In the winter of 1982, four friends got together to talk about the need for a health clinic in the mountain country east of the city of Redding, California: Lynn Dorroh, Joe Stenger, Kathleen Hardie, and her brother Richard Hardie. Joe was graduating from his residency program in Family Practice from the U.C. Davis residency program, and he was willing to help establish a small health clinic in this remote rural area. Several small towns comprised the service area, including Round Mountain, Montgomery Creek, Oak Run, and Big Bend. Lynn lived in Big Bend, while Joe, Kathleen, and Richard lived west of Redding. The most convenient location, and the closest to Redding, was Round Mountain, and a local resident generously offered to donate two acres.
Once the decision was made to go ahead and the land was secured, they obtained nonprofit status and sent out a number of grant applications. The Irvine Foundation in San Francisco gave Hill Country seed money, which bought a double wide for the building. The clinic held countless ravioli dinners to raise funds, received donated labor to get the building finished and finalized, and was given donated medical equipment from a doctor in Redding who was retiring. Inspired by a Jerry Jeff Walker song, “High Hill Country Rain,” the clinic was named “Hill Country Community Clinic.”
When Hill Country opened our doors in 1985, we had on staff a doctor, a nurse practitioner, an R.N., and three other employees who worked in various capacities in administration, reception, accounting, and medical assisting. The clinic had three exam rooms, one of which served as the emergency room. At first, everyone worked for free, including Joe. The first check received was from MediCal for twenty-three cents. But within a few months, the clinic was able to start paying everyone five dollars an hour.