VACAVILLE — Melanie Richardson never planned on being self-employed, but she is – and she loves every minute of it.
Richardson owns Helping Hands Senior Resources at 313 Kendal St. in Vacaville.
She spends her days helping families and their senior family members navigate the resources available to them, such as housing, home care and veteran’s benefits plus Medicare and Medi-Cal.
“It runs the gamut,” she said.
Richardson said she does everything from answering questions to giving advice to giving hugs and offering tissues.
She runs the office with another full-time employee, her 21-year-old daughter, Kelsey Moran, and a part-time retired registered nurse.
Richardson has operated Helping Hands for about nine years, but her road to helping seniors and their families began more than 15 years ago.
She said it was her family’s journey that was the catalyst. Her family was searching for help for her aging mother-in-law, who had Alzheimer’s disease. They were trying to figure out what was needed to help her but were “met with roadblock after roadblock,” she said.
“I remember thinking this should be easy . . . there should be at least one place you can go to find out how to start the process,” she said. “That sort of planted the seed in me.”
She came home from Florida with a mission to educate herself.
Richardson, who helped run a family owned construction business, got involved in 1998 with a newly built assisted living facility, which is now part of the Emeritus organization. She soaked up information and another seed, the seed for her future, was planted.
She continued learning in 2001 by joining forces with an Internet company that helped families find senior care on a national level. She started helping families locally.
“I had good results there,” she said. “I became a resource to my community that way.”
She built her knowledge and resources as she went along. She called it an “absolutely joyful” journey.
“It still is,” she said.
This year she’s working with 300 to 400 families “at any given time,” she said. About 70 percent are families who contact her needing guidance concerning an elderly family member. The remaining clients are seniors themselves who need everything from a ride to a doctor’s appointment to help finding housing they can afford.
Richardson said she would like to one day turn the business over to Moran. Through working at Helping Hands, Richardson said her daughter decided on a career in geriatrics. But first comes school; Moran is a full-time student at Solano Community College. Richardson said that if her daughter wants to stay on at Helping Hands, staying in school is a must.
Then, in the future, there could be a hand off.
“You always hope that one (of your children) will want to inherit the keys to the kingdom,” she said of passing on a family business.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.