Good News Clinics is thankful for its volunteers every day. But the nonprofit honors two volunteers each year who have gone above and beyond.
Those volunteers of the year were announced at an event last week, and Liz Coates, executive director of the clinics, said she is proud to have them representing the clinics that offer medical and dental care at no cost to low-income, uninsured people and families in Hall County.
“One thing we celebrate this year is that we are awarding two accomplished Latina women who have been serving Hall County for years,” Coates said. “It’s our honor to recognize these women for their incredible contributions to the community.”
Sam Poole volunteer of the year
Jeannette Velazquez said being honored as a volunteer of the year was a way to show her parents she is making a difference in her community.
“For me, it’s a way to make them proud,” Velazquez said of her parents. “I am who I am because of them.”
She was honored as the Sam Poole volunteer of the year, an award named for the clinics’ first medical director.
Velazquez owns Bare Foot Care Specialist in Flowery Branch but volunteers a full day once every month at Good News Clinics. It’s work she isn’t required to do — and with a full schedule of patients, probably doesn’t have a lot of spare time to do — but she does it because she finds it rewarding.
“Other people don’t have these services, so it makes you feel like you’re doing something,” Velazquez said. “I wanted to help people who otherwise couldn’t afford these services.”
When Coates asked around for recommendations on who should receive the award, she said it was almost a unanimous decision.
“She just always is so happy to give not just a half day, but an entire day when she comes,” Coates said. “She is always just so happy to help, and she genuinely cares about our demographic. She cares about our patients.”
Good News Clinics isn’t the first place Velazquez has volunteered. After podiatry school in Miami, the Puerto Rico native went to New York for her residency. She made her way back to Miami to work and volunteered at a homeless shelter there.
“It’s so rewarding,” Velazquez said. “You don’t get paid, but it’s rewarding to know you helped somebody.”
Coates said Velazquez’s experience working at a homeless shelter has helped her work at Good News Clinics. It’s given her practice on ways to be resourceful.
“You have to be really creative in how you're going to treat someone who’s homeless who can't just go lay in their bed and prop their feet up if they have a foot issue,” Coates said. “She’s had to be really creative working with our demographic, within her specialty, and is always so happy to go the extra mile for our folks.”
Since starting her volunteer work in Gainesville, Coates said Velazquez has given about 800 hours to the clinic.
“They’re receiving the care I would give patients at my office,” Velazquez said. “I wanted to do this to give back.”
Anne Warren Thomas volunteer of the year
Rosaclara Gable is said to always have a smile across her face. Coates said she's one of the first people visitors to Good News Clinics see when they walk in, and she can’t think of a better person for people to see.
“She just has this great smile, and she walks through the clinic and puts everyone at ease,” Coates said. “The patients feel so comfortable with her.”
The 23-year poultry industry worker retired 13 years ago. And now, at age 80, she’s volunteering her time to help those in need. She was honored with the Anne Warren Thomas volunteer of the year award, named after a longtime clinics supporter.
“I have so much that I feel that I’ve got to give people some, because the good Lord has given me so much in all my years,” Gable said, laughing. “I’m a great-grandmother, so I’m old.”
While she could be doing a lot of other things at her age — and she does, traveling between Nevada, Florida and Tennessee to visit family — she finds joy in volunteering at Good News Clinics at least twice a week. Coates said Gable has given 800 hours to the clinic, too.
“In many cases, when a patient walks through our doors, they're experiencing fear that they're not going to get accepted for help and this is their last shot,” Coates said. “So to have someone like Rosaclara that just puts them at ease, she's wonderful. She’s awesome. We love her so much.”
Coates said Gable “jumps in wherever she’s needed.” Whether it’s translating or helping register people at the clinic, she’s “so eager to help and happy to help.”
“It's the spirit in which she gives that’s so compelling,” Coates said. “When we asked her why she cares about Good News Clinics so much, she said it's one of the best ways she could imagine giving back to the well-being of the city that has given her so much and done so much for her.”
For Gable, even though she's retired, helping her community is something she said is necessary.
“There’s a need, and I feel that we all have to try to help with the needs of the area,” Gable said.