An eastern Kentucky woman is using her personal tragedy as inspiration for a project that will help thousands of eastern Kentuckians.
Linda Gayheart grew up in Knott County then went to the University of Kentucky for undergraduate and graduate school.
While she enjoyed meeting new people and learning to live in a new place she knew that her home would always be in eastern Kentucky.
“I majored in social work and I felt that that was a field that would enable me to come back home and do things that would improve the lives of other people,” Gayheart said.
Improving others lives is something she has done in several ways.
She first worked as a social worker before moving into community development.
Then in 1999 she became Coordinator of Leadership East Kentucky.
“I think there are many outstanding leaders in east Kentucky and I'm fortunate to have friendship with many of them through my work, through my church and in other ways and that is so important to me,” Gayheart said.
She is now giving many people in this area the same opportunities to network and learn new leadership skills they will be able to take into their own communities.
In December of 2006 Linda fell on her way downstairs from her office setting her life on a new course.
That fall led to a two month stay in the hospital and the realization that trauma centers are needed closer to home.
“One of the trauma care doctors at UK said to me one day your life is never the same after a trauma. Well I came back home and my health was fully restored and I kept thinking about what he said at the same time being a Christian I thought what am I supposed to make of this there must be something more,” Gayheart said.
That's when she got involved with the trauma care system bill that was approved by the general assembly and it's something she is very proud of.
In addition to the jobs that Linda has held she is also a very active member of the Hindman United Methodist Church, has been married to her husband Cordell for more than forty years, is mother to one daughter and grandmother to two granddaughters.
“I had a pastor in the Methodist church one day ask a group of us where is heaven on earth to you and one lady said with my grandchildren and at that time I didn't have grandchildren and I couldn't quite understand that. Now that I do I have to agree with her,” Gayheart said.
Linda says she is living a very blessed life with many friends, a very supportive husband and because of the bill that just passed. She has the hope of a trauma center in this area in the future.
The 2008 East Kentucky Leadership Tony Turner award goes to Linda Gayheart.