UNSUNG HEROES Ministering to the ‘Least of These’: Pat Simmons

Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Pat Simmons, a retired radiation oncology supervisor, moved to Bedford County from Los Angeles with her husband, Robert, in 2015. She has been hailed as an “Unsung Hero” for her work in the office at the Community Clinic on Dover Street
T-G Photo by Dawn Hankins

“Living in Shelbyville has given me the opportunity to see God in everything,” says Pat Simmons, office supervisor with the Community Clinic on Dover Street. I can see stars in the sky and hear birds sing, the smell of grass, the ability to see and experience LIVING, not just existing.”

When you’re a transplant, retired health professional, from the greater Los Angeles, CA. area, that means something special.

“The beauty of Shelbyville is the people who call this place home. God has blessed us to meet lots of great people since moving here. Shelbyville is very people friendly; it’s made up of people who are willing to help with the needs of the community. Most will greet you with a smile and a head nod, some will even say God bless you and have a nice day. That’s unheard of in LA.”

While she doesn’t really consider herself an “Unsung Hero,” Simmons says she’s glad to represent those at Community Clinic-the ones who were actually behind the scenes reaching out to the ‘least of these’ during this terrible pandemic.

Community Clinic executive director Frieda Lusk sees much more in this dedicated worker and new friend. She says Pat is someone you want in your corner always, but especially when there’s a health pandemic in the community.

The Community Clinic of Shelbyville and Bedford County, Inc., recently reopened to patients after closing March 18, due to COVID-19 says the executive director. The clinic’s “dedicated staff,” Frieda says, has provided Telehealth service, or electronic means of delivering health services, since March 24.

“Because of declining revenue and late reimbursements for patient encounters, the clinic staff volunteered without pay to work during the entire month of April to continue FREE medical care for the low-income and uninsured.  Without their love and compassion for the Bedford County community, the clinic could not monitor the health for these patients.”

Frieda notes the June 15 fundraiser golf tournament, which will likely be the clinic’s “saving grace” during this health crisis, is still on, thanks in part to dedicated clinic workers and sponsoring partners.

The retired educator, turned clinic executive, says she couldn’t do all that’s required at the clinic without people like Pat. She feels so blessed that the Simmons moved here five years ago. Incidentally, the first people Pat met here were Freida’s relatives, which she says had to be a “God thing.”

Lusk says it’s her family and the clinic which has benefitted the most from the Simmons having moved here; she considers Pat a “dedicated and compassionate” individual, which she says is important as the clinic is free for the low-income and uninsured.

“She understands the dynamics for scheduling patients within our two-day schedule.”

Freida recalls when she first met Pat at the Senior Citizen Center, the clinic was facing issues of scheduling and organization. Pat went to work immediately, assisting with scheduling and patients.  

“Since her employment as the medical receptionist, she’s exemplified excellence and organization,” says Frieda. “I am no longer concerned about the front office and the efficiency of the clinic. She anticipates solutions to problems because of her years of experience in the medical field in Los Angeles, CA.”  

Simmons is retired after 50 years in the healthcare field; she lastly served as a radiation oncology supervisor for a Los Angeles Medical Center. So with that experience, she jumped at the chance to help Lusk and the staff at the Community Clinic.

“We have several dedicated staff and volunteers,” explains Lusk. “When the clinic was closed for approximately six weeks for the COVID pandemic, Pat coordinated the “Telehealth”  services for the staff. She is my unsung hero!”

Simmons says she enjoys her job because she has a great love for the people served-those who may be suffering and in need of free care to get such medicines as their diabetic supplies.

While this pandemic is something new, even for Pat, she’s in tune with having to stay six-feet apart and wear masks. She says this pandemic has not frightened her in the sense of getting the virus from someone, though she even wears her mask in public.

“You have to abide by the rules of the game,” says the veteran healthcare worker.

Even with her experience, Pat, a Pennsylvania native, still learned a lot about humanity during this pandemic. “I’ve learned that some people will never get it. No matter the literature . . . scientist who give them information. It’s hard for some to absorb.”

Simmons, who is no doubt a people person, says she’s also learned that it’s OK to be alone. She advises her clients and friends to read a lot during this time and get to know their neighbors better-all within social distancing rules of course.

Since retiring here in 2015, Simmons and her husband, Robert, also a minister, are now pretty acclimated to the city; they, as map traveling enthusiasts, literally tossed a dart to find Shelbyville. The Simmons now serve as pastors of Sevier Street Baptist Church; they believe their relocation was truly orchestrated by God.

“He led, and we just followed,” says Pat, who first began in ministry as a Sunday school teacher at age 15. Incidentally, she and her husband first met at a church.

The couple’s three grown daughters and five grandchildren, however, who live in other states, are having to get use to their parents being so far away. But they have their own lives, Pat says; their oldest daughter is a nurse, the next one is a healthcare union representative and organizer and the youngest is a San Diego, Calif., sheriff. One grandchild has a master’s in mathematics, one is a fireman, another a biochemist and the two youngest twins, she says, are sorting out their future careers in college. Pat herself is currently enrolled in Moody Bible College, where she hopes to obtain a master’s in theology.

This Unsung Hero says while family, the clinic, church and school keep her busy, she always has time for her other pastime, which is mailing out 40 to 50 personal cards a month to people that she’s met along her journey. Just the other day, she received a text message from one of her former oncology patients with whom she still stays in touch.

In short, the phone message says, “When I saw you after I woke up from my surgery, I was sure you were Jesus! I really still think you are, or, His Best Angel.”

With a smile, Pat remarks, “I just get a joy out of treating people with love and consideration.”