Kelly Stephenson says she and her family are moving forward with God at the helm of their lives.
These past two years have brought drastic changes and challenges for the Stephenson family, but Kelly and her children, Tamara, 11, and Trace, 9, are finding Carthage to be a place of support and comfort. Kelly, BSN, RN, has started a Carthage location of ComForcare Home Care, recovered from back injuries, moved with two children and is currently helping her son fight Crohn's disease. It's been far from easy, but Kelly says she puts her faith and trust in the Lord.
Where it started
Kelly was born in Springfield, but Carthage is her home. She attended Carthage High School and the Bible Baptist Christian Academy. As the first of three children of Ron and Donna (Hutchins) Bragg, Kelly spent her childhood traveling. Living the missionary life, for 20 years the family lived in Africa and furloughed in Carthage. Kelly's two younger brothers were born in Africa, and remembers her childhood as a happy one. In fact, she considers her young experiences a privilege and the meaning behind her passion for health care.
“I remember it being as just the way it was,” Kelly said. “We were young and didn't know anything different. Looking back, I bet it was hard on my parents, I bet it did get lonely at times but they believed God led them there for a reason.
“For me, living overseas and experiencing care services at a young age was wonderful,” Kelly said. “I was just thankful for green grass when I came home. McDonald's was this fantastic treat – and growing up, I had so much. I want my children to understand that we have so much, and I hope they can share that experience I had someday.”
After earning her nursing degree, Kelly traveled. She gained emergency room and ICU experiences and lived in Saudi Arabia for five years.
“When I moved back the states, I had got burnt out of nursing, but found a job opportunity in doctors' offices,” Kelly said. “It was research work and I loved it. I've always loved working with people.”
Kelly and her children lived in North Carolina from 1997-2010. Kelly was in pharmaceutical clinical research, and her children attended private schools. Kelly was promoted in the company called Schering-Plough until her career became something all-together different. When the company was making changes, leaders had asked her to stay, but Kelly said God led her to come back home.
“When I came home in December 2010, I fully expected to walk into another job,” Kelly said.
What Kelly expected was completely different from what she experienced.
Despite her amazing resumé, no one in the area was hiring. Then, in November 2010 she injured her back when trying to help a woman who was having a seizure in church. Kelly said her doctor explained she would not be able to do nursing duties, like working a 12-hour shift, moving patients and so forth.
“I was devastated,” Kelly said. “I wanted to be a family nurse practitioner, but God was leading me in a different direction. At the time, I was literally stopped in my tracks.”
Kelly said she was reading when the idea of providing home care services first emerged.
“I never wanted to open my own business, I never ever wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Kelly said with a laugh. “I'm a single mom, and I was thinking it was irresponsible to take crazy steps. But I liked the idea of a franchise, and the consultant with FranNet immediately put me into health care and ComForcare was a perfect fit. I liked their philosophy, support structure, they have a mature team up in Detroit – They're not in it to be the biggest, they're not interested in growth rates, they're in it to be the best.
“I liked their training program,” Kelly continued. “Just a lot of things were feeling right, and they were doing everything they could to get me onboard ... In June, I stepped off the edge.”
During this time, Kelly's son, Trace, started GI bleeding. Kelly said her son was then diagnosed with Crohn's disease.
“The papers were already signed,” Kelly said of the new business deal. “We were moving forward no matter what.”
In August 2011, Kelly re-injured her back helping a family from church move.
“By this point I was looking for things to be thankful for,” Kelly said.
Trace and Kelly have made about six-seven trips to Children's Mercy in Kansas City since July 2011. Trace is currently doing fine, but is continuing high-dose treatments. In the darkest times, Kelly said she took comfort in her new business' owner's name, HIS Unlimited.
“It was a reminder to me, because everything belongs to Him,” Kelly said. “I had to learn to daily depend on Him, and that my children didn't belong to me. They belong to Him. I have to hold them with an open palm. And it's not easy. And as someone told me, 'it's hard, but it's the hard that makes it good.'”
Kelly said having a new business gave her the flexibility to be with her son. Also, being home in Carthage gave her the support group she needed. On top of that, Trace's school, Mark Twain Elementary School, has provided unyielding help for the student who has missed 28 days of school.
“There's no way I could have seen this coming,” Kelly said. “God led me to where I needed to be.”
Besides the stress of a new business, a sick son and back injuries, Kelly's children were also adjusting to life in southwest Missouri, in the different atmosphere of public schools. However, Kelly said she hasn't needed to worry.
Tamara is involved in the Carthage Middle School drama club and band, and Trace is planning to play Carthage baseball.
“I'm learning every day to take it one day at a time, and just trust God – serve others,” Kelly said.
Kelly says on top of her childhood in missionary work, nursing, management skills, counseling courses, and her experiences with her son have all enabled her to operate a successful business – A business that specializes in helping people through difficult times.
Trace never fails to brighten Kelly's days with his bright outlook on life. She says the family is keeping as much normalcy in their lives as possible, while maintaining a strong relationship with the Lord. Kelly also wanted to mention she was taking “mover,” off of her resumé.
“I had a little bit of a bumpy start,” Kelly said, “but adversity is what makes you strong. I'm not expecting an easy road – but you can't give up. Work hard, be honest and there's a lot you can do … I'm not a superwoman, but I always know where to turn to … I'm very blessed.”
Established in 1996, ComForcare Home Care specializes in delivering non-medical home care services. The business is set up as a c-corp under HIS Unlimited. People in need of help through a time of temporary sickness or injury, after hospitalization or surgery, after suffering a head injury or other disabling injury, or adjusting to a disability also benefit from ComForcare services. For the elderly, common services include: bathing, grooming and hygiene assistance, transportation aid, meal preparation, medication reminders, safety supervision, errand-running, chore services and light housekeeping and family respite.
“I want people to reach out to me,” Kelly said. “When I interview someone I think 'would I send this person to take care of my mom?' People with this company give peace of mind, they are trained, they are experienced. They're special – they're the face of the company to the community.
“I love this line of work because you can be an encouragement in times of vulnerability and explain the fear out of their situations,” Kelly continued. “It's a ministry, and a big honor for a family to allow you into their lives.”
The Carthage location of ComForcare is 1919 S. Garrison Ave., and may be reached at 417-310-1280.