Circle of Life Caregiver Cooperative in Bellingham opened for business in 2009. The following information comes from the organization’s website, www.circleoflife.coop.
• Circle of Life is a worker-owned cooperative business, licensed by the Washington State Department of Health to provide in-home personal and home care services for elders and disabled persons in Bellingham and Whatcom County. All Circle of Life Caregivers are experienced and fully trained in the caregiving field, and are insured and bonded.
• Circle of Life’s mission is to provide quality in-home care services with compassion and respect for its clients by empowering its caregivers through teamwork and ownership of the business.
• The idea for Circle of Life Caregiver Cooperative came from Bellingham resident Jo Ann McNerthney, who was looking for caregivers to help care for her father. She began meeting with interested caregivers in January 2007. After receiving two grants from the Cooperative Development Foundation, the group was ready to start developing a business plan, writing their by-laws, drafting policies and procedures, as well as becoming insured and bonded. Two years later, the Circle of Life Caregiver Cooperative opened for business.
• Currently, there are more than 50 caregivers. They are owners of the business. Members pay a one-time fee of $300. Business profits will be returned to workers as dividends.
• Circle of Life caregivers are paid $12 an hour for shifts of three hours or more. The rate increases to $13.25 after successful completion of a three-month probation period, and again to $13.75 after membership is approved at six months of employment. Caregivers have paid vacation time accrued based on hours worked.
• Services include personal care, assistance with activities of daily living, bathing assistance, dressing assistance, transferring and ambulation, medication reminders, nail care, toileting assistance, incontinence care, transportation to appointments, assistance with recreation and community access, in-home companionship, travel companionship, home care, laundry, linen changing, dish washing, cleaning, errands, cooking, meal planning, shopping, sweeping and vacuuming and pet care.