Meet 2021 Chamber of Commerce Community Impact Award Winner – LinnAnn Collins of Comfort Keepers! The Community Impact Award program recognizes Hispanic, African-American, Asian, American-Indian, women, and/or service-disabled veteran business owners who have demonstrated a significant impact in our community.
1. LinnAnn, when did you and your husband start Comfort Keepers and what are your roles?
My husband and I started Comfort Keepers in January of 2007 – so about 14 years ago. When we started the business, Aron took the lead in vision and sales. My primary role is “bookkeeper” and it always has been. I’ve always been the behind-the-scenes bookkeeping person: I do payroll and handle the bills. I guess I keep everything running!
2. What led you and your husband to start Comfort Keepers?
There are two parts to this question. First, we had a desire to start our own business. As we started looking at our lives and thought about what we might like to do, we were kind of inspired by my parents – particularly my mom. She had always done a lot of caregiving. I grew up watching her take care of neighbors, drive people to the grocery store, and take care of my grandmother. My mom grew up on the gulf coast, so my grandmother lived in the middle of nowhere, and she got to the point where she shouldn’t really be alone. My dad wasn’t ready to retire, so my parents made the decision that my mom would move down and be the primary caregiver for my grandmother while my dad kept working in Houston.
My husband and I watched that dynamic over the years. My parents still got to see each other on the weekends, but it was hard on them to be apart. Aron and I both thought, “There has to be a different way to do this. There has to be a better way to help families.” So when we were looking at different business ideas, Comfort Keepers was one of the ones that jumped out at us.
A lot of what we do is providing support for families. Particularly with my mom, while she cherished the time with my grandmother, being the primary caregiver took away from her just being a daughter. With Comfort Keepers, we take the role of “caregiver” so families can be there with their loved ones as daughters, sons, or spouses. That really makes the difference.
That’s how we ended up with Comfort Keepers. That’s where the inspiration came from. For me, things came full circle about four years ago when my mom passed away. When my mom’s illness started getting really bad and her care couldn’t be handled properly where my parents were living, my mom and dad moved here. We had caregivers from Comfort Keepers helping to take care of my mom until she passed away. It really was a blessing. My sister and I could be there with my mom and we could help her as much as we wanted to, but we also had that extra support. Part of what we do at Comfort Keepers is “take care of our clients like we do our own family” – and it really meant a lot to us that our caregivers were helping take care of my mom until she passed away.
3. This year you were awarded with the Chamber of Commerce’s Community Impact Award. Can you tell us a bit about the award and what it has meant for you to receive it?
I felt very blessed! There are just so many people in our community that serve through their different service organizations or their businesses, so I felt a little undeserving and so very honored. I feel blessed to do what we do, and I love what we do. I love the community we live in. My grandfather went to A&M, my dad went to A&M, all my siblings went to A&M, so I kind of grew up with a culture focused around A&M. I learned from a young age that when you come here [to Aggieland], you come to be a part of the community and to give back to it. When we started our business, we knew that Bryan/College Station was where we wanted to be. Truthfully there were probably some other markets or bigger cities that might have been better, but I was very adamant about us starting our business here. This is such a great community with great people.
4. Over the years, what have been some of your favorite things about working with Comfort Keepers?
It’s a mixture of a lot of things. I feel blessed to get to do what we do. I take it very personally. I love that we get to be there for families and provide support and help. Particularly for some of our clients that are passing away and transitioning on, I love that we get to be a support for families.
We have so many amazing caregivers. It never ceases to amaze me how above and beyond our caregivers go. Some of the things our caregivers do, they don’t do because it is their job or because they’re getting paid to do it. They do it because they have amazing hearts and really love people. We saw this so much with COVID – where our caregivers went above and beyond for people. But most recently, we saw this with the ice storm. We had caregivers that said, “I’m going to pack a bag and if I get stuck there with my client, I’m going to make sure I stay there because I know the family won’t be able to get here right away to take care of them.” They were giving of their own time, and they weren’t doing it to get paid. They knew that certain clients would need them because some clients that have families in the surrounding areas and they aren’t able to get into town right away. Our caregivers are huge blessings and I truly get to work with great people every day.
Comfort Keepers has also been a real blessing in everyday life. Getting to work with my husband is a huge blessing. It’s not for everyone, but we have our different areas of strength and skill and we complement each other well. We have an eight year old daughter, and Comfort Keepers has also been a blessing in that respect. Because of our jobs, we have the flexibility to manage our home life well.
It’s a combination of all of those things. It’s not one specific thing but all of those things rolled together – that’s what I love about working with Comfort Keepers.
5. What services does Comfort Keepers offer?
All that we do is geared toward helping seniors be at home and be where they want to be. We have two sides, a companionship / homemaking side where we help folks with things around the house and everyday life activities. That might include getting meals, transportation, running errands to the grocery store, and going to doctors’ appointments. The other side is the personal care side. This might include helping someone get a shower or aiding in supervisory care for someone who has dementia. This type of care is really helpful when a spouse is still working or wants to be able to go out and spend some time with friends – our caregivers can be there for supervisory care.
6. What are some of the most common questions you guys get from people interested in your services?
We get asked a lot, “If Medicare doesn’t reimburse this, or if my health insurance doesn’t cover this, how in the world can I pay for it – and how does anyone pay for it?” What we see a lot is that when we do the math, often it is more cost-effective to give up a car and get a ride to the few things that you need to do than to try and maintain the car and the liability that goes along with that. It’s often cheaper to get a little bit of help and stay at home than to move into a facility or to consider independent living. Those are expensive. When you look at what people need, most people don’t need 24/7 care, they just need a little help. When they do the math based on what it would cost them to move out of their homes, and what it would cost to get help, they realize the care we offer with Comfort Keepers really is an effective great way to stay in your home longer, enjoy the quality of your life better, and still save money. So even though it is private pay – and that’s a question we get a lot is how do I pay for this –when we look at it, many people are not really considering getting home care versus moving, they’re considering getting home care versus not. They don’t often consider the consequences of not getting the care they need, which could be a fall or a wreck. When you put it into perspective, it helps people understand the value of what they’re getting, and they can really weigh it against their other options. A lot of times they find that if they need less than 6 hours of care a day, it is more cost effective to stay home.
Comfort Keepers College Station, TX
244 Southwest Pkwy E
College Station, Texas 77840