Comfort Keepers: An interview with community Liason Jerry Kea

Jerry Kea is the community liason of the local Comfort Keepers, a national chain that helps the elderly continue to live healthy fulfilling lives in their home as they age. We sat down to an interview with him recently to discuss this company and the business environment in Redding.

He sees Redding as a very attractive place to live and raise children, with a good compromise between size and small-town feel. As the city grows, he urges its citizens to hold on to the culture of friendliness and civic responsibility it currently has.

The story of Comfort Keepers

Jerry Kea came with his wife to Redding from the Bay Area six years ago, and his wife purchased the local Comfort Keepers franchise, which was for sale. “She’s a caregiver at heart,” says Jerry. “We’ve been blessed and business is going strong.”

Comfort Keepers is an in-home service for seniors and those who have special needs, such as disabilities. They provide non-medical in-home care. “We go in and offer personal support in terms of hygiene, bathing, getting dressed, medication reminders, ambulation support, transportation, companionship care, household chores, and anything else we may need to do to support them,” Jerry explains.

The specialty of Comfort Keepers is “interactive care.” Their workers do what they can to help keep seniors engaged. “It’s very easy to go into someone’s home and just let them sit there,” Jerry remarks.  “We seek to ‘do with’, not just ‘for.’ We might say, ‘Let’s get out your favorite recipe and we’ll cook together. Doing this helps to preserve people mentally, emotionally, and physically.”

They are the only branch in the area, supporting not just Redding, but other cities in Shasta County, Trinity County, and Tehama County. They help seniors from Weaverville to Chico.

For Jerry, as well as for his wife, the business is more than a business: It is an opportunity to tackle a need. Before working in senior care, he spent 25 years in education, serving for the last ten years as the Dean of the Sonoma Community College. To Kea, his work in education and his work with seniors both serve under-fulfilled needs for those at either end of their lives.

“There’s a very great need for this service in Redding, and all over the country,” Jerry points out. “America’s aging. We’re living longer, and the baby boomers started to reach retirement age a few years ago, so the industry has really had to grow. A hundred and fifty years ago we all lived on our 160-acre plots with our entire extended family close by, and we all took care of each other. Now places like Comfort Keepers have to help take care of the community.”

Jerry also stresses how grateful he is to be involved with Comfort Keepers. The chain is the largest comparable business in the world, with hundreds of franchises in the US and elsewhere. Their support, their stellar personnel process, and their high standards have enabled the local franchise to become “all they could be.”

Comfort Keepers in the Community

“There’s never enough money in a community to do everything that needs to be done,” Jerry declares. “I don’t care how rich your country or your community is, there’s a need for volunteering. All for one and one for all.”

Personally and professionally, Jerry has tried to live up to that pledge. He attends as many events as he can, including Alzheimer’s events and health fairs. Comfort Keepers also puts on a food drive called Feed Seniors Now, which raised 72,000 pounds of food to donate to Shasta Nutrition last year.

Because he is so active in the community, Jerry naturally cares a great deal about the future of Redding. He acknowledges that there is tension in the community between those who want to see it grow, and those who want it to maintain its small-town feel. Personally, as a former resident of the Bay Area, he sees a great deal of value in Redding’s slower pace of life.

“Redding is beautiful, it’s pastoral, and there’s so much opportunity to enjoy this region of the state including fishing, hunting, recreation, and camping. There’s a lot to be grateful for,” Jerry comments. “I think there’s a lot to be said for the small-town feel. The larger a town gets, the more problematic it becomes in terms of social issues. I think we have our own special community in the mountains. It’s a conservative, faith-based community, and there aren’t a lot of issues compared to in big cities. It’s a real pleasure to be here.”

At the same time, the local Comfort Keepers is growing and his wife is eager to provide more service to people in outlying areas of the counties he serves. He would also like to attract new people to the area.  “We have a really special size right now, where you can get the services you need but there’s still a friendly atmosphere,” He says. “We have great schools, which is key for attracting people. If you don’t have great schools then it is difficult to bring in newcomers to the area.”

Still, he loves Shasta County’s civic-minded culture, and in that respect, hopes the area will remain the same. “We need to hold the line,” he concludes. “We need to continue to be a community of good people who support each other.”