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Steering people toward health is his calling

  • Updated
Steering people toward health is his calling

Lee Moultrie has been nominated for a Jefferson Award for his involvement with numerous volunteer efforts to promote healthy lifestyles, particularly in the black community.

Don't be offended if Lee Moultrie walks up to you on the street and tells you to shape up.

He's passionate about promoting healthy living and connecting people with public and private resources that can help them fight disease and raise their awareness of risk factors. So what if you happen to be a complete stranger.

Moultrie once approached a woman who was smoking in her car with young children sitting in the back. He told her she was not only harming herself but the children, too.

"You have to confront people. I have to care enough to tell you the truth," said Moultrie, 51, who grew up in North Charleston's Accabee community. "I try to make it a pleasant exchange and not be dogmatic about it. My job is just to plant the seed."

Friends and colleagues say Moultrie's concern for humanity is genuine and that comes across in the way he interacts with people.

Moultrie is involved in so many volunteer efforts and knows so many people that he always has a place to turn to help someone in need, said his friend Flash Kinloch. "He's very concerned with breaking down walls and helping people navigate the health system. He's a humanitarian. He just wants to see people live the best life they can."

Moultrie first became interested in health issues several years ago while sitting in a barber shop. He noticed some brochures about prostate cancer and how black men are at particularly high risk for the disease. That struck a chord with Moultrie, and before he knew it he had signed up to pass out those same brochures and was encouraging black men to undergo screening.

He soon joined other causes: anti-smoking, diabetes awareness and

domestic violence prevention, to name a few.

He tries to go where he might be of some use. Looking to reach victims of domestic abuse, he once went to a night club where the owner allowed him to hang posters in the bathrooms and distribute pamphlets telling battered women where to call for help.

On a trip to Atlanta, Moultrie struck up a conversation with an airport shuttle driver whose husband, a veteran, was sick and having trouble tapping health care resources. Moultrie asked the stranger some questions and then made some calls. "It blew her mind" when he caught back up with her and said, "here, call these people. They will help you."

The list of organizations with which Moultrie is associated is always growing. He works with the Noisette Foundation's prison re-entry program. He's chairman of the 100 Black Men of Charleston and chairman of an improvement council at North Charleston High School. He also serves in various capacities with the Trident United Way.

It's in Moultrie's nature to organize. Before retiring from the Air Force in 1994, he spent 10 years coordinating thousands of troops and tons of equipment, including during a deployment for Desert Storm.

Even Moultrie's professional job is aimed at helping people. As a community outreach coordinator at the Medical University of South Carolina, Moultrie is employed to help people. Only, he stays at it long after he's clocked out for the day.

Just last week, after putting in a full day at the office, Moultrie headed to a church to help coordinate a prostate cancer support group sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Moultrie also works with Charleston police to mentor children at Fraser Elementary School, exposing them to activities ranging from yoga and tennis to swimming and boating.

A while back, Moultrie got so caught up helping other people he was neglecting his own health. After a couple of friends commented that he had put on some weight, he had an "ah-hah moment" and decided he better practice what he was preaching. He now follows a strict exercise and eating regimen.

"I feel better about my body. It can be done," he said.

He also said he'd never be able to do so much without the support of others. "All that I do or attempt to accomplish is made possible through the sacrifices of my family, friends and associates, especially my loving wife Mabel."

Carrie Whipper, a health coordinator with Palmetto Project, said Moultrie's gift is his ability to connect with people. She first met him through efforts to educate people about the dangers of secondhand cigarette smoke, and more recently, worked with him to promote stroke awareness.

Moultrie doesn't simply pad his civic and volunteer resume with board and committee memberships. He takes an active role in every endeavor, shows up at every meeting and never shies away from taking the reins on a new project, Whipper said. "He keeps adding to his collection, and I don't know that he has dumped his sack out at any time over the years."

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