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CSW retiree Layton Holt helps Texas community stay healthy

by on June 21, 2010

ATHENS, Texas — Layton Holt doesn’t wear a white lab coat, carry a stethoscope or ask you to stick out your tongue and say, “Aaaaah.”

Nonetheless, he’s been instrumental in helping hundreds of local residents stay healthy in Athens, Texas, and the surrounding area.

CSW retiree Layton Holt (right) talks with Dr. Joe Murphy, one of the all-volunteer clinic's dentists, and a patient at the Disciples Clinic in Athens, Texas.

Holt, who retired from Central and South West in 1995, has been a driving force in the creation of Disciples Clinic, an all-volunteer medical and dental clinic serving lower-income residents in Athens and Henderson County.

“Our clinic just started operating on January 5,” said Holt, who volunteers 35 to 40 hours a week to serve as the clinic’s chief administrative officer. “It took us two years to get it up and running, but I think everyone involved feels it’s been extremely worthwhile.

“We have 10 doctors, seven dentists and quite a few nurses who volunteer at the clinic, and we’re open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday mornings,” Holt said. “Our doctors and dentists all have full-time practices, so we’re grateful that they can help us as much as they do.

“Currently, the Disciples Clinic has a roster of 500 underprivileged patients,” said Holt, who will celebrate his 78th birthday on June 19. “We would like to be open more hours and serve more patients, but in order to do that, we will have to recruit more doctors.

“We pretty much have the ‘no vacancy’ sign out right now,” he noted. “About the only way we can accept a new patient is if an existing patient either moves away, finds a job that offers health insurance, or turns 65 so that he or she can qualify for Medicare.”

Despite the fact that Athens and Henderson County are located between Dallas and Tyler, “our county is one of the poorest in Texas,” Holt said. “It’s a very depressed area, and surveys have shown that about 25 percent of our residents don’t have health insurance.  So there’s been a tremendous need for a free clinic like this.”

How did the clinic get started? “One of our local doctors, Dr. Gary Williamson, is a member of our church — the First Christian Church Disciples of Christ,” Holt recalled. “Both of his kidneys failed and he had to have a kidney transplant. He had a tremendously successful recovery from the transplant, and he was so grateful that he wanted to do something to give back to the community.

“At a church meeting one night, Dr. Williamson told us about his vision for an all-volunteer medical clinic that would serve low-income families. I raised my hand immediately and said I wanted to help be a part of it. But it quickly became too big a project for our small church. We ended up recruiting a 12-member board of trustees comprised of leaders from throughout the community.”

Of course, there was paperwork to be completed. Holt filled out the forms so that the clinic could become incorporated and gain tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Then came the task of finding a suitable location.

“We’re located in what used to be a Hispanic mission church in Athens,” Holt explained. “The First Baptist Church in Athens built it for the Hispanic community about 25 years ago, but they outgrew it and moved to a new facility.

“Their old church was sitting empty so we got together with them and worked it out,” he recalled. “They still own the building and they’re letting the clinic use it rent-free, so it’s created a good working relationship. Actually, about three-fourths of our patients are Hispanic, so the building is still serving the Hispanic community in Athens.”

Layton Holt stands in front of the Disciples Clinic of Athens, located in what used to be a mission church building.

Many of the Hispanic patients at the clinic need interpreters to communicate with the doctors and nurses, and the Hispanic church provides volunteer interpreters for the clinic. “We simply couldn’t get along without them,” he said.

Holt said the old church building “had to be gutted and rebuilt with exam rooms, a waiting room, all the things you’d need in a clinic.”  Holt’s background at CSW was perfectly suited for the task.

Originally from Quanah, Texas, Holt began his CSW career working in the water lab at West Texas Utilities’ Lake Pauline Power Station in 1950. In 1960, he moved to WTU’s general office in Abilene, working in the Generation Department. In 1979, he moved to CSW headquarters in Dallas, where he held positions as facilities manager and manager of building projects.

“I drew up the plans for the remodeling and, with the exception of some plumbing, all the work was done by volunteers — even the electrician donated his time. We started in May of 2009 and finished in December. I probably worked about 60 to 70 hours a week while we were remodeling the building.”

Holt is particularly pleased that he was able to find some bargains when the clinic was being furnished. “We were able to buy two dentist chairs for about 15 cents on the dollar,” he remembered.

“We have some especially good programs going here at the clinic,” he noted. “Two of our local pharmacists fill prescriptions for our patients at a bargain rate. And we have negotiated agreements with local hospitals and laboratories for special rates on tests and lab work.”

What does the future hold for the Disciples Clinic? Holt said the trustees are considering hiring either a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant, which would enable the clinic to serve more patients.

“We don’t accept any government assistance, and we’re blessed that we’ve been funded by some generous donations, both from foundations and private individuals,” he explained.

“It took quite awhile for us to get the clinic from the idea stage to actual operation, but now that we’re finally seeing patients, treating their illnesses and helping them get back to good health, it gives us all a tremendous sense of satisfaction,” he said.

“All of our volunteers are really proud of the clinic — including me,” he concluded. “It’s only been in operation for just a few months, but it’s already made a positive impact in our community.”

(Editor’s note: for more information about the clinic, visit www.disciplesclinic.org.)

From → Retiree Profiles

2 Comments
  1. marfielder permalink

    What a wonderful addition to Athens. Great job, Mr. Holt and Mr. Williamson. I have visited the clinic and it is a fantastic ministry. Thank you for all you do for the people of Athens. What a wonderful healthcare option. We need more people like you. Marianna Holt Fielder

  2. mpair permalink

    I am so proud to be Layton Holt’s daughter! He is an amazing father and more importantly, an amazing Christian. I hope CSW encourages all of their retirees to make a difference in the world just as he has done.

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