After 13 years of service, Matthews United Methodist Church parish nurse Gail Dokes has retired.
In 1998, she saw a need and called the pastor to ask if she could start a parish nurse program.
While working at the church, she also reached out to other areas of the community where she saw a need.
"I went to the Matthews Help Center when it was still in the little house on John Street and asked Joan Uhrich what I could do to help," said Dokes. "She said she would love to have a nurse taking blood pressures. So I would come take blood pressures for clients on Fridays, and it was well received," Dokes said.
Dokes quickly learned that a lot of people were coming in for the free service because they had no health insurance and no access to medical care. As a nurse and an advocate for those less fortunate, Dokes said, she knew she had to do something. So she pulled together a committee of church and community members.
The group gathered resources and volunteers from throughout the area. Dr. Lou McAdams came on board, and the Matthews Health Clinic opened in 2004.
Dokes helped with the clinic for a couple years until "I saw it could run without me," then turned her full attention to her role as parish nurse.
"Being a parish nurse is a multifaceted ministry," she said. "We reach people through health, and also help them heal emotionally, spiritually and mentally," Dokes said.
"The blood pressure cuff is my vehicle to get to know someone. I can touch them physically and spiritually at the same time."
Matthews UMC pastor Ken Lyon says Dokes will be missed.
"Gail is an exceptional person. Her gift goes far beyond her nursing ability" said Lyon. "It's her ability to connect relationally that just made her so effective, not only in parish nursing but also in general congregational care."
Dokes turned 64 in March and says she just felt the call to do something different, though she doesn't know yet what that will be.
"This is the longest stretch of anything that I've ever done. I just felt it was time to move on. I'm definitely good at starting things, but I'm not sure where I will be led," said Dokes.
Wherever the road leads her, you can be sure many folks will benefit along the way.