Carolyn Fender and Ann Young of McDowell County are superheroes of the FaithHealthNC Connector program: capable of transporting two patients to two different appointments in a single trip, faster than a speeding SUV in getting a Sunday school class to donate gas cards for volunteers, able to leap into a local hospital and solicit a year’s worth of household product donations. A dynamic partnership between faith communities, health systems and healthcare providers, FaithHealthNC focuses on improving health by getting patients to the right place at the right time, ready to be treated and never alone. Connectors team up volunteers and churches with patients to provide support on the healthcare journey. It’s busy, it’s exhausting, it’s heart-opening…And they love every minute of it.
Fender, who handles record-keeping and reports, and shares transporting patients to the doctor, pharmacy and grocery store with Young, says her work is a calling. “I had the same job for 30 years until I retired. That put food on the table and paid bills. This is different. It’s a passion: It doesn’t matter how you are paid, you know it’s where God wants you to be. You just have to trust God will guide you to the right place at the right time. This is my right place.”
Young was also guided to serve. “I retired and had been praying and asking the Lord what he wanted me to do. Then I picked up a Christian magazine and read about a similar program at a different church.” She couldn’t resist reaching out and soon she and Fender were tag-teaming their program. With a handful of volunteers, they are currently serving 25 patients, primarily with diabetes or heart disease, with 100 trips a month. They are at 200 clients and counting…in just two years. “Sometimes we don’t have the strength,” Young muses. “It’s only through God’s strength can we do this.” Fender agrees. “When a client whispers, ‘I don’t know what I would have done without you,’ that’s what keeps us keeping on. It’s the action of love, not just the saying of love.”