In my time working for Remote Area Medical there have been numerous people who have changed my outlook on life or reminded me how far a positive attitude will get you.
This past weekend, June 11-12, we held a clinic in Huntsville, Tennessee. My job at most clinics is to take pictures of RAM’s work and tell a story through those pictures. While taking a picture of some of our RAM employees, a lady behind me said, “You need a picture of a volunteer in there with the important people.” That person was Yvonne Evans. So, considering our volunteers are as important as any employee, we took her up on her request. We could not put on a clinic and provide for people in need without volunteers like Yvonne.
Once the pictures were finished, Yvonne told me about her willingness to help people and what volunteering at a RAM clinic meant to her. It was apparent from the conversation that she was full of positive energy. She is the type of person who, after you speak with her, leaves you with a more positive outlook on life.
Yvonne has quite the story about the journey of her life and has had to overcome quite a few roadblocks and tragedies along the way. One of her brothers drowned at the age of 16, and another brother died before he turned 21 from Leukemia. Both of these losses could be something from which some people never recover. Yvonne suffered the loss of her mother at a very young age, which was devastating. Her mother was only 53 years old when she passed and was a huge influence in her life.
Through all these tragic events Yvonne still managed to get a full scholarship to Xavier University. She began working in 1974 as a teacher, and in 1977 she gave birth to her daughter. The birth of her daughter led her to consider how to better support her family. She later joined the United States Army Reserves through what is known as CASP (Civilian Acquired Skills Program). She eventually, once completing the program, began helping patients in the military hospital.
Upon being honorably discharged Yvonne returned to teaching, but this time around she worked with children with special needs. Then, in 2005 tragedy struck again. Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home and workplace in New Orleans. Yvonne decided to move to Nashville, but she did eventually move back to New Orleans to rebuild her home and finish her career as a teacher of 33 years.
In 2006 Yvonne lost her father. She said she was heartbroken, but added, “Both of my parents had instilled in me a strength that even I did not know I had until faced with these tragedies.”
In 2010, she began volunteering with Gentiva Hospice and eventually received the Volunteer of the Year award in 2013. While volunteering there, she made the decision to enroll in a dental assisting program. The day she enrolled happened to be 44 years to the day that she graduated from high school.
Yvonne became highly involved in the American Dental Assistants Association and yet again received an award. This time it was the New Member Involvement Award in 2014. In 2015, she was working on her fellowship, which required her to volunteer. That’s when she found RAM.
When describing her experience with RAM, she responded, “I have always been a part of a team, so working side-by-side with dentists, hygienists, supporters, and other health care givers is an absolute honor.”
Yvonne is dedicated to volunteering. She worked all day at the clinic on Saturday, drove home to Nashville, and drove back to Huntsville the following morning. She knew of a person who wanted to volunteer at the clinic on the following day, so she sacrificed sleep and rest to pick up another volunteer. Yvonne stated, “It has been a very rewarding journey seeing the smiling faces of patients and receiving hugs of gratitude for a job well done. As long as I am physically able I will continue to volunteer in any capacity needed.”
Yvonne was nice enough to write me and tell me of her story to assist me in sharing her incredible story. There were a few quotes she put in there that really stuck with me, one was from a song her mother loved:
“If I can help somebody as I pass along, If I can cheer somebody with a word or a song. Then my living shall not be in vain.”
The other quote was one she lives by (and was my favorite):
“I learned to give not because I have much, but because I know exactly how it feels to have nothing.”