New Community Care Clinic executive director ready for duty

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 30, 2012

By Susan Shinn
For the Salisbury Post
here’s something that Krista Woolly wants you to know.
“The Community Care Clinic is the best-kept secret in Rowan County, and it shouldn’t be,” she says.
The clinic provides medical, dental and pharmacy services for underinsured and uninsured adults. Woolly’s No. 1 goal is to build community relationships and partnerships for the clinic. She begins work there today as executive director.
The two other main goals in her 244-Day Plan (April 30-December 31) are to recruit volunteers and research additional funding sources and grants. She may well work her way into a full-time position — something that’s not one of her own personal goals. To begin, however, she’ll work about 25 hours a week at the clinic, located at 315-G Mocksville Ave. She’s a good fit for the job. She started as a nursing major at the University of Tennessee, where she eventually received a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. Although she loved nursing, she decided she didn’t want to be a nurse, but did want to work in the healthcare arena.
“My love is helping people go through any kind of rehab crisis where they have to rebuild their lives,” says Woolly, 47. “I really love helping people adjust to their disabilities.”
In Winchester, Va., where she and her family lived for 13 years, Woolly was director of a large outpatient rehabilitation facility. When the Woollys moved to Salisbury three years ago, her focus was getting her family settled. Woolly’s husband is the Rev. Rhodes Woolly, 46, senior pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church. They have three children, Carter, 16, Matthew, 14 and Anna, 10.
Woolly decided to work from home as a medical coder. But that job wasn’t as fulfilling as others had been.
“I kept thinking that while the job was great, I wasn’t affecting or helping people,” she says.
A Bible verse kept popping into her head, from Luke 10:27: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” She’d enrolled in Mark Ritchie’s LifeKeys class at church, and felt by the end that she was being called to that position.
She’s no stranger to the Community Care Clinic. She’s been a board member for the past two years, after being asked by Brenda Goodman to serve. She also volunteers with her children’s PTAs at three different schools and is a board member of the West Square Neighborhood Association.
Dinner with a new friend
A native of Middletown, Ohio, near Cincinnati, Woolly was doing a rehabilitation internship in Columbia, S.C. She swam a mile three times a week at the pool patients used. She met the lifeguard, Rhodes Woolly, newly back in his native Columbia after graduating from Lenoir-Rhyne College. He was enrolled in graduate school at the University of South Carolina in international studies. A mutual friend invited them out to dinner one night in a large group.
“That night,” Woolly says, “we talked about church. I had been looking for a church.” Rhodes Woolly’s father was pastor at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Columbia. He invited her to church the next day.
“He didn’t think I’d show up,” Woolly says. “I did, but I still sat by myself!” Her new friend was a member of the choir.
“I’ve been sitting by myself ever since,” Woolly quips.
The two planned to marry on May 16, 1992. That February, Rhodes Woolly had come to Columbia for the long President’s Day weekend from his lobbyist job in Washington, DC. His fiancée had already been looking for work there.
“You know what?” he asked her. “I just have to tell you something. I need to make a phone call to seminary.”
“It’s about time,” Woolly said.
“I thought, did I just say that?” she says now. “I sure hadn’t thought it until that moment.”
Four weeks after their marriage, Woolly became a “summer Greek widow” as her husband began studies at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia. They completed a year of internship in Harrisonburg, Va., where their son Carter was born. Eleven days later, they moved back to Columbia for the final year of seminary. Their two younger children were born in Winchester. Several years ago, her husband began talking about the desire for another call.
“I did not want to leave,” Woolly says. “I loved my job and I loved my house. But Rhodes kept saying, ‘I’m called away.’ ”
He had to complete a 28-page document to begin the call process, and Woolly was sure her husband wouldn’t turn in the paperwork. She was wrong.
“Then some guy named Franco called,” she says.
That would be Franco Goodman, who served as the call committee chairman for St. John’s.
Living her faith
Because her husband went to seminary after the two married, Woolly had the opportunity to make the role of pastor’s wife whatever she wanted. Their church in Winchester had only 65 members when they arrived. When she was working full-time, she tried to keep her church life and professional life separate.
“But then the pastor, who was my husband, said, ‘We have to leave here and serve others and live our faith,’ ” Woolly remembers. “It dawned on me that I wasn’t doing that.”
She has been able to practice her faith in the health care setting. “I never tried to push anything on anybody.”
She sees her work as similar to the call to work in a church setting. “It has to be a passion,” she explains.
The clinic treats many patients with high blood pressure and diabetes in its general medical care, as well as specialties, thanks to the help of Dr. Gordon Senter, a retired rheumatologist, and Dr. Ron Smith, a retired nephrologist, who volunteers every week. Woolly and Smith will be joined by fellow St. John’s member Sonny Allen, a former Salisbury mayor, in their visits to members of the medical community to recruit volunteers.
“I just feel I should volunteer. It’s just part of me,” says Smith, who retired four years ago. He has volunteered at medical schools in upstate New York, where he and wife Marilyn lived before moving to Salisbury. “You see the need here.”
“These are the people who fall through the cracks,” Woolly explains of the clinic’s clients. “They may have jobs but no health insurance. The majority used to work until about five years ago.”
If her 244-day plan is successful, Woolly’s hours may well increase, because the clinic would have more volunteers, more money and more programs. “If it happens,” she says, “that means we’ve been successful in building partnerships.” That would no doubt please Brenda Goodman.
“When the position became available, quite a few of us on the board wanted Krista to apply for the job,” she says. “She brings fresh, new ideas, and a wealth of information from her past experience. We do want more visibility in the community. Nobody should be going without food to buy their medicine. The Community Care Clinic was a grand idea 15 years ago. It is an outstanding idea today. People are living more marginally than ever. Krista brings a positive outlook on life and on the community. We couldn’t be happier.”
If you’d like to donate time or money to the Community Care Clinic, call Krista Woolly at 704-636-4523.
Susan Shinn is communications assistant at St John’s Lutheran Church.