Trio provides healthcare to migrant workers

THANKS to our 2008 sponsors:

Oswego County Business



2008 Healthcare Hero
Honorable Mention
Harold Wellington Dunton, DDS
Sister Jeanne F. Karp, FNP
Laura Hamilton, MD

Volunteer Work

This trio volunteers to provide free medical services to people in need at an outreach clinic in Richland held Wednesday evenings. The program is administered through Rural and Migrant Ministries of Oswego County.

Ten years ago, Karp was one of three nuns from different communities who started the Rural and Migrant Ministries of Oswego County. Residing as a Sister of St. Francis at Alberna Heights in Fayetteville, Karp is the only nun of the original three who remains at the ministry. "It really is all about the ministry," Karp said. "The focus has always been on social services, education, and health."

Karp's background is what led her to the development of the ministry. "As dairy farmers, my family was part of the working poor class, so I know what it is like to not have the availability of social structure," Karp said. For the last couple of years, the ministry has been run by volunteers, donations, and by grants. It provides a free medical clinic for people who are uninsured. "Without the help of the other people in the ministry, including a number of nurses, I couldn't be doing what I'm doing," Karp said.

The ministry works in collaboration with Oswego Hospital and Catholic Charities. Hamilton is another servant to the ministry. Hamilton has been volunteering her time and services to the ministry over the last few years. A single mother with a private practice, she shares in the medical work at the outreach clinic with Karp. "She's tiny, but she's a warrior," said Selena Belser, vice president of the board of directors at the ministry. "She brings medicine from her own practice. She's a good doctor. She's loyal, very caring, and business like."

"I provide care for people who cannot get care otherwise," Hamilton said from her offices at New Concept Medical Care in Brewerton. "These are people who are uninsured." Her challenge is trying to get adequate care for patients who have limited financial capabilities to pay for healthcare services. What motivates her to donate time to the outreach clinic in Richland? "It's the right thing to do," she said.

Karp, although she alternates weeks with Hamilton, has her hands full. As director of vocations for the Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order of Syracuse, she travels around the country for recruiting. "She has a big heart and a lot of energy," Belser said. "She's easy to talk to and she wears her faith in everything she does."

Even while working a full time job, Karp has remained with the ministry. "Healthcare is my first love and working in the ministry is my privilege," Karp said. "Hamilton and Karp care about what they do," Belser said.

Meanwhile, it's the old-fashioned way or no way at all for Dunton. "To have been welcomed back to my home town as a local country boy, and as a practicing dentist, was an accomplishment," Dunton said. After finishing his dental internship at EJ Meyer Hospital in Buffalo, Dunton returned home to begin his practice. "Internships are now practically law in order to get your license, but in my days it was only seen as a good idea," Dunton said. "Unless your father was a dentist and could tell you what to do, but my father was a farmer."

Dunton has practiced a full range of general dentistry for over 40 years. For the past 20 of those years, he has been working at the Smile Factory, Inc. where his daughter, Christine Sperati, works as a receptionist. "When I first started out, I was the only one comfortable working with children," Dunton said. "I was also saving the elderly from traveling unnecessarily to the cities."

A trustee for the Pulaski Public Library and a Sunday school teacher at Park United Methodist Church, Dunton is also a volunteer for the Rural and Migrant Ministries of Oswego County. "I haven't done a lot for the ministry, but I've been available for it," Dunton said.