First employee-owned home care agency growing

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Peninsula Homecare Cooperative provided 18 hours of in-home service to seniors in Jefferson County during its first month in business, in February 2016.

Now, a year later, the first employee-owned home care agency on the Olympic Peninsula is providing more than 1,000 hours of caregiving services to seniors, and it is set to provide 2,000 hours of service a month, if not more, by the end of 2017, says Kippi Waters, who founded the Port Townsend–based co-op agency.

“I think the most important thing is that we started a year ago, and we are the first home care agency on the peninsula that is owned by caregivers,” said Waters.

“We are currently employing 20 caregivers with a $15-an-hour wage. We are able to provide a living wage,” she said. “And caregivers are gaining skills in running their own business. They are learning to read financial statements and they are learning to create budgets.”

The agency was able to start last year with grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and with help from the Northwest Cooperative Development Center, a nonprofit organization based in Olympia that helps launch all kinds of cooperative ventures.

“We also received funding from LION [Local Investing Opportunities Network] through the Jefferson County Economic Development Council,” she said.

LION connects local investors with entrepreneurs like Waters. LION provided $35,000 for Peninsula Homecare Cooperative’s startup costs, and Waters said the co-op will have no problem paying that back.

“Everything we needed to get started was a community effort. It all stayed local,” she said.

The success story took root back in 2015 when caregivers met to consider attempting to create a co-op.

“I saw independent caregivers who needed work and I saw the real need to combine our resources and talents and our compassionate hearts into a cooperative that can change the face of caregiving on the peninsula,” she said.

“Nine months later, we opened our doors, and 12 months later, we are serving our elders,” she said.

The need for caregivers in the community is growing as the community ages, Waters said.

One recent U.S. Census figure indicates that Jefferson County is one of the oldest communities in the nation. It currently has the distinction of being the county with the oldest population in the state of Washington.

Waters expects the progress of the co-op to continue. Co-op members attended a national conference in Austin, Texas, in July, which encouraged and inspired them, Waters said.

And as for the future, Waters said, “The unique thing about us is we don’t have overhead. If there’s a profit, we share it.”

She says the agency is on target to earn a profit in 2017.

(Editor's Note: This story part of Peninsula Proud: Leader Progress Edition, published in The Leader on Feb. 22)

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