Born into a life as a healer, Charlotte White is a true Charity Angel and has been a gift to people too numerous to count. She has been a volunteer at Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) for quite a long time but as you will see, she offers much more than that.
PINK: Tell us about things that have affected your life, values and faith.
Charlotte: I am an American who grew up in the Congo in Africa, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries. We lived in a remote area where Dad, a physician, and Mom, an educator, worked and raised a family of six children. Every child thinks life is normal where he or she grows up. Thus, I thought it was normal to quickly adjust to different cultural perspectives and switch languages between English, Tshiluba and French, based on who I was playing or interacting with— Congolese, Belgians, or other Americans. We also experienced times of war, violence and fear. My mother operated a food program out of our kitchen during several periods of severe famine. The life work and Christian dedication of my parents shaped my belief that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
When I came to the U.S. to attend college, I was exhilarated and awed by America, although I was also deeply home sick. I graduated nursing school from Emory University in Atlanta. Soon afterward, I met and married my husband, Steve, who had just graduated from medical school. We settled in South Georgia, where we both worked for many years and raised our son.
I loved living in rural Georgia and helped start various health programs there. In my book, it is not remote and lots of good people live there. Our son turned out to be very bright and we were able to give him a good education. He studied philosophy, languages, religion and theology and became a Catholic priest. My husband is Jewish and I am Protestant. Our son is a Catholic priest, teaching in a seminary in Washington, D.C. Did I say I learned early to live with diversity?
PINK: When did you come to Hilton Head?
Charlotte: We retired to Hilton Head when we were in our early 50s. We looked to create a new life here. I turned to serve as a nurse, since that was not only my former career, but also where I felt my call and where my heart was still involved. I learned about Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) and began to work there in 2000 as a family nurse practitioner.
PINK: What motivates you to do what you do at VIM?
Charlotte: The cooperation and good will at VIM is amazing—it is full of good people. The patients, staff, volunteers and students make it like a tight-knit neighborhood. Patients generally come in with real health needs, and there is an atmosphere of mutual respect. As a nurse practitioner, I am mentally challenged and blessed with numerous rewarding patient interactions. There is a small paid staff and they are the jewels who hold together 600 or so volunteers. Many students work in training, and we teach them and see their enthusiasm and perspicacity as they enter the profession. The atmosphere of collegiality keeps us all going. I find it a privilege to serve our patients, one at a time.
PINK: What is a typical day for you at VIM?
Charlotte: I work one morning a week as a primary care provider. On other days, I work in the high blood pressure clinic. I have worked with people with high blood pressure for many years, but these same people are often facing other health issues, such as high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity. I try to help with lifestyle alterations in areas of eating, exercising, handling stress or addictions, such as smoking. Then I get in the car and drive home, wondering why I’m driving instead of walking.
I could go on and on about Charlotte White, but I am sure you can picture in your hearts as the kind of Charity Angel who has graced not only Hilton Head Island and VIM, but many other ministries and organizations across the world.