In honor of Women’s History Month, Regina Holliday, our Unsung Hero for March, is an ideal candidate: a woman that embodies the focus, energy, and creativity that it takes to transform a community.
Regina possesses a long list of unique credentials: art teacher, artist, muralist, patient rights arts advocate, founder of the Walking Gallery and the Medical Advocacy Mural Project.
Regina has certainly earned the respect as a arts patients rights advocate amongst her peers who work and speak on the issue and pay attention to the vital work she does. All too often, this work goes unnoticed and can fade into the background without the efforts of Regina and fellow advocates and artists who create and educate us. She is an unsung hero to so many of us living in and around our community who have yet to find themselves in a difficult medical situation or in the world of healthcare and where the issue of patients’ rights to their own medical records is discussed. We hope to bring some attention to her compassionate and needed work that impacts so many of us and the ones we love.
The genesis of Regina’s advocacy began after a personal tragedy she suffered over 12 years ago.
After months of being on pain medication, and without knowing what the cause of his pain was, Regina’s late husband Fred Holliday, II, lost his battle with kidney cancer on June 17, 2009.
Regina became an advocate for the right of all patients’ to have access to their medical data following the tragedy of Fred’s death.
The journey she and Fred shared is described this way on her Wikipedia page: “During his final hospitalization, Holliday asked to see her husband’s medical records, so that she could do online research of his condition and care, and so that they could make informed decisions together. At the first of five hospitals he was admitted to during this medical ordeal, on April 18, 2009, she was told that copies of his records would cost $.73 per page and would be available after a 21-day wait. That would have been May 9, 2009. Fred Holliday II died at home on June 17, 2009.
In Holliday’s words, her husband’s final message inspired her advocacy: “He’s got a paper in his hand. It says: ‘Go After Them Regina, Love Fred.’”
Soon after Fred’s death, in August of 2009 Regina took to her blog and wrote, “I am painting because it is the best way I know that can make a difference. I will paint our sorrow on a wall for all to see. It is hard to look away. It makes you think. It makes you question. The scariest thing to the status quo is an electorate that is thinking and asking questions. I am as grassroots as it comes. There is just me on a 20-foot ladder donated by my church. I am using paintbrushes I have had for 17 years. I am applying acrylic paint (paid for by donations of friends and strangers) on a wall donated by a gas station.”
Friends from her community shared their thoughts on Regina and her work.
Grantville Town Council member Emily Edwards says, “Regina embodies tireless optimism and energy. She does so much to better our community and is one of those people who doesn’t just talk about making a difference, but actually puts the work in.”
Regina was nominiated as an unsung hero by Jan Russell, owner of The Cornucopia Restaurant in Grantsville. She says, “Regina Holliday is the epitome of a volunteer. As a single mother (widow) I don’t know how she has the energy she does to be involved in so many volunteer efforts. She is energetic, enthusiastic, and optimistic and never says no. She deserves recognition for all she does !”
Patty Wells, owner of Animal Crackers Pet Grooming stated, “Regina is simply a dear soul. An amazing woman!!! Have you read her book? If not, it’s a must. She fights for us all!”
Regina in her own words…
Is there someone you consider to be a local unsung hero? Who is that and why?
“Christopher Elliott. He lives in Grantsville. He has volunteered in so many aspects of the community, and I don’t think many people are aware of it. He has coached for years in basketball and baseball. He was a Cub Scout den leader, and he was the Cub Scout cubmaster for several years. He worked on a shoe drive to make sure that low-income children had shoes. He volunteered at the thrift shop for many years. He has been a dedicated member of the PTO in Grantsville Public Schools. He often volunteers to be Santa at local events. I’m sure there’s even more that I’m not aware of.”
Do you have any advice to share for someone who would like to do more in their daily lives for their community? Advice on ways you make time for charity and causes to benefit the community?
“I would encourage people to find balance within their lives. I don’t volunteer as much as I used to, in part because I’m focusing more on the mission of churches where I serve, but also because it’s important to value time with our families and time to rest and relax. Volunteering should be a part of our lives, and it is important to make time for it, but just like anything else it shouldn’t take over our lives. Also, remember formal volunteering, working with an organization, is only one way of helping in the community. Helping people on an individual basis pick up groceries or medications or driving them to an appointment is a type of volunteering. Be open to the many ways that you can serve.”
Do you have a role model? Or role models? If so, who and why?
“I just posted this on FB the other day. One of the questions on my endorsement essay was about reflecting on a mentor. I thought it was important to share this with my Lutheran synod, the person I wrote about, and with all of us who love her.
I have known many mentors in my life. Some were there for a season or two and taught me a lesson of how to live with others. The longest mentorship I ever had started many years ago. When I was in 9th grade, I took a speech class that led me out of the bully-infested halls of the junior high and into the relative freedom of high school. My teacher’s name is Jeanne Scott. She encouraged me to enroll in speech and debate in 10th grade. Her classroom was always open to students. We were allowed to use her file cabinets as our lockers. We ate our lunches in her room, not in the cafeteria. We would be in and out of her classroom all day and into the late evening hours as we practiced our debates and speeches. We had a safe place to call our own. She taught me so many important things. She introduced me to fellow students until they ceased to be acting partners and became friends. She taught me how to present myself well. She helped pay for my performance clothes when she realized I could not afford to buy them. She did that with grace and respect. That would show me how to do the same for others in the years to come. She taught me the importance of teamwork. Everyone was valuable and we all had different roles to play. She held all of us broken damaged children in her arms and coached us to fly away. When the winds of life broke our wings, she would welcome us back and help us to heal and fly another day. She has always been there for me and has never stopped teaching me. When I began this call process, I had to get a recommendation from a teacher. She wrote that recommendation. When I had to find a place willing to accept me into a CPE unit, again I needed a letter of recommendation and again Jeanne delivered. I hope that I can serve in a church that feels as open and loving as her classroom was for me and so many people for so many years.”
What groups or organizations or causes do you think need more attentionin our community?
“We desperately need an emergency homeless shelter in Northern Garrett County. We also need a transitional homeless shelter in Northern Garrett County. The folks in our community do their best to help, but we only have stopgap measures, and it would be wonderful if there were some more formal way of helping people get back on their feet. The church I used to attend in Washington, DC, had an in-house transitional homeless shelter, and it is my hope that in the years to come one of the churches in our community could step up and fill this need. We could also use a shower ministry as access to free showers would help so many. A laundry ministry would be very helpful as many who live here cannot afford to wash their clothes. Back when I used to manage the Highland thrift shop we had bag sales, and quite often people told me it was cheaper to buy an entire bag of clothes than to wash the ones they had.”
We say thank you to Regina and all of our unsung heroes! Please reach out to us and nominate those you see as an unsung hero in our community by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Michael R. Fratz, Collen DuBose