Edwina Taylor – Helping People One Smile at a Time

img_3055I got my Cahaba Valley Health Care newsletter in the mail today.  I always like reading about the people who are helped by this wonderful non-profit and also the volunteers involved.  And in this edition of the newsletter – I spotted a photo I took at the See More Smiles Breakfast in 2010!

Let me start with a little background on Cahaba Valley Health Care or CVHC.  This non-profit was founded in 2000 by Edwina Taylor, a hematology and oncology nurse who had worked for decades at UAB Medical Center and then in palliative care at Cooper Green.  This is where Edwina began seeing how difficult it was for the uninsured to access health care.  In 1979 she and her husband adopted a daughter, Emilie, from Guatemala.  Because of her daughter’s background, she began paying more attention to the needs of the Hispanic community.  This reached a peak in the 1990s with the influx of Hispanics to the Birmingham region.  Edwina has told the story many times but I never tire of hearing it because of her enthusiasm and giving heart.  She said if it was hard for people who were born here and spoke the language to access health care, what must it be like for someone who wasn’t born here and doesn’t speak the language.  On top of that, there is the cultural and trust barrier that compounds all of this.

Edwina decided she needed to act on her desire to help the uninsured and with the help of friends and her church – Cahaba Valley – she set out to start a non-profit that offered health screening for the uninsured population with a focus on Hispanics in Jefferson and Shelby Counties.  The latest newsletter already has the dates for the 2017 screenings listed and almost all are at area churches with a Hispanic congregation.  Always happy to see my own church, Prince of Peace Catholic – on the list!  These screenings include vision, dental and blood pressure.  I’ve attended a few of these screenings and I’m amazed at the number of people who come out.  Many people who come to these screenings are in dire need too.  Edwina talks about how if you have a tooth ache, you have a bad day…but what if you have several?  Many of her clients require much care and have no way to access if it weren’t for CVHC,  I even heard one story of someone pulling their own tooth with pliers because of the pain.  I can’t even imagine…

I first met Edwina when I visited their first offices at Cahaba Valley Church along with a friend from an area foundation who was going to present a check to her.  I went along to learn more about her and her organization because of my involvement in the community.  I had actually met her at the United Way Latino Issues Committee but had not had a lot of time to talk to her.  Something about Edwina that I found out early on is that her demeanor is always the same – smiling and positive – ALWAYS!  She is not someone you say “no” to either and she can pull volunteers and collaborators together like no other person I’ve ever known.  Another thing I learned about her is that she is always looking for ways to help more and more people.  She is not satisfied with the status quo and her energy is inspiring to me.  She is the type of person who makes you want to do more.

Earlier I mentioned my photo being in the newsletter advertising the See More Smile Breakfast.  This fundraising event has grown so much since my first breakfast about 8 years ago.  Edwina gets everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – donated and there is no cost to attend.  You are simply asked to make a donation at the end of the breakfast and after Edwina talks, you WANT to donate!  I never attend a See More Smiles breakfast without my camera anymore.  That’s one of the things I’ve learned over the years of working with non-profits …there is always a need for more marketing and PR assistance and a good photo can go a long way!

Speaking of being able to generate volunteers…Edwina many years ago took on the task of creating the Fiesta Health & Wellness Village for us (the Fiesta board).  We had a vision for having all the health care agencies and non-profits in one area at the festival and she took it and ran with it!  At one point, she would just ask us for the registration forms and would report back close to the event who was coming so we could prepare.  We never questioned because we knew that in her hands, the village would be phenomenal…and it always has been.

Edwina speaks to visitors to the Fiesta Health and Wellness Village that she coordinated through 2015.

Edwina speaks to visitors to the Fiesta Health and Wellness Village that she coordinated through 2015.

In April this year, CVHC moved to Cooper Green Hospital.  The ability to serve even more clients in their dental clinic is exciting.  It seems almost like it has come full circle for Edwina though…as a nurse at Cooper Green so many years ago.  She is back where she originally saw the need to serve and is doing just that.

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