Occasionally, in the day-to-day course of meeting people, a person will come across someone who just seems to be on the right path. It looks different on different people, yet, at the same time, there’s a commonality present. Maybe it’s the joy in their voice or a certainty of purpose that many of us lack. But, whatever it is, it can emanate from a person with the same steady glow as a flame sends out its light.
Tara Gaynor is one of those people who seems to be walking the path she was meant to walk.
She is the owner of “Touching Hearts”, a business that provides whatever services are needed to help people—usually, elderly people--stay in their homes when, otherwise, they would be unable to do so. It can’t be a very easy job. In fact, caregivers have some of the highest rates of burn-out in the field of healthcare. Even so, there is not a trace—not a single trace—of that in Tara’s voice when she discusses what she does, and she’s discussing what she does at the end of what sounds like a very busy day.
And so, this month’s INDY PICKS is…
Owned and operated by
Tara Gaynor was born and raised in Kit Carson. Married to Jeremy and mother of Emily (15),
Brayden (10), Kyra (6) and Paisley (16 months), Tara is a Registered Nurse with more than a decade of experience in the field.
In speaking with her, it’s apparent from the start that Tara has a natural inclination toward helping people. She’d originally intended to pursue a career in Early Childhood but discovered her passion while working at Cheyenne Manor Nursing Home in Cheyenne Wells. “I love the elderly,” she says. “I believe they deserve the best care and treatment they can get.”
So, she switched professions and majored in nursing at Lamar Community College. After a year, she left LCC to attend Oklahoma State Panhandle University and then returned to this area, where she finished her nursing degree. Sometime later, she finished her four year degree and was subsequently awarded a Bachelor’s of Science in Health Administration.
For the first 13 years of her professional life, Tara worked at Cheyenne Manor, the last ten of which were as a charge nurse. When asked what prompted her to open her own business, she says, “It just sort of came to me. I’d admitted my last two patients to the nursing home, and one of the ladies said she was there because ‘there was no other option’. That got me to thinking…should I or should I not?”
Tara took several months to answer that question. Having decided to open her business by buying into a franchise, she took a common sense approach and googled “Non-medical home care”. “I thought if I bought into a franchise, I could maybe get some support or help,” she explains. “I thought I could take advantage of their expertise or call them if I encountered something I didn’t know how to do.”
She had several companies call her. “But they were all big companies, and when they found out that I was just starting out in a small town, they weren’t very interested after that.” Then, one day, she stumbled on to “Touching Hearts” and knew immediately it was the perfect match. “They knew exactly what I wanted to do and were familiar with a rural setting. They reduced the price when they found out how small my company was and even helped me with demographics and everything. They’ve been just great.”
So, Tara bought into the franchise, got herself set up and then…her company just took off, as in that same afternoon. “I couldn’t believe it,” she laughs. “I just put out the word and, within hours, I started getting calls from people who needed help.” That was in March of 2014, and she’s been going strong ever since.
“Touching Hearts” currently has 7 employees with 10 clients whom they see from one hour every day, in some cases, to an entire weekend, in others. And what do they do? “Whatever is needed,” Tara answers. “We provide companionship and play cards with them, if that’s what’s needed. Or we’ll clean their bathrooms or change their bed linens, if that’s what they want. We’ll cook them lunch or help them with self-care. We’ll even stay overnight or for the weekend, if their family is going out of town. Whatever we can do to help people feel comfortable, that’s what we’ll do.” She also recognizes that she’s there for the family of the client as much as the client him or herself. “They need help, too,” she says. “It can be a tough situation for people.”
Tara’s sensitivity and empathy is apparent in her management style, as well. She tries “to be a good manager” by being open to employees’ ideas, welcoming their input and involving them in decision making. She also doesn’t hold back on the “personal touches”, either, and makes certain to be respectful of their personal lives while remembering things like birthdays and holidays. “I’ve worked for a lot of people,” she says, “and I think I’ve learned what a good boss is.”
Tara’s found a niche but knows that’s not enough. “Advertising is expensive,” she says, “but I have to do it—and I have to do it every week or not at all.” She also has a Facebook page and is trying other, more unique ways to market her business. For example, she invites kids to help her with doing “Reminisce Groups” at the nursing home that help in memory retention.
And what advice does she have for people who are thinking about going into business for themselves? “Be prepared to sacrifice—your time, your money. You have to be prepared to work hard and be committed.” She adds a final comment. “It also helps to have a great family. I could never do what I do without their help.”
Tara services clients in Kiowa, Cheyenne, Kit Carson and Lincoln counties. Anyone interested in learning more about “Touching Hearts” can reach Tara Gaynor directly by calling 719-962-3203 or going to her office at 406 Depee Street in Kit Carson. She’s there, pretty much every day from 8am to 4pm.