A Hattiesburg woman has earned national recognition — along with her company’s highest honor — for her commitment to caring for local seniors.
June Lawing, caregiver at Home Instead Senior Carein Hattiesburg, recently received the 2015 Mary Steibel CAREGiver of the Year Award. Lawing is one of 65,000 caregivers employed in the United States and Canada by Home Instead, and one of 900 — one from each Home Instead office — nominated for this year’s award.
“It was like winning the lottery — it’s like something you think would never happen to you,” said Lawing, who has been with Home Instead for eight years. “It’s so big, it really is. I still can’t believe it.”
Nominated for the honor by clients and co-workers, Lawing was presented the award in April during Home Instead’s annual convention in Omaha, Nebraska.
“It was wonderful,” Lawing said. “We had a fancy hotel, a limo — I thought the limo was just for show, for pictures, but they said, ‘No you’re getting in it.’ You could not describe how wonderful it was.”
The news came as quite a surprise to Lawing, who wasn’t notified until a last-minute meeting at the Purple Parrot Cafe for which Home Instead co-founder Lori Hogan flew in from Nebraska to tell the staff.
“They said they were going to announce the winner, and I’m looking around the room like, ‘Who is it?’ ” said Lawing, who also has won the CAREGiver of the Month Award. “So I’m sitting at the table, and they call my name, and the girls are tapping me, and I’m like ‘What?’ I’m looking for who they called.
“There’s 65,000 caregivers, and they have to pick one, and I didn’t even give it a second thought. I thought surely that one of them was going to get it because they deserve it. So when they told me, I thought I was just going to die right there.”
But it wasn’t such a surprise for Anna Edenfield, co-owner of the Hattiesburg Home Instead Office, who said Lawing’s qualities are just too great to not be awarded CAREGiver of the Year.
“June is just so extraordinary,” she said. “Every client that she takes on, the families are just so impressed, and they become part of her family. She has that extraordinary quality about her as a caregiver — that’s what she was meant to do in her life.”
The hardest part for the Home Instead staff — who had already been notified Lawing won the award — was keeping it a secret from her for two months until Hogan could make it into town.
“We were bursting at the seams,” Edenfield said. “It was really hard (to keep the secret) because we were so excited because it’s such a huge honor. Offices are in existence for 20 years, and they don’t get that award. It was huge for little old Hattiesburg.”
Edenfield said she had a gut feeling Lawing would win this year’s award, but became even more convinced when the home office was narrowing down nominations and named Lawing the Southeast Regional CAREGiver of the Year.
“At that point you know they’re filtering it down, so I just knew in my heart that June had won (CAREGiver of the Year),” she said. “I don’t know why — I just had this premonition of her walking on the stage with those flowers and the sash around her. I always knew it was going to be June.”
Edenfield said the caregiving profession comes natural to Lawing, who goes out of her way to help seniors even when she’s not on the clock.
“She can go to the grocery store, and she’ll find this little older lady that leaves her groceries, and she’s ‘Hey, hey,’ making sure she catches up with her to get her her groceries,” she said. “She’s a caregiver through and through. Her son, Frank, calls her the ‘senior magnet.’ ”
For Lawing, the award is the cherry on top of the profession she already loves.
“Everybody that knows me would know that I don’t want to die, and I would never say, ‘If I died tomorrow I would be happy,’ ” she said. “Well, I actually said that. If I died tomorrow, I would be happy because I couldn’t top this. Nothing in my whole life could top this."
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