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At Nearly 77, Volunteer Makes Difference in Coastal Health District

September 3, 2013

Originally published Dec. 12, 2011

When Sharon Dunwody first walked into the McIntosh County Health Department, the staff thought she was simply a client seeking services. As it turned out, Dunwody was there to offer assistance, not receive it. “I just came in one day and asked if they could use somebody to help,” said Dunwody.

Close to three years later, she is still volunteering at the McIntosh County Health Department on Highway 57 in Townsend, Georgia. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Dunwody is the first person clients see when they come into the health department. She greets clients, answers phones, transfers calls and handles filing.

“She is a wonderful help,” said McIntosh County nurse manager, Paige Lightsey, R.N. “In these hard economic times when we have had to cut staff, Ms. Dunwody has been a great asset and we are lucky to have her.”

Originally from Savannah, Dunwody has lived in McIntosh County for the past 18 years. With a population just shy of 11,000, McIntosh County is mostly rural and the residents there greatly depend on health department services. Dunwody sees that firsthand on a regular basis.

“I see the need for public health in McIntosh County,” she said. “It’s very important for our residents to have access to the health department. There are a lot of people down here who can’t get any other healthcare.”

Dunwody, who has three children and “lots” of grandchildren who live in surrounding counties, said her kids were a little skeptical when she first started volunteering at the health department. They were afraid she might be more susceptible to getting sick from clients coming in feeling a little under the weather. Dunwody dismissed the notion. “I stay up-to-date on all of my immunizations,” said the nearly 77-year-old Dunwody. “In the time I’ve been here, I haven’t caught a thing.”

Dunwody said she appreciates her time at the health department and believes that her work there benefits public health. But when it comes down to it, Dunwody is the first to admit that the main reason she volunteers is because she likes it. “Public health is in need. Cutbacks and staffing shortages are hard on health departments,” she said. “I don’t know why more people don’t volunteer. It keeps me active and I really enjoy it.”

And because of that, Dunwody will continue manning her post at the McIntosh County Health Department front desk greeting clients and doing what she can to help the health department run smoothly. “I have no intention of stopping my volunteer work here anytime soon,” she said. “There is a need here and I can help fill it.”