It's known as "the Nobel Prize of Public Service." Though she wasn't one of the national winners, Thomson's Amy McCord represented the area as the local winner of the Jefferson Award in Washington D.C. last week.
Awards were presented at the 38th annual gala ceremony held in the National Building Museum, which is well-known for the presidential inaugural ball.
"It was beautiful, just beautiful scenery," Mrs. McCord said. "And it was such a positive experience to be in a room full of people who are selflessly committed to helping others."
Mrs. McCord won the annual award locally, presented by WJBF -TV News Channel 6 in March, which earned her the prestigious opportunity to attend the national gala.
Named after President Thomas Jefferson, the Jefferson Award is a national recognition system honoring community and public service in America. Mrs. McCord was one of 150 regional winners invited to this year's gala, from which a board of selectors chose five community volunteers as national winners. Winners this year included a doctor from Texas who opened a pediatric HIV clinic in Africa, and a teenager who was abused by her biological parents and wrote about her experience in a book geared toward foster children. High-profile individuals who received the award this year include Oakland Raiders' Nnamdi Asomugha, Chicago Bulls' Tyrus Thomas, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Goodwill Industries International CEO Jim Gibbons.
Mrs. McCord was given the Jefferson Award for organizing and operating a clinic in Thomson that provides free or reduced-cost medical care to uninsured patients with chronic health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Called McDuffie Medical Mission, the clinic regularly helps approximately 200 patients, putting them face-to-face with a doctor who prescribes and monitors prescription medication, and performs lab tests in addition to vision and dental care.
To run the clinic two days every month, Mrs. McCord receives help from Thomson First United Methodist Church, the Board of Directors of the McDuffie Health Department, the Department of Community Health, fellow church members, doctors, nurses and trained community volunteers.
In Washington D.C., Mrs. McCord got to stand up and share her project and experiences during a banquet, and hear the stories of the other winners.
"It was real interesting to hear what other people are doing," she said. "And it was great to hear about the good things going on in the country."
True to her nature, Mrs. McCord took advantage of the opportunity and spent some time with Senator Saxby Chambliss, encouraging him to support legislation that supports charity clinics, supports further education for nurses and encourages healthcare professionals to work in rural areas that serve indigent clients.
"Even with the new healthcare bill, I feel there's still going to be a need for the medical mission clinic. I know there will still be people that will need to be seen by the clinic," she said. "(Sen. Chambliss) was very receptive and responsive."
In addition to her full-time job at the McDuffie County Health Department and the medical mission, Mrs. McCord has returned to school to get her masters degree in nursing. She and her husband, Chris, are the parents of Addison, 9, and Hayden, 6.
After she and her husband enjoyed the three-day Jefferson Award activities, the family spent the rest of the week touring the historic sites of the nation's capital.
For more information about the McDuffie Medical Mission, call 706-872-1665 and leave a message.