Wood's nonprofit career offers rewards

January 30, 1998


Staff Writer

HANCOCK - Bill Wood could have used his master's degree in business to climb the corporate ladder. Instead, he chose to serve his community.

For most of his 30-year career, Wood has managed nonprofit organizations.

"It's just what I've always been interested in," he said.

These days, Wood, 49, is director of Tri-State Community Health Center.

The center saw 6,000 patients last year, about one-quarter of whom had no health insurance. In a community with few doctors, the center fills an important void.

Wood spends his days making sure the staff of 25 has the tools needed to do a good job.

They recently set up a computer work station that is dedicated to medical research. The Internet helps the rural center stay in touch with medical trends.


It is Wood's job to keep on top of the latest trends in medical management and deal with the government agency that gives the center about $450,000 a year, or more than half of its income.

Right now, the grant is changing its rules and Wood is trying to make sure the center survives the income loss.

"We've gotten better as a business so those who do need help get it and people who can afford it pay," he said.

Wood also reports to the center's board of directors, giving board members the information they need to set policy.

He's the complaint department when patients have problems with their care.

The center provides services above and beyond a private practice.

There's a handicapped-accessible van that brings patients to the center who can't get there on their own.

There's also someone on staff who helps people apply for medical assistance.

Wood himself enjoys living the rural life, even though he grew up in St. Louis and lived for seven years in Washington, D.C., while working for the Government Accounting Office.

About 20 years ago, Wood and his wife, Elsa Vorwerk, decided to ditch their city life and never had any regrets.

"It's the whole idea of the freedom you have and not having to live in constant fear of your safety," he said. "It opened our eyes to our natural surroundings - wildlife, trees, gardening."

They built a house in rural Hampshire County, W.Va., a 45-minute drive to the nearest grocery store.

"We've always had four-wheel drives and we've always been prepared to walk the last mile if we had to," he said.

They made their living as hand weavers, traveling to craft shows and selling their goods to stores in the city.

"I began to realize that's not where my natural talents lay," he said.

Wood became a licensed social worker at the Children's Home Society of West Virginia.

Then, he became director of the Commission on Aging of Morgan County, a post he held for 10 years.

About two years ago, the job at the health center opened up and Wood recognized that such an opportunity might not come along for another 10 years.

He had served on the board of directors for the center in 1992 and had served as a volunteer rescue worker in Paw Paw, W.Va.

In his spare time, he is working on building a second house, which is nearly finished, near Cumberland, Md.

It is still rural, but it's only about 10 minutes to the nearest grocery store.

The Herald-Mail Articles