Christine Collins has always been a hard working girl. As a young girl, she aspired to be a candy striper at her local hospital.
“I really wanted to work at a hospital doing really anything, but no one would ever hire me because of my age.”
Christine then decided to shift her dreams to working at the Brooklyn Public Library. So, she started working at the library as the file clerk at age 14. She loved what she did, but when she turned 18, she wanted to work in the big city, New York City.
At age 18, Christine landed a job in the city as an executive assistant at an investment banking company. Christine loved her job and the hustle and bustle that went along with it. During her 40-year tenure, Christine also helped care for her husband who had an organ transplant.
But then, 9/11 completely changed everything. The building she worked in was connected to the World Trade Center by a walking bridge.
“I just remember being evacuated from my building and having to leave the city by boat. We stopped in the middle of the river, and I turned to look back and the entire city was on fire. It was a surreal moment.”
Eventually, Christine’s office temporarily moved to Midtown Manhattan for one year. But once plans were announced to move back to 60 Wall Street, Christine told her husband she just couldn’t do it. After 40 years of working at the investment banking firm, Christine and her husband retired to Florida where her mom lived.
Christine worked part-time at a local hospice organization as a volunteer coordinator but had to leave to care for her mother with Alzheimer’s disease.
“My mother and her family are from Ireland, so I inherited the mentality of loving and caring for each other from them. Both of my siblings were working, so I became mom’s primary caregiver. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Christine eventually went back to work at the hospice organization for the next four years, but then stumbled upon the local Home Instead business and was immediately interested in the opportunity.
Now, seven years later, Christine says being a CAREGiver has changed her.
“My husband died during my time at Home Instead. Getting up every morning and going out to be helpful and caring has really given me a new purpose. I’ve grown during my time here. I’ve become more patient, more empathetic. Even though I’m in the latter party of my life, I feel like there’s been a really big change in me and I’m happy with it.”
Most of that happiness comes from the clients. During her time at Home Instead, she’s spent a lot of time with Merriam and Bill Sullivan. Bill was a retired chemical engineer who had heart trouble, glaucoma and diabetes. His wife, Merriam, has dementia but is physically in great shape. Christine loved to listen to Bill’s story about his life and would fill the role of executive assistant – similar to her previous job – and help him stay organized. Unfortunately, early last year, Bill passed away. She’s continued to care for Merriam and is enjoying every minute they have left together.
“We watch Lawrence Welk together. We dance together. I treat Merriam like I treated my mother. It’s just the way I was raised, and I feel so lucky that her children feel comfortable having me take care of their mother.”
Christine says her life has been full of lots of twists and turns, but as she’s gotten older, she’s learned to accept God’s plan.
“My husband was 48 when he had his transplant, I could have lost him then. But instead, I had him for 25 more years. I consider each day a gift. All of the experiences I’ve had as a CAREGiver have made me more accepting of God’s plan.”
Part of that plan includes being recognized as CAREGiver of the Year for the Southeast Region. Despite Christine’s struggle to accept accolades because of her shy nature, she says she’s honored by this recognition, and that this position has helped her grow so much over the years.
“Doing this work, I have discovered my niche in life. I have truly found my sense of purpose. After my husband passed away, this gave me purpose again. There is no better award than that.”
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