Eula Hall Story
Eula Hall has been called an angel, dynamite, a force to be reckoned with and a living legend. Over seventy years ago, she saw a need for better healthcare in eastern Kentucky and has devoted her life to making it a reality. She has never backed down from a challenge or turned someone away who needed her help. Her community is forever changed because of her determination to make it a better place. Eula Hall has done more for healthcare in eastern Kentucky than any other single person. This year, Ms. Hall will turn eighty years old and she still works every day, not because she has to but because she wants to make a difference.
At the age of nine, Hall realized that there was a difference in the way people were treated depending on their economic status. Being from a poor family in Pike County, Kentucky, she often witnessed the effects of not having available healthcare. She has seen babies die from dysentery, young lives lost to tuberculosis and her own mother almost bleed to death during childbirth. In a place where medical care was scarce, praying was the only thing left to do for the sick. Hall began school at the age of nine and only received an 8th grade education because the nearest high school was over twenty miles away. At the age of sixteen she moved from Pike County to neighboring Floyd County where she worked as a hired girl for wealthy families. At seventeen, she married and started her own family and had five children. Hall spent the next thirty years caring for her family and her community. She did what she could to help others by caring for the elderly, delivering medication and food and driving people without cars to the nearest hospital over thirty miles away. She was a community activist who centered her efforts on all aspects of health care, from black lung to school lunch programs. She became a staple in the Mud Creek community, someone to whom people would turn when they were sick, hungry or cold. When the War on Poverty Congressional Bill passed in 1964, many of its supporters came to eastern Kentucky but none of them stayed as long or did as much as Eula Hall. In the early 1970's, Hall spent much of her time pitching her idea of a local health care clinic to politicians, health care providers and possible donors. Her idea was that bringing quality healthcare to the people was a necessity since it was so difficult to get the people to quality healthcare. Many people didn't have cars and public transportation was a rare commodity. In 1973, at the age of forty-six, Hall opened the doors to The Mud Creek Clinic in Grethel, Kentucky. The clinic was for all those who needed it, no matter what they could pay. She began with a $1,400 donation and the commitment of two local doctors. The United Mine Workers Union supported the clinic in its beginning. The clinic began in a rented home on Tinker Fork but it wasn't long before the clinic outgrew the facility. Hall decided to move her own family into a two bedroom mobile home and use her own house as the new location for the clinic. Hall's home was larger and more centrally located in Mud Creek which made it easier to see more patients. She converted the three bedrooms into six exam rooms and the rest of the house into waiting rooms and offices. At the time, the clinic didn't have its own pharmacy and medications had to be delivered from the local hospital after the clinic had closed. Hall would spend half the night delivering medication to patients who had been at the clinic that day.
By 1977, the patient population was so great that Mud Creek Clinic was struggling to meet the needs of the community. Mud Creek Clinic then joined forces with Big Sandy Health Care, Inc. (BSHC) a local non-profit health care organization that operated another community clinic in neighboring Magoffin County. This merger allowed Mud Creek to receive some federal funding and widen its patient care. After the merger, Eula stayed on as a patient advocate for the Mud Creek Clinic and continues to work in that capacity today.
In 1982, Hall and the Mud Creek community suffered a great loss when the clinic burned down. Many people would have given up after such a devastating loss, but not Hall. Even after the fire, Hall and the clinic employees didn't miss a day. The next morning Hall and the clinic doctor pulled a picnic table under a willow tree and treated patients. She even had the phone company place a phone on the tree so that patients could call the clinic. The need for healthcare was still there even if the clinic building was not. Hall then had two used trailers joined together to use as a temporary clinic. A few months after the fire, Hall received a letter from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) stating that they would donate funds for a new facility for Mud Creek Clinic. This was one of the happiest days of Eula's life, to know that her dream was still alive. Hall couldn't wait to tell the clinic employees the great news about the new building for the clinic. One of the conditions of the funding was that the community would be required to come up with $80,000 in matching funds. Many people doubted that Hall could raise the money but she had faith in herself and her community. She called a public meeting and over 400 people showed up and pledged their support. People gave money and items to be raffled off at auction. Hall organized a two-day radiothon and raised $17,000 and a chicken-and-dumpling dinner earned $1,300. Hall then took her efforts to the streets, literally. She stood on the yellow line in the middle of the road with a gallon bucket and a sign on each side saying "Please help raise money for the Mud Creek Clinic". With the leadership of Eula Hall, the community raised $120,000 - $40,000 more than the necessary $80,000 required by the ARC. The extra money paid for new X-ray equipment for the clinic.
The new clinic opened its doors in 1984. The new Mud Creek Clinic was a modern 5,200 square feet, brick building. It is still the home of the clinic today. The clinic houses its own laboratory, x-ray machines and pharmacy. The clinic has expanded to include an adjacent 1,800 square foot building that houses a dental clinic, clothing room and a food pantry that serves more than 100 families per month. BSHC continues to operate the Mud Creek Clinic, as well as three additional primary care clinics for the underinsured and the uninsured in eastern Kentucky. The Mud Creek Clinic had over 13,000 patient encounters last year and no one is ever turned away.
Not only did Hall found the clinic but she also helped create the Mud Creek Water District, which provides potable water for a community where over 90 percent of residents used water from contaminated wells. She also counsels patients on disability claims and Social Security benefits, arranges financial aid for food and drugs, answers questions about food stamps and housing opportunities, and attends civic board meetings and hearings. When patients can't afford lawyers, she often represents them in court. She wins approximately ninety percent of her cases. She also devotes her time assisting with black lung compensation claims.
Eula has received numerous awards for her advocacy work, including honorary doctorates from Berea College - Berea, Kentucky; Midway College - Midway, Kentucky; Pikeville College - Pikeville, Kentucky and Trinity College - Hartford, CT. She was honored at Berea College alongside the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In 2004, the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center presented Hall with the Annual David S. Shuller Spirit of AMERC Award. She has received personal letters from President George Bush, Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative Hal Rogers, among other notables who have recognized the amazing work and the on-going effort Hall has devoted to the health and well-being of eastern Kentucky. In October 2006, Highway 979, the road that runs through Mud Creek, Kentucky was named the "Eula Hall Highway" in her honor.
BSHC also has started two funds in tribute to Ms. Hall. The Eula Hall Patient Assistance Fund will cover healthcare costs for uninsured and indigent patients and the Eula Hall Scholarship Fund will provide financial assistance for area students pursuing careers in healthcare or social services.
Eula will celebrate her eightieth birthday in October 2007. She has no intention of retiring. Her community is her work and her life. Hall is like many Americans her age. She suffers from a heart condition, diabetes, arthritis, and allergies but they haven't gotten her down yet. Although her body may not be what it used to be, her mind is as sharp as ever.
Eula, who only had an eighth grade education, understands more about the importance of eliminating poverty than many experts. She knows living in poverty represents more than a hollow-eyed, starved looking child in dirty clothes or an old man bent over with work and worry. Overcoming poverty is more than giving people sufficient material goods for a life of dignity. It means giving the poor a voice in making decisions which directly affect them. It means giving them a place in society that honors their culture. It means a healthy body. It means jobs that pay more than the minimum wage so that workers can escape a life of poverty. It means having clean water, a warm coat and a voice in government. Eula Hall has been and continues to be that voice.