Gov. names resident ‘Senior Volunteer of the Year’
Jimmie Carter’s work has improved health care in the region
By Nicholas Vandeloecht
His idea spurred the creation of a health clinic that proved essential to the residents of Tangier Island.
His leadership guided Bay Aging in its efforts to provide health, housing and transit assistance to citizens throughout the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.
After having dedicated his time and energy to bolstering health care in the region where he has resided for nearly 60 years, James “Jimmie” Carter, Jr. was officially honored for his hard work.
On Thursday, June 7, Gov. Bob McDonnell recognized Carter as Virginia’s 2013 Senior Volunteer of the Year.
A resident of White Stone, Carter has undertaken a variety of causes throughout his life, volunteering 20 to 40 hours a week to improve health care in underserved rural communities.
Carter’s efforts were initially driven by a bad end-of-life health experience that his father had endured.
“It heightened my sensitivities to important health care issues,” said Carter. “I decided that I was just going to focus my pro bono work on rural health.”
A couple years later, after joining the Board of Directors at Rappahannock General Hospital (RGH), Carter visited Tangier Island to have lunch with his doctor at the time, Dr. David Nichols.
There, he witnessed the poor condition of the health clinic.
“On the spur of the moment, I told him I was going to help him build a new clinic,” said Cater.
Five years and $4 million later, a state-of-the-art health center was open to serve the needs of Tangier Island’s residents.
The new center included a full colonoscopy lab, a prognostic treadmill for diagnostics in relation to heart disease, a complete laboratory and digital X-ray equipment that allowed information to be transferred off the island for specialists to review.
“[The clinic] just became a terrific work environment, so when doctors did come on the island, and doctors are coming over there once a week, they could work efficiently,” said Carter.
The completion efforts became bittersweet, however, as Dr. Nichols passed away shortly after the clinic opened. But Carter was grateful for the chance to have seen the project from start to finish at Nichols’ side.
“Having the opportunity to work closely with David for those five years was just a tremendously rewarding experience all the way around,” Carter said. “I think the five years that I spent working to build the clinic on Tangier Island were the most rewarding.”
Since his involvement in the health center’s construction, Carter also joined the Board of Directors for Bay Aging, where he tackled pressing health issues that faced localities throughout the organization’s 10-county jurisdiction.
In addition, Carter played a key role in negotiations that led to RGH partnering with Bon Secours Health Center. He also worked to strengthen economic and workforce development in the region through his involvement with the nonprofit organizations of Lead Northern Neck and Visions.
Other organizations of with which Carter has served include the Lancaster County County Chamber of Commerce board, Northern Neck Connect, Northern Neck-Chesapeake Bay Region Partnership and the advisory board for Chesapeake Bank.
In her letter supporting his nomination, Rappahannock Community College President Dr. Elizabeth Crowther said Carter strengthened the boards on which he served through “professionalizing their activities.”
“He brings together passionate, influential, and philanthropic individuals, articulating convincingly the case for action and the outcome that will make individuals’ lives, and the whole community, better,” wrote Crowther. “I believe in Jimmie, as do all other community leaders here. We respect and follow him.”
Currently, Carter directs most of his efforts to improving the quality of services provided by RGH while also serving on Congressman Rob Wittman’s Health Advisory Council.
In nominating Carter for the award, Kathy E. Vesley, president and CEO of Bay Aging, said: “Jimmie is moved by the problems we face and strong enough to confront and conquer them. He is wise in the ways of finding solutions to issues that feel overwhelming.”
Vesley added that Carter considered it his public duty to give back to the community.
“He connects with all of us,” said Vesley.
Carter called his community “a great place to live” in describing his reasons for giving back through volunteerism.
“I just felt a personal responsibility growing up here that if I can contribute to help the area, then that’s what I’d want to do,” said Carter, who said he was both “surprised and honored” to be named senior volunteer of the year.
“When I was put up for the award, I didn’t know that I was even up for the [it] until it was announced,” he said. “No one goes into this thing wanting to be honored, but I can tell you, I was thrilled…it is gratifying to be appreciated.”
Carter, however, was also quick to point out that there were so many others he knew who “should have or could have” been the recipient of the honor.
“There are other people who give so much time and talent,” said Carter. “It’s just luck-of-the-draw that it was me.”
Through volunteering in his community, Carter said he realized how truly important that health care was to the community and how difficult it could be to maintain quality health services in the region.
“The cutbacks in federal and state dollars have created lots of challenges for health care providers in rural areas,” said Carter, adding that people in the 10-county area were “lucky” to have so many great volunteers and dedicated doctors.
“I think that bodes well for this area that we’re so much better off than most other rural areas that are in this state,” said Carter.
Del. Margaret Ransone and Chesapeake Bank will hold a private reception July 13 at Tides Inn in Irvington to recognize Carter for his latest honor.
Carter stressed that there is still a tremendous amount of need for volunteers in all facets of the area.
For those who wish to become, Carter they should try to figure out what they are interested in.
“It could be the free health clinic, the hospital [or] Bay Aging,” said Carter. “And all they need to do is to call those organizations and say, ‘What can I do to help?’