A white cowboy hat, brown leather boots and lariat on a white background

Stages West Assigns Volunteer to Clinic

A tragedy for a Pigeon Forge business has had a silver lining for many local non-profits, including Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic.

Judy Stump has spent some time recently volunteering at the Clinic, helping with various paperwork and office tasks. She is an employee of Stages West, a Western-themed store in Pigeon Forge that suffered a devastating fire last August.

While the store is being remodeled and restored, employees such as Judy are still earning pay, provided they spend their working hours helping out at local non-profits. This was a generous plan put into effect by Stages West owners Steve and Marlene Houser and their son Stephen. What is truly astounding is that Judy had worked at the store for only seven days before the fire.

“I just praise the Housers for giving me the opportunity to stay on with them,” she says. “They didn’t have to, and that shows what kind of people they are. Since I was the newest employee, they really didn’t have to keep me.”

Some of the non-profits benefiting from Stages West volunteer help are Mountain Hope, King Family Library, Sevier County Food Ministries, Sevier County Humane Society, the senior center  and Pigeon Forge Fire Department. Judy has shelved books and helped with the after-school program at KFL, sorted clothes in the food ministry’s thrift store and given out fire alarms at the Pigeon Forge mobile home park, worked the concession stand at high school football games and passed out fliers.

Though employees may not be working as many hours as they would at the store, they are still earning some pay and they all have the prospect of returning to their former jobs when the store reopens some time next year.

“I’m telling you, this company is just amazing,” Judy says. “I’ve never been involved with a business that’s this caring.”


Volunteer Dentist Joins Mountain Hope

IMG_4976A preacher’s words at a church service prompted a local dentist to volunteer at Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic.

Dr. Sean Toomey has been practicing dentistry for three years, when he took over Dr. Jon Shell’s practice in Sevierville. He knew when he came home to Sevier County that he wanted to offer his skills as a volunteer, but at first he was busy settling in his new profession and kept putting off any volunteer work.

It wasn’t until a service at Pathways Church on the Parable of the Talents, when the preacher urged his flock to make use of their talents to help others that he knew the time had come. “I felt like it was the push I needed,” he said.

His dental practice, Toomey Family Dentistry, is closed on Fridays, so he has been seeing dental patients at the Clinic for a half-day once a month. His involvement may increase in time, he said.

“I’m extremely happy to have Dr. Toomey volunteering his time at Mountain Hope,” said Clinic Executive Director Mary Vance. “There’s such a great need for dental care. This moves us closer to our goal of providing dental care five days a week.” Currently, Dr. Jeffrey Collart operates the dental clinic three days a week and dental hygienist Amy Giles is here two days.

Dr. Toomey understood the need for dental care in the area. “I grew up in this area,” he said. He was born in Florida but his family moved to Sevier County when he was 9 years old. He attended Gatlinburg-Pittman High School, where he was valedictorian and a National Merit Scholar. He earned a degree in psychology from Vanderbilt University. Then he attended the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry in Memphis for four years, graduating with honors before returning home to practice.

He enjoys the company of family and friends in his spare time, and can also be found on the golf course. “I’m an avid golfer,” he said.

He and his wife, Jennifer, have been married for 2 years and are expecting their first child in December.


Free eye clinic tests diabetic patients

IMG_0638Twenty-two people with diabetes received free retinopathy screening at Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic on Nov. 14.

Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the retina in the eye caused by high blood sugar. Without treatment it can lead to blindness. “Many of our patients have diabetes but can’t afford the recommended annual screening for retinopathy,” said Mary Vance, the non-profit Clinic’s Executive Director. “This is the first time the Clinic has been able to offer this free screening.”  Vance went on to say, “I’ve wanted to add this service for Mountain Hope patients for years.  Dr. Bill Fry made the connection possible with Welch-Allyn, and we are grateful for his involvement.  We are also grateful for Dr. Van Moore, who is assisting in evaluating the reports.”

The testing was made possible through the cooperation of Welch Allyn, a manufacturer of medical diagnostic equipment. Welch Allyn provided the equipment and a technician for the screenings.

Even though the screening was on a Saturday, “a lot of people had to come from work,” said Clinic volunteer Sandi Moersdorf. However, she said the procedure was very quick, taking only a couple of minutes per person. It consisted of taking special photos of the eye, which are sent via computer to a retinal specialist. A diagnostic report is then sent back to the Clinic.

“Welch Allyn is very excited to support Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic in their efforts to preserve vision by screening for diabetic retinopathy with Welch Allyn RetinaVue Network,” said Chuck Witkowski, director of the company’s New Healthcare Delivery Solutions. “Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults, but with early detection 95 percent of vision loss cases can be prevented.”

Moersdorf, volunteer Pat Richardson and Clinic staffer Lydia Godfrey assisted at the screening. “This is brand new,” Moersdorf said, “and I’d like to see it repeated.”

“We appreciate Welch Allyn’s involvement in this venture,” Vance said. “We are anxious to do whatever we can to help our patients control their diabetes and avoid its consequences.”

Mountain Hope Clinic provides quality medical and dental care to Sevier County residents and employees who have no health insurance. For more information, visit www.mountainhopeclinic.org.