News From Terre Haute, Indiana


May 9, 2010

Environmental activist ready to start new chapter in life

CENTER POINT — One would think that being a nationally and internationally recognized environmentalist, testifying before Congress, appearing on well-known national TV shows and rating Wall Street Journal front-page coverage would be enough accomplishments for one lifetime.

But at age 53, Center Point resident Terri Moore, the former president and co-founder of HOPE (Hoosiers Opposing Pollution of the Environment), is beginning life all over again, serving in a brand new way.

Friday night, she received her nursing pin after completing a four-year degree as a non-traditional student.

Moore battled for her hometown and the environment during the late 1980s and early ’90s by heading up opposition to out-of-state waste and medical waste, mainly from the East Coast, being hauled into a landfill in her little hometown and elsewhere in the state of Indiana. She brought national attention to what was happening and lobbied for laws enacted to stop “backhauling” — the practice of semi drivers bringing out-of-state waste to Indiana and taking back produce like strawberries and hanging sides of beef without even being required by law to wash the trailers.

She and other HOPE members for months monitored and documented thousands of semi trucks and trailers bringing in East Coast garbage and dumping it in the landfill near their homes. But the landfill finally closed, laws were passed to protect the environment, and life had become somewhat settled for Moore.

No more was she flying off at a moment’s notice to New York to be on the “Donahue” show or being interviewed by Stone Phillips or watching herself on “Now” with Tom Brokow and Katie Couric. No more was she being featured on the PBS “MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour” out of New York, where the story in which she and HOPE were featured, called “Backhauling,” won a Peabody Award. No more attending award ceremonies at Princeton University for the National Governors Association, whose members selected her to receive the award for Distinguished Service to State Government.

Her tapes of her appearances on NBC’s primetime “I-Witness Video” news show and the Lifetime Network show, “Attitudes,” all are tucked away. No more appearances on Swedish and German environmental television shows.

Her copies of “The Ladies Home Journal” that featured her as an “American Hero of the Year” have been gathering dust along with the books in which she was featured, including “Eternal Vigilance, Nine Tales of Environmental Heroism in Indiana” by Steven Higgs, and “How to Organize a Successful Campaign for Change” by best-selling author Dian Maceachern.

Her 10 years of sitting on Indiana’s National Resource Commission, to which she had been appointed by then-Gov. Evan Bayh and reappointed by the late Gov. Frank O’Bannon, had long ago ended.

Moore’s children, who at ages 5 and 7 appeared on the front page of the Tribune-Star dressed for winter weather and holding up protest signs against out-of-state waste during a demonstration at what became known as “Dump Patrol Corner,” had grown and left home for lives of their own.

Yes, life had settled into somewhat of a normalcy for Moore as the years  passed. And then, the economic downtown hit hard and left a “tornado-like trail” across the country of battered dreams and hopes for many small business owners. The Moore family company was one of those. Started by Moore’s father-in-law in the 1950s, Terri and her husband, John, had taken the helm in 1994 when John’s dad retired. But their time at the helm would be bittersweet, being right in the path of that economic storm. Pressures from the recession soon made the sale of the family business inevitable.

John continued to work with the company that purchased the business. After all, it was his lifeblood. But Terri’s heart lay elsewhere. Entering the “golden years,” many would just hang up the towel and sit back to enjoy life, but Terri saw opportunity — not just an opportunity for herself, but an opportunity for her to once again serve others and make a difference. She had begun volunteering at St. Ann’s Clinic, a free medical clinic for those at or below the poverty level, in Terre Haute. “Working there was an epiphany,” she said. “I remember going home and telling John, ‘I’ve found where I fit in.’” She wanted to finish what she had begun in 1979 when she received a technical certificate to become a lab technician. She wanted to attain a degree in nursing.

She entered college as a non-traditional student and, in typical Moore fashion, truly embraced the learning experience. She was inducted into Sigma Theta Tau, the international nursing honor society, was elected as secretary and president of the student nursing association, and between her junior and senior year was selected from among more than 50 candidates for a Valor Student Nurse internship, which she served at Rouderbush V.A. Medical Center in Indianapolis.

“This was an especially important honor and privilege to serve those who have served us,” she said. “You could not be a nurse at that facility and not feel that honor. There are really no words to describe it.”

It was that internship that “made” her a nurse, Moore said. Unlike most internships that require 100-200 hours, the V.A. internship was 400 hours. Moore said it was served under one of her best mentors throughout her education. Jasmine Worsham, who is currently charge nurse for a medical surgical floor at Rouderbush, was Moore’s preceptor during that time, allowing Moore to practice under Worham’s license.

“I had all the right tools and all preceptors I had were wonderful, but day after day, serving as a nurse with an incredible nurse like Jasmine is really what made me a nurse,” Moore said.

Worsham was on hand Friday night to pin Moore during the student-sponsored Baccalaureate Nursing Pinning Ceremony at Indiana State University. The Pinning Ceremony is a time-honored rite of passage representing the transition from student to professional and a symbolic welcome into the profession. Moore said it is an extremely important and emotional time for those who have poured themselves into the study of nursing and who hope to give life-long service to the care and well-being of others.

The nursing pin is a 1,000-year-old symbol of service to others that dates back to the Maltese cross. The most recent ancestor of the pin is the hospital badge of 100 years ago. It was given by the hospital school of nursing to the students to identify them as nurses who were educated to serve the health needs of society.

In a couple of weeks, Moore will begin working at a local hospital and is excited to start her nursing career. And even though she says she is taking “baby steps” back into public service, she already has been accepted into Indiana State’s Master’s in Nursing Administration Program, which could very well lead to future lobbying positions. But for now, Moore is immersed in this new life of hers, bringing to bare her dedication, determination and drive to make the world a better place.

“There are a number of things I would love to see changed to serve our veterans better,” she said. “And I would love to lobby for needs of places like St. Ann’s, who serve so many people. But, right now, I’m looking to make a difference one patient at a time. One of the things I learned about being a nurse is that you are entrusted with patients at the most vulnerable time of their lives. It is a privilege to have that opportunity to help them, and I respect that opportunity.”

Marjorie Hopkins is a freelance writer and contributor to the Tribune-Star.

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    March 12, 2010

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