Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Christians with the Heart of a Servant - M. D. McCue

M. D. McCue
of Comfort Keepers

Kingsport, TN

There are times when God works in very obvious ways and M.D. was one of those ways. I first met M.D. McCue three years ago when a good friend called me and told me she knew someone who was hiring. I had served as an Administrative Assistant to the Vice President of Sales at a local manufacturing company and when the company was sold, our plant was closed. I left my job behind and began the tedious task of job hunting. Our family had specific needs at the time and there was nothing more to do except ask God to provide.

I still believe the year I spent job hunting was one way that God worked to groom me. During that year, I kicked up the writing a notch or two and really began to study the craft, make connections and begin Mountain Breeze. However, though I was searching for a job on a weekly basis, the unemployment funds eventually came to a halt. Fear set in as my husband and I began to step out on faith. Three weeks after my unemployment ran out, M.D. came into the picture.

The owner of a local
Comfort Keepers , M.D. seemed to be the answer to our prayers. I interviewed with him and his wife El, and before I knew it, not only had we become wonderful friends, but co-workers as well.

In all my years of working outside the home, I have never met a man more honorable and Christ-like than M. D. His work with Comfort Keepers is not only his source of income, but it is his ministry as well. Please take a few minutes to meet Comfort Keeper, M. D. McCue and see his Heart of a Servant.

Tell us what Comfort Keepers is and what prompted you to purchase a franchise

Comfort Keepers is a non medical in-home care service. When families need help with the care of an aging parent, or any loved one, we try to be an extension of the family by providing most of the household services needed to help them remain in the comfort of their own homes as long as possible. Our services include companionship, meal preparation, light housekeeping, errand services, grocery shopping, medication reminders, grooming and dressing guidance, transportation, and personal care services.

Many years ago my family had to deal with the issue of trying to help mom stay in her home rather than going to the “dreaded nursing home.” She just needed a little help to stay at home. With our own family obligations at that time, we were not always available to help out. We tried hiring private caregivers and soon found out that for us, it was not working out. First, there was the issue of dependability. Sometimes they would show up and often they would not. Next, there were credibility issues. The elderly folks are often very vulnerable and easily taken advantage of. Finally, we found that some of the caregivers just did not have the patience to deal with the elderly. If a solution such as Comfort Keepers had been available back then, mom could have had several more years of independence by staying in her our home. In fact, it may have added more “quality years” to her life.

Since Comfort Keepers provides caregivers primarily to the elderly, how did you see this as a personal ministry?

Having dealt with the challenges of caring for our own aging parents, my wife and
I have a heart for this business. When we get a call from a family member inquiring about our services, we find that most are at a loss for how to start the process of finding a workable solution for the care of their loved ones. The main choices are family, independent caregivers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or private agencies such as Comfort Keepers. During this time many families must deal with mixed emotions such as guilt, anger, and frustration. This is where we have a great opportunity to help the family make the best choices and understand all of their options. Our desire is that we will reflect Christ during the entire process.

You have said that you and Elvera place a lot of prayer into the running of your business. How has this affected your Comfort Keepers franchise?

From the first day Elvera and I considered getting into the home care business; we knew that unless it was God’s Will for us to buy this franchise we would not do it. We pray on a daily basis to seek His direction for this ministry. We employ about sixty people and have served several hundred clients in the five years that we have been in business. We have employees and clients from all walks of life and they all have one thing in common….God loves each of them and they all need Christ. We have continued to pray and God has continued to bless Comfort Keepers. I’d say we are on to something.

What would you say is the most important aspect you'd like your Comfort Keepers franchise to portray?

“We Care” We care about our employees and our clients. We feel that we can be a witness for Christ not just by what we say or do but also how we operate this business.

Tell me one of your most rewarding moments with Comfort Keepers.

Comfort Keepers consist of over 550 franchises throughout the
United States and overseas. We are divided up into eight regions. Every year each franchise is allowed to nominate one caregiver for the “Caregiver of the Year” award. This means they are considered the best of the best. This year our caregiver Louise Kersey was chosen as the regional winner for the Southeast and will now compete as one of the eight finalists for this prestigious award. We know that we have some great employees but to be recognized by one of the top leaders in our industry is quiet an honor.

How do you feel God has blessed your business?

Since starting this business five years ago, we have dealt with all of the normal challenges that any new startup business must go through. God has provided every need that we have encountered. Not every need was provided on my timeline. For some reason, unknown to me, God is not always on my schedule. For these times I’m reminded of my need to not rely my resources but on God’s. He has never let me down. God has used this business to draw me closer to Him. Evidence of His blessings on this business can be verified by the fact that we have met or exceeded every financial benchmark that Comfort Keepers Corp. has set in place for franchise owners.

In a world where speaking your faith is becoming more and more unacceptable, tell me how you are able to minister to your clients?

On several occasions, we have had employees ask me if it was ok to witness to our clients. We have also had several clients let me know that they didn’t appreciate our caregivers “talking about religious matters to them.” At one of our bimonthly caregiver meetings, I addressed that issue. Francis Assissi once said “At all times preach the Gospel…..when necessary use words.” Opportunities to “be” a witness for Christ goes far beyond our words. “Be” is a state of being. If I claim to be a true follower of Christ then every aspect of my life should reflect that claim including my deeds as well as my words. My job is to be faithful. He is in charge of effectiveness.

I’m a firm believer that you get back ten fold what you give. Have you received any special rewards for your efforts?

In my desk I keep a folder with letters and thank you notes from past or current clients. I review these often to remind myself why I got into this business in the first place. Words like “We couldn’t have made it without you.” or “Comfort Keepers has been an answer to our prayers.” or “Thank you for the care and compassion given to mom or dad during their last days.” Often we are with hospice client’s right up to their last moments here on earth. We work with clients that often are not appreciative of what we do for them. We work with clients with different forms of dementia. Some can be very difficult or even violent. We now have about sixty caregivers which means we are dealing with sixty different personalities which often means sleepless nights, stress, long hours and limited financial rewards for our efforts. However, I do expect to receive special rewards for my efforts but I don’t think it will be in this lifetime. God assures us that all acts of kindness and aithfulness will be rewarded.

When you and your wife decided to venture into the world of in-home non-medical care, were there any particular concerns you may have had?

We knew from the very onset that this was a very competitive business and we realized there would be many unforeseen challenges facing us being the new kid on the block. One of my main concerns was how to set us apart from our competitors and not just be a “me too business.” There are three key elements of a good caregiver (dependability, credibility, and patience). Maintaining all three on a consistent basis puts us heads and shoulders above most of our competition. Staffing with the best caregivers is vital to our success. Our employee standards are high and our expectations are lofty. Finding and keeping employees that meet our standards is and always will be a challenge. Once again, God has provided our needs.

I asked earlier how you felt God had blessed your business; now tell me how you feel you’ve been blessed personally?

It has been said; “find a job that you like and you will never have to work again.” Well I’ve found that job with Comfort Keepers. Prior to buying this franchise, I worked in the coal mining industry in Kentucky for close to twenty-five years. By some folk’s standards, I suppose I was successful at what I did, however I did not have a passion for that job. For the first time in my life, I actually feel like I’m doing what God wants me to do to serve Him. I’ve developed a closer relationship with God because I’ve had to learn to trust Him instead of relying on my limited resources. I’ve met some wonderful people that also have a passion for serving others. All in all it has been a great opportunity to serve God by helping others.

Placing caregivers in the homes of the elderly requires a certain amount of trust. How do you reassure your clients they are safe?

We take great pride in the quality of our workforce however with over sixty employees there is always the chance that someone may act improperly. Our responsibility is to make every effort to hire the right people to begin with. We go above and beyond the basic requirements for proper screening. During the first interview with a potential caregiver we ask a series of questions that were designed by Comfort Keepers Corporate to identify very precise traits that a quality employee should have. Next we check their business and personal references. If their references check out ok then we do state and national background checks by a professional company that has been approved by the State of Tennessee and Comfort Keepers Corporate. Each employee must be bondable by our insurance company so they must have a clean record. We also check the State of Tennessee Abuse and Sexual Abuse Registry. Next we get a DMV report since we often take our clients to appointments. Though it’s not required, we always order a credit report on each employee to determine if they are financially responsible. Finally, and most important, if I can’t picture this person taking care of my loved ones then I won’t hire them.

Would you define being a caregiver as a difficult job physically or emotionally?

Being a caregiver is not for the faint of heart. It requires a special kind of person. The financial rewards are modest but the opportunity to impact someone’s life is unlimited. We perform light housekeeping duties as well as personal care services that are not extremely physically demanding. However, the emotional demands can be quite stressful at times. Many of our caregivers become very attached to their clients and as their physical or mental condition declines, even to the point of death, their compassion is very obvious. On the flip side of the coin, caregivers often experience the joy of being part of the plane of care to encourage a client to push themselves physically during the recovery process from hip or knee replacement surgery.

Can you tell us what lies ahead for your franchise?

The need for the non medical services we provide will continue grow as us “Baby Boomers” mature. In fact, research indicates that there will soon be a shortage of caregivers to meet the growing demands of this group of seniors. Our local Kingsport Comfort Keepers Franchise will soon be five years old. We have continued to grow even as new competitors spring up. Our staff consists of about sixty caregivers, Cindy Sproles our office manager, Tami Southerland our care coordinator, Stephanie McCraw our scheduler and our newly appointed operations manager Linda Bambino. We will take God’s lead and as He continues to bless this ministry, we will continue to serve faithfully. My desire is for Comfort Keepers to continue on long after I’m gone.

The love and desire M.D. puts forth shines not only in his business but in his personal life as well. He is a man who does not fear asking, "Do you know Jesus?" It was once said, "That to speak of how to live your life is one thing, but to live it how you speak is another." M.D. lives what he speaks.

Thank you for your time M. D. I've made a link at the beginning of this interview to the Comfort Keepers home page. Should you know anyone in need of special assistance, please contact the Comfort Keepers in your area. You'll be doing someone a favor.