… Caregivers are a special people, doing important work, and we should appreciate each other and ourselves, a lot. One of the long term goals for Circle of Life has always been to raise the status of this work, throughout the larger society, and we start here by recognizing one another, what hard work this is, caregiving as well as keeping this business healthy, and how good we all are at it. We are caregivers for our clients, for our families, for each other, and for our business.
Our business has grown up over the past five years, it has a life of its own now. We are strong competitors for homecare clients and for skilled caregivers in Whatcom County. Our wages are the highest in the county. We now pay caregivers for meeting time and travel time, and we compensate our board, and also we are fair employers to our office staff, who are not members but are a skilled and dedicated team. The mechanics of the business are all in place, running smoothly. At this point, although we value every single person employed by COL, no one is indispensable. Anyone can move on, maybe retire, win the lottery, or go on to other work or school, and the co-op will continue in its success, offering good employment and providing excellent care to our clients. We are one of the few caregiving businesses in the whole country in which the workers own the business and share the profits, and this is something about which we can be very proud.
The future of the COL in many ways will be the same as the past. Several years ago, our board formalized some long term goals, which we continue to hold in mind and work on as the company grows. These are: to pay a living wage, to develop good training models for giving high quality care to our clients, to grow at an even sustainable pace, and to help all of our workers to understand how our co-op business functions, and to appreciate what a privilege and responsibility it is to be a part of a cooperative business. We’ve made constant progress in all of these goals, and have some specific plans to move forward with them this year ….. Learning how to participate in meetings and work as teams is a huge part of being in a co-op.
Lucky for me, I like meetings! Each year, the board has an eight hour meeting in which we do long-term strategic planning. At our 2014 meeting, the board came up with a lot of long-range possibilities for the future of the COL. For a minute, imagine our business as a young eagle just taking off from the nest for its first long flight. Which direction should it go? The board had many exciting ideas, lots of different possible directions, but we don’t want to head off in any specific direction without consulting with the rest of the membership. So, this spring, we’ll be doing a survey, and also dedicating some of our staff meeting time to discussion of our ideas and getting member feedback regarding the long-range goals for our business….
… Back to my eagle metaphor. The sky is the limit for our young eagle, but only if both wings, and all the feathers, are working together. So, that’s us, the members and our staff; together, we are the wings and feathers, the heart and the muscle, and we are going places. Meanwhile, we’re still flying close to our nest tree, exercising our wings, but wow! what a great view we have from up here!