Serving Hope


city-lights-edwina-taylorMeet Edwina Taylor.

By Rev. Dallas Teague Snider // Photo by Liesa Cole

Oftentimes the individuals that I highlight don’t think of themselves as particularly heroic. When we are working from a place of passion and unconditional love, the efforts that we make on behalf of others become part of our everyday existence. It becomes part of our way of being. This is when our life becomes a living prayer with grace and ease for those we encounter just by being ourselves.

Yet when I first learned about Edwina Taylor and Cahaba Valley Health Care, which she founded in 2000, it brought tears to my eyes.

Taylor began her nursing career with a passion to serve; however, she never knew what God would reveal to her as she put one foot in front of the other throughout her career. In 1979, she adopted her daughter from Guatemala, which ignited a spark in her heart for the Hispanic culture.

After 28 years working at UAB in the cancer center, she was recruited to work in the new palliative care unit at Cooper Green Hospital.  It was during this point in her career that she was inspired to do something about the challenges she witnessed facing the undocumented and uninsured.

So what does it take to create an organization whose mission is to serve as a birthing of hope for others?

What inspired you to create the organization we see today?

In 1999, I had a dream about starting a health clinic to care for Hispanics, from cancer patients to dying patients, to undocumented and disenfranchised patients. I asked myself, “Am I just crazy or a glutton for punishment, or both?” I founded Cahaba Valley Health Care in April 2000 to treat these folks.

Big visions can seem overwhelming. How did you begin?

I got a ton of good advice from people who were in the nonprofit sector, and our board did a survey of over 200 people. They identified vision and dental services as two of their main needs, so we began vision screenings in area churches in August 2001.

By the time the screenings started, we had vision professionals, students, and volunteers to help. We had a way to obtain glasses, a vision referral clinic, and follow up care for children who needed it.  We began dental screenings in 2003, when we obtained the use of a dental clinic for follow up care.  To date, we have helped over 11,000 people obtain vision and dental care.  We have a staff of six people, and thousands of volunteers, including vision and dental professionals.

Are there any particular challenges you faced? 

“New and improved” is one our main mottos; we are always refining our services to make things better for our clients.  We were challenged with a budget shortfall a couple of years ago, as we don’t receive federal funding. Through advice and relationships, and a lot of grace, we moved from Hoover to the 7th floor of the Cooper Green building downtown.  Early on, we expanded from treating mainly Hispanics to treating all underserved and uninsured clients who came to screenings from Jefferson and Shelby Counties.  Since we moved to Cooper Green our patient population has doubled!

What is your personal mission or motto? Why?

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” This quote from John Wesley describes what I try to do.

ThinkLoveFirst is a global human rights initiative that I am launching. How do you

#ThinkLoveFirst in what you do?

My perspective has always been that everyone on the planet deserves health care, and living that out can be a challenge. We are the only free dental clinic in eight counties, so folks who get care from us have gone from getting nothing to getting something, and that can help birth hope.

I once heard it said that one can survive 30 days without food, three days without water, and one minute without hope.  In whatever small, connecting way I can give one hope, I want to do that, to the end of my days.

What advice would you give others about being that light they are destined to be? 

Pay attention. The Bible says that God created our good works beforehand so that we may walk in them. If we are paying attention, it will be clear how you should be light and salt to the world.

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