Community hero: Rapha Ministries volunteer McNiel earns award

A retired computer project manager and longtime volunteer for Rapha Ministries, Wayne McNiel, has been honored as a Community Hero by WellCare of Kentucky.

McNiel, 70, is one of eight individuals who received the Medicaid managed care company’s WeCare Awards for each of its regions.

His trophy is a metal sculpture, and Rapha Ministries was awarded a check for $3,000.

In her application, Sherry Mohr, executive director of the free primary care clinic for Clark County’s uninsured, described McNiel as “our most faithful and irreplaceable volunteer,” and “a gentle soul with a father’s heart for taking care of others and a lifetime of service to prove it.”

She said McNiel volunteers at the clinic every Monday and during special events, serves on the board of directors and volunteers in many other ways, including serving as a beta tester for a new software program and collecting Christmas presents for the children of patients who might otherwise go without.

Besides volunteering for the medical clinic, McNiel is also an elder and teacher of his church, serves as secretary for the Winchester-Clark County Association of Churches and supports Upward Basketball, which involves nearly 1,000 local kids.

As a father of five children, including one who is adopted, he has been a leader in foster care.

He has also been a 4-H leader, and was inducted into the Clark County 4-H Hall of Fame for his 25 years of service in the youth program.

“His life has been about serving those around him with gifted hands and an enormous heart,” Mohr said.

In a phone conversation, McNiel said he was pleasantly surprised by the honor.

He said Mohr called his wife, Linda or “Andy,” to help with the application, but he didn’t know anything about it.

He chuckled as he said Mohr may have been profuse in her praise.

The award was supposed to have been presented at a banquet in March, but then the coronavirus pandemic canceled the event, and it was finally presented during an online ceremony in late October that included the governor of Kentucky.

He was one of about 200 people who were nominated.

“Listening to some of the other folks who were recipients, I was very humbled” to be counted among them, he said, and he thought it was “pretty impressive” to be congratulated by Gov. Andy Beshear. “It was like, ‘Why me?’ … It was quite an honor.”

It’s not just a recognition for him, McNiel said, but also for Rapha.

“This is a challenging year for nonprofits because of COVID. A lot of people are not working, and churches’ donations are down,” so the grant from WellCare is needed and welcome, he said.

McNiel said that when he began as a volunteer for Rapha several years ago, he told the executive director and co-founder that over time he would expand his role and do more than he was asked to do. He said he is basically an administrative assistant and has learned quite a bit about how the front office of a medical clinic operates.

He answers the phone, receives patients, schedules appointments, processes information and “whatever needs to be done.”

“One time I even washed the front windows,” he said.

Rapha Ministries Inc., at 137 N. Main St., Winchester, offers medical, pharmaceutical, laboratory and radiology services to adults and children in Clark County who are uninsured, receive no governmental medical assistance and lack financial resources.

Dr. Scott Baker and his wife, Stacy, who had served on medical mission teams in Haiti and Papua New Guinea, started the faith-based clinic for the indigent and uninsured in a former pool hall in 2006. Its mission is not only to care for people’s physical needs, but their emotional and spiritual needs as well.