A Helping Hand

by Katrina Spencer

Having grown up in a family with four siblings, entrepreneur and Charlottesville native Shenise Gray is no stranger to developing systems and structures of care for the people around her. While Shenise was able to help provide nurturing and guidance to her brothers and sisters as a youth, she found that her elders were entering the twilight of their lives without the stability, predictability, and protection due them. It was then that she was inspired to pursue what would become her passion in life. In 2020, she founded Peace of Mind Helpers, LLC in the Charlottesville/Albemarle County area, a business designed to supply local people, especially the aging and disabled, with the support they need to live their later years with grace, comfort, trust, and safety.

Shenise has always been clear about the talent she has within her field of care, however, the path to establishing Peace of Mind Helpers was not immediate or direct. She took on a variety of roles at the University of Virginia, later worked for care companies, and even earned a certified nursing assistant’s license, gathering a variety of experience and skills. However, she found that no matter how good she was at delivering excellent service to clients, regularly going above and beyond the call of duty, the pay was paltry. She became more and more skilled over time, but as the work got more challenging, the pay stayed nearly the same. Earning $11 per hour in 2014, she decided the sum was insufficient for the work she was doing and a change would need to be made. What price would you pay to make sure your parent or loved one was clean, fed, warm in winter, cool in summer, taking their properly prescribed, dosed and scheduled medications, and otherwise contented? With a commitment to offering exemplary care at a standard that would match or exceed other providers, Shenise launched her business.

Peace of Mind Helpers is now a team of 13 caregivers that has provided service to over 50 families. Shenise personally recruits, vets, and thoroughly trains each of her team members. She believes that workers in this industry must not only develop experience but also must have a heart for the work they do. Being compelled by this conviction, she closely scrutinizes every applicant’s references and takes them through situational interviews to learn about how they respond to stress and how they care for and replenish themselves within a field that requires the daily output of a good deal of emotional labor. The owner and her helpers, after all, serve a broad variety of clients including those who have simpler needs like assistance with grocery shopping and cooking or bathing and others whose needs are more complex as a result of Parkinson’s disease, dementia, immobility, stoma care needs, physical therapy needs, the inability to communicate their needs through speech, and more! Moreover, some clients’ wellness calls for 24-hour care. Given all that is required, Shenise makes it a point to pay her independently contracted helpers at a higher rate than her competitors and according to their experience. When asked about misconceptions surrounding her work, Shenise concedes that healthcare workers who garner the most prestige, like MDs, have specialized knowledge that is essential for diagnoses; however, there is an army of people populating other tiers of the industry who carry out the doctors’ orders, without whom the field could not survive. Who draws blood for testing? Who collects, labels, and sends urine samples to a lab? Who fills prescriptions? Who lifts, transports, and feeds patients? Who runs the MRI machine? Who takes the X-rays? Who administers necessary injections? Who is by a confused and incapacitated elder’s side in the night when they are startled awake by a dream? And who holds their hand?

Shenise takes pride in her work and warmly welcomes the ideas of entrepreneurial mentorship and community partnerships as she anticipates the growth of her business. She acknowledges the desire for additional help in managing the clerical side of her work. More skilled, trustworthy, and reliable helping hands will make Peace of Mind Helpers even more sustainable. If you are interested in receiving services provided by Shenise’s team, or if you are interested in offering services as a caregiver with Shenise’s team, or if you are a community member or organization interested in forming a partnership, contact Peace of Mind Helpers either using the newly minted website found at https://www.peaceofmindhelpers.org/ or use her contact information below.

Peace of Mind Helpers, LLC
Shenise Gray, Owner
(434) 260-1160
msshenise@gmail.com

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Vinegar Hill Magazine is a space that is designed to support and project a more inclusive social narrative, to promote entrepreneurship, and to be a beacon for art, culture, and politics in Central Virginia.

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