Beulah Care Lights The Way

Published 4:48 pm Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NEW CANTON – On Saturday, November 17, the determination and commitment of one woman, Beulah Marshall Munford Wiley, to bring a health care facility to this rural community was commemorated during the Renovation Celebration of the Central Virginia Community Health Center.

Although the event marked the completion of an extensive renovation and expansion of the 1970's era building, it was also a time to honor Wiley, a life-long resident of Cumberland County who is credited as the founder of CVCHC.

The celebration included the unveiling of a ceramic sculpture of Wiley created by Ed Miller, a UVA sculptor.

Email newsletter signup

Rod Manifold, Executive Director of Central Virginia Health Services, the non-profit organization that encompasses CVCHC and 13 other health centers, opened the program.

“I'd like to welcome all of you to Central Virginia Community Health Center, 42 years young, the original health center in Virginia-the very first health center in this Commonwealth of Virginia,” he shared.

Offering the invocation, the Reverend Robert Jones, describing the day as an historic event, thanked the Lord for the wonderful community resource the health center provides.

He asked that those present would sense anew Wiley's wisdom, vision, and courage.

“Help us to remember with thanksgiving her significant role in the provision of health and wellness to the region,” prayed Jones.

The Past

In his welcome, Manifold explained that the speakers would focus on the CVCHC's past, present, and future.

Dr. Fred Munford, Wiley's son, introduced the first presenter, his uncle, Harry Marshall, who is Wiley's surviving brother.

Marshall shared that it was a great honor for the family to see Beulah recognized as the founder of the health center.

He told the audience, “If my sister was alive and doing this today, it would be called Beulah Care.”

Rather than use his allotted time to speak, Marshall handed the microphone to Charles White, historian, author, newspaper publisher, and community advocate.

White shared his memories of Wiley working with CPAC, a community action agency. He talked about how she was constantly driving people to and from doctors and hospitals.

Describing a woman truly concerned about the need for accessible medical care for people, especially the poor, White said Wiley, in her proactive manner, began contacting educators and religious leaders about a health center for the region.

White said as the idea progressed, the Buckingham County School Board appointed him to represent the school system on the board of directors for the proposed health center. “When I got to Fluvanna one night I found out I was the president,” he shared, adding that he served in that position for seven years.

“And that is seven years that I will never forget,” stated White. Referencing the struggles and obstacles that had to be overcome in this rural community, he offered, “It was a very frustrating time, certainly for me.”

He shared, “Beulah, on one occasion when we were on our way somewhere, told me, 'Mr. White lengthen your fuse.' Basically she was telling me I get a little too hot-headed at times so just cool it a little bit.”

White added, “Of course I followed that because I was thinking of the greater cause.” He talked about overcoming problems with the three governing boards in Buckingham, Fluvanna, and Cumberland; and, the numerous challenges the organizers faced.

“I asked Mrs. Wiley one day, 'Do you think this thing is ever going to happen?'” he shared. “She said, 'Mr. White, we've got to keep on.' And, we did and finally one day it happened.”

White offered, “I would say it was one of the great things of my life to work with it and see this thing come to fruition. Directing attention to the veiled statue of Wiley, he stated, “So you can imagine what it means to me to see this.”

Introducing his aunt, Dr. Helen Caldwell, Munford shared that she graduated from high school in Cumberland County at the age of 15 and went on to earn her Ph.D. in speech pathology.

Expressing the family's gratitude for the tribute to Wiley, Caldwell offered, “I, too, celebrate my sister-a talented, motivated, inspirational, persevering visionary…the founder of this institution.”

Continuing, she stated, “I thank you for honoring her memory in such a dynamic way and with such a dynamic presentation because it will be forever in the annals of the Central Virginia Health Services Institute and in the archives of the State of Virginia.”

Offering what she described as a rhetorical question about CVHS, Caldwell asked if the state had any other comparable institution founded by a black woman in the time that Wiley founded it.

“Just as the Moton students were finally honored in front of the Governor's Mansion of Virginia, one day Central Virginia Health Services, I believe, will receive its due recognition for what you do here,” shared Caldwell.

Using the poem, House by the Side of the Road by Sam Walter Foss to describe her sister's way of living and her motivation to found such an institution, Caldwell recited, “Then why should I sit in the scorner's seat, or hurl the cynic's ban? Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”

Dr. Munford shared that during this significant time for he and his family, he felt they were “standing today on the shoulders of what my mother did and what others did.”

Drawing on the words shared by his aunt, Munford stated, “My mother's life exhibited her love for her family and this love extended to everyone she touched.”

Reading from an article in The Farmville Herald written many years ago about his mother, Munford shared, “No task was too great, no problem too perplexing, no night or day too long for her caring support, her encouragement, and her loving smile.”

The Present

Paula Tomko, chief operations officer for CVHS, addressing Wiley's family and friends, offered, “We do bring her into the present.”

Explaining that one of her many hats is coordinating new hire orientation, Tomko shared, “One of the things we talk about when we come to orientation is why we are here.” She offered, “We are here because of Mrs. Beulah Wiley. And, we talk about her story and we share that so she is a part of everyone who comes to work for this organization that serves all the counties and cities.”

Continuing, the chief operations officer told the family, “I want you to know that she is not just a name on the building or a bust in the office-she is part of our living, breathing mission. And, we remember her all the time.”

Tomko added, “I hope that she looks down fondly and proudly on us and what we have done to make this organization, I'm sure, more than she ever imagined it was going to be and who it was going to help.”

According to Tomko, the Central Virginia Health Services includes 400 employees, who she described as people who really care about the almost 50,000 patients they serve across the state.

Explaining that she also oversees the facilities' staff, Tomko said that staff has been very much a part of the renovation process at CVCHC. She credited Andy Nazar, facilities manager, along with David Clark and Adam Wood for their instrumental role in working with the subcontractors.

“They did a lot of the work themselves, worked a lot of weekends, a lot of nights and early mornings to make sure that we could continue to operate and see patients while we did this,” shared Tomko. She also thanked the CVCHC staff for their patience during the renovation.

CVHS Clinical Director Randall Bashore, who came to CVCHS in 1985, a time when the other clinics were beginning to open, shared, “It has changed a lot and has grown dramatically.”

He explained that CVHS includes 14 different practice sites covering 15 counties and three cities.

According to Bashore, CVHS includes four pediatricians, 27 other physicians that are internal medicine or family practice, 14 nurse practitioners, one physician's assistant, ten dentists, and six behavioral health specialists.

He added that the staff at CVCHC consists of a pediatrician, four internists, two nurse practitioners, two dentists, and two clinical psychologists.

Services provided at CVCHC include pharmacy, dental, medical, pediatric, women's health, behavior health, x-ray, digital mammography, lab, and the new Beulah Wiley Wellness and Fitness Center, said the clinical director.

“We try to be very patient-centered in everything that we do,” explained Bashore. Describing a team approach to caring for its patients, he said CVCHC strives to overcome every barrier to care.

As an example, Bashore shared that digital x-ray offers almost instantaneous results back from UVA. He added, “We have the helipad so if we need to get someone to UVA quickly it's eight minutes by air.”

Bashore talked about the center's chronic disease management system for patients with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and peripheral vascular disease. “And, we also try to practice evidence-based medicine,” he added.

“The reason for having all of the renovation here is so that we can be much more patient-centered and improve the quality of life for all of our patients,” he concluded.

The Future

Addressing the future, Manifold began by sharing an advertisement he received for an upcoming conference, which included the subtitle Unleashing New Opportunities in Health Care.

“Beulah Wiley did that 45 years ago; and, 42 years ago when we opened,” said Manifold. “Those were the new opportunities for this community and now, as we all know, way beyond this community for our 14 sites and the many, many other health centers in Virginia-118 sites that have spun-off from this site right here.”

Noting all the changes going on in health care, Manifold said right now there are only clues as to what the future holds.

“But I am going to suggest a few things,” he told the crowd. “First, more people will be served in our health centers. There is no question about that.”

He said there would be more preventive health care; and, hopefully, more people will be able to pay for their health care.

Offering that more people will be supporting those who can't pay, Manifold shared that CVHS is starting its own foundation, the Five Rivers Health Care Foundation, to help raise money for all of its sites.

“We are going to use that venue to try to raise money for the overall organization-not just from the government, not just from big grantees, but from people who believe as individuals that the future of this place is important enough to give their wealth, their assets, and their support for it,” he explained.

The future also includes more emphasis on wellness and fitness, continued Manifold. “Hence we have a whole addition to our building here. We want to see more communities organize to direct their own care, communities that today do not have a health center,” he offered.

Sharing that he was ending his segment with words from a song, Manifold concluded, “The future is so bright I've got to wear shades.”

The Unveiling

Before the unveiling of his sculpture, Miller shared what a great honor it has been to do the likeness of Beulah Wiley. He said that as he worked with her family over the past year, he found out what a great person she was.

He explained that the sculpture is made of porcelain, which after being fired in a kiln turned into more of a stone sculpture. Color was added with the use of ceramic stains; and, Wiley's eyeglasses were made from bronze.

After lifting the veil from the likeness of his mother, Munford put his arm around Miller and shared, “This is my brother forever.”

Ribbon Cutting

The Renovation Celebration concluded with a ribbon cutting. Prior to Dr. Bashore making the ceremonial slice, Manifold explained that every time they added on to the building, the older parts looked shabbier. He said a key part of the grant application was the need to renovate the entire building.

“We've been able to pull this whole thing together and it looks like one building built in mid-2012,” prided Manifold.

As the crowd dispersed to tour the facility, several members of Wiley's family stood by the sculpted likeness of their loved one and rejoiced in the recognition bestowed upon her.

“This is something the family has spoken about for almost 50 years,” shared Marshall, “That is when my sister first had the vision to do this for others.”

Indeed, Beulah Wiley had a vision, a vision that she would not allow anyone to blur or dim as she faced resistance and opposition.

Today, the reality of that vision provides health care to over 50,000 CVHS patients. Moreover, because Beulah cared, there are 118 health care centers throughout the state.

Her vision is reflected in that bright future Manifold projected. So put on those shades-Beulah Care continues to light the way.

[CVCHC accepts most major insurance plans and offers a sliding fee for those who need it. The new fitness center is open to patients and area residents; and, memberships are available.]