Yes We Care!

Dawn Cauthen-Thornton | September 16th, 2016
Anna Bryant & Camille Stephens (Photo by Todd Youngblood)

Anna Bryant & Camille Stephens (Photo by Todd Youngblood)

For as long as Anna Bryant can remember, she has been taking care of someone. As a partaker at New Life Fellowship in Charlotte with Pastor John P. Kee, she has always been obedient to what God asked of her. At the young age of 14, her mother, who was a nurse, passed away, leaving Anna’s father and their six children behind.

She is a 1979 graduate of Eastside High, in Paterson, New Jersey, and partaker at New Life Fellowship in Charlotte with Pastor John P. Kee. She is also the third oldest, and assumed a motherly role within her family, and helped raise her three younger brothers. As an adult, after her job in Corporate America abruptly ended, it felt only natural that she returned to what she knew and loved – taking care of those in need.

In 2005 Anna became the caregiver to a mentally disabled man and his sickly mother just by answering a job ad. She did everything from cook their food, transport them to doctor’s appointments, and plan their daily activities. “The son, who was older than me has Downs Syndrome and couldn’t talk when I met him. After a while, he could talk, care for himself, and do everything else except cook.” Having assumed the caregiver role for the two for at least nine years, she was like part of their family. One day she shared her idea with the mother, of forming her own organization and the client thought it would be a great venture. This prompted Anna to attend school and earn a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) degree in 2008.

By 2012 Anna and her brother Joseph Bryant had completed the complex process of applying for a 501(c)(3) to be recognized as a nonprofit organization. “Obtaining a nonprofit certification is very difficult and expensive so my brother and I contributed together.” Later, her longtime friend Camille Stephens, a 30 year, now retired, Army veteran joined the organization and she too earned her CNA degree shortly thereafter.

Finally, with a lot of prayer and perseverance, ‘Yes We Care’ was up and running. The nonprofit provides a myriad of services to senior citizens, such as respite care (temporarily relieving a normal caregiver from caring for the patient), transportation services, field trips and outings, providing birthday celebrations and gatherings, and even daily companionship. “Joseph would offer maintenance services to the clients when they weren’t able to handle them on their own. He even helped relocate a client to another state and transformed his entire home to be handicapped accessible.”

As the nonprofit grew, Anna and Camille, who met while working at the Charlotte Housing Authority in the 1980’s, also saw growth within their own families. Anna adopted three children from a family of 10 (of those, five other children were placed in foster care) after the mother was deemed unfit to raise them. About the same time, Camille found herself as the head of a four generational household; Her mother and daughter who are also caregivers, reside in the home, along with her son, and two of her precious grandchildren. “I’m constantly busy with someone in my family,” says Camille. I can hear a smile in her voice when she shares the dynamic of her home.

One day, Joseph mentioned to Anna that he thought Camille should be more involved and wanted her to assume a more important role within the nonprofit. “I thought it was a good idea, but I didn’t realize it was his way of preparing me for the future.” In 2014, tragedy struck, when Joseph was senselessly murdered by a border he’d provided shelter for in his home. “My brother simply asked the guy for the rent money that was due and an argument broke out. He stabbed my brother to death 2 days after his 50th birthday.”

Obviously, Anna and Camille were both devastated by the loss and Anna wasn’t sure how she would go on – with life or with the business – without him, the brother she had raised from a boy. Camille stepped in to help pick up the pieces and eventually they were able to carry on. “Anna is like my sister. We’ve been friends for decades. She’s helped raise my kids. She even bought my son his first pager when he was seven years old,” Camille reminisces. “We’ve always been there for each other. She’s my rock and I’m hers. I couldn’t imagine doing this with anyone else.”

While they try and offer services for free, at times they do have to charge minimal fees just to cover certain costs. Eventually they hope to become an approved service through Medicare, but in the meantime, they plan to continue raising money the best way they can and servicing those who serviced us for so many years in the past.

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