the Statue of Liberty. So that's it. The other thing that I am pretty involved with and that I really like that, in February of 1997 my supervisor at that time, Pat Preston [ph?], asked-- Prescott, rather, asked me to join a committee to help with the hurricane system that we have for people in need. So the Individual Care Coordination Center, we call it the IC-3, started. And we had people from all walks of life, from the...

Jones: Now this is after the hurricane is over.

Grace: After the hurricane was over. And I think that was, I'm trying to think what hurricane there was in '96.

Jones: Well, there was Bertha, and there was Fran.

Grace: I think it was Fran.

Jones: The bad one.

Grace: Yeah. And so we all got together, nursing homes, skilled facilities, non-skilled facilities, adult day care, oxygen companies, everybody got together. And we formed this IC-3, which still goes on today. And what it does is, it's just a coordination center. New Hanover County has won prizes for that because it was the only one in the state. And they were also given a national award in Washington, D.C. Ben Brow [ph?] and I can't think of what-- forgot the name of the emergency fellow, was at that time. We could find out. But anyway, it was great, (coughs) excuse me. We've done some great things. They had a law passed in less than six months that if we need to evacuate somebody we could put them in a nursing home. They didn't have to go through all the rigmarole of being admitted to a nursing home. They'd bring their own caregiver and their supplies and the nursing home would feed them and give them a place free of charge. So that worked out really good. And that has been wonderful. Two years ago New Hanover County got a grant, or I should say Region O got a grant for elder abuse.

Jones: We've got four minutes.

Grace: Okay, I'm sorry.

Jones: I don't want to cut you short.

Grace: Elder abuse. And that has been the biggest eye-opener I have ever seen. It's just unbelievable. And we formed a little group in there that go around, and we do skits to show them what elder abuse is, what kind. You know, is it sexual abuse, is it financial abuse. And we have a lot of financial abuse in this community. So there's just a whole bunch. Very active in the church, as you know. I'm a Eucharistic minister, a member of the Nursing Honor Society here at the university.

Jones: You are? I've got to put that in. You know, why are you here.

Grace: At Sigma Theta Tau, and this is the new Omega Chapter here at UNCW. And I do the Nurses' Day celebration. I've been their treasure for what, ten years.

Jones: Well you keep busy. You keep off the streets.

Grace: Yes, I do, and keep out of the shopping, as my husband says.

Jones: As one of my relative says, "Keep busy so you keep out of bars and off the streets."

Grace: That's it. There's a new agency that has-- two new agencies that have started the inter-agency committee of Pender County, they've asked me to be on and-- to give them some ideas of what's happening here. And then we've got a new committee that I'm working with, which is the Coalition of Healthy Aging, and that is working with the aging, but who are-- we want them to be well so we have a lot of...

Jones: I'm going to end this by asking you a question. Is there anything that you want to do in this field that you haven't done? Anything that's possible. Or do you feel, within yourself, that you have accomplished something and are pretty much happy with the direction you've taken?

Grace: So far, yes I have. I haven't come across anything new yet. But, you know, if it popped up it might be...

Jones: There you are. There's Betty.

Grace: That's it. I enjoy the people that I work with, that I interact with. They're all very caring and giving people, and they make me feel at home. And I get much, much more out of what I give. I mean...

Jones: You're a special person.

Grace: I receive so much more. It's just a great time.

Jones: Thank you for everything you've done and continue to do.

Grace: Well, thank you. I appreciate this very nice honor.

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