Equity, Health Literacy, Insurance, Policy Consortium
March 2023 Volunteer Spotlight: Dorothy Baker
We are thrilled to spotlight Dorothy Baker this month and celebrate her advocacy throughout the years.
Ms. Dorothy Baker has been an NPAF volunteer for nearly 15 years, joining when President Obama was first elected president in 2008. Born and raised an advocate in the rural south, she has spent her life fighting for social justice. We are thrilled to share her inspiring advocacy story here and spotlight her this month, which also happens to coincide with her birthday!
Describe the advocacy work that you’re doing in your community and what motivated you to start?
I have always been involved in some form of advocacy since I was a student during the civil rights movement in the ’60s. I was a former Civil Rights Foot Soldier. I graduated from Tuskegee University with a degree in sociology and psychology and then received my Master of Social Work from Portland State University. I spent much of my career supporting people with mental health diagnoses and people who have been impacted by substance abuse because that has historically been a problem in my rural town. In 2000, I was accepted as a clinical fellow of addiction studies at Harvard University – a dream come true for me, and it was a journey to get there!
I chose to volunteer for NPAF to connect, network, and collaborate with a national health advocacy organization to collectively work as a team to improve healthcare needs and national policies for all Americans. I also volunteer to enhance the quality of healthcare for citizens residing in rural America who are often uncared for. I volunteer to share my clinical skills and training as a clinical social worker, and to lobby to address social change and healthcare at a national level. I volunteer to represent and give voice to underserved populations and the economically poor who are victims of health disparities and to provide a cultural awareness of their lived experiences including African Americans, Native Americans, and other underserved ethnic groups in America. I volunteer because God has blessed me as a social worker to provide services to people with healthcare needs. I feel obligated to give back and serve with a national group to enhance the quality of life for everybody.
I’ve been with NPAF for over 15 years now and started when President Obama became president and I advocated for the passage of the Affordable Care Act. My volunteer advocacy inspired me to run for local office and I was elected in 2016. I was the second Black woman elected in my city council. I’m no longer on city council, but I still have big dreams for my community. I want something in the rural south that can serve as a demonstration. I have a building that my parents left for me that was a cafe in the 1940s called The Honey Dripper. It was later transformed into a club that became the primary place for entertainment, socializing, and releasing stress. It ultimately served as community center for the black community during the civil rights era because it brought people together to learn, exchange ideas, and help one another. I want to establish this building as an African American Health Resource Center to bring the black community together again, but this time to help them navigate healthcare resources, like finding a doctor or getting a good healthy meal. Right now, I’m in the middle of planning a vigil for people who have been impacted by cancer. It will be a fish fry where we’ll raise money for transportation to help patients get to their appointments, provide education, and a healing circle to bring people together.
What advice would you give to volunteers who would like to do something similar?
I believe the more you give, the more the universe will give back to you.
Since you’ve been a volunteer with NPAF, what are some of the things you are most proud of?
Ever since I was a child, I’ve dreamed of coming to lobby Congress and share my story. Joining NPAF made that dream come true for me.