Focus On Your Bigger Picture with T. Smith Business Consulting

It’s no secret that Jackson has seen a surge in startup and entrepreneurial culture in recent years. This new wave comes with opportunities for people who never thought they could achieve their small business dreams. It’s overwhelming to be a business owner of any kind, that’s why T. Smith Business Consulting is here, to save you time so you can focus on your bigger picture.

T. Smith Business Consulting, run by Toneka Smith, is a consulting company tailored to small business owners. Toneka supports small business owners by helping them grow, providing structure, and essentially getting their business off the ground.

Toneka has always had a passion for helping others and subsequently decided to go back to school. While studying at Jackson College, Toneka took on an internship at the Launch Pad as a business coach, helping start small businesses. With the Launch Pad being based on helping minorities, Toneka fell in love with the process of hearing other entrepreneurs’ stories and how they don’t have the resources to turn their idea into a business. Business coaching was something that was completely new to Toneka, something she had never seen before. Upon graduating, she realized she wanted to take on business coaching herself.

T. Smith Business Consulting offers social media management, social media planning, business consulting, event promotions, project management, as well as the “Build a Business” plan. These services, according to Toneka, are something all small business owners should take advantage of and are unique to helping clients build a business. Toneka has seen that social media has been the most popular service the local business owners. She also works with clients to add on services as they go, to create a plan that best suits their business; she’s done her research and has come up with strategic business plans for each service to work for each individual client.

In Jackson, it’s rare to find a business consultant who offers social media management, where you sit down one on one with a business consultant to go over trending hashtags and designing content. T. Smith Business Consultant offers just that. Toneka wanted to be her own kind of unique; other consulting firms can offer a business plan, but a lot of it is based on a much bigger scale. She offers more of a personal service that tailors exactly to what the client’s business is.

Toneka firmly believes every small business owner has a need for a consultant. From project management to event promotion, T. Smith Business Consultant can handle it all. She explains that it’s easy to hire a big event planner, but they can’t offer the same opinion as someone who is looking through the eyes of a small business owner. There are plenty of benefits to hiring an independent consultant, vs. the big-name company that doesn’t know your business through and through.

Toneka credits her early success to a few things. First, rather than sitting behind a desk, Toneka is constantly bettering her business by being involved in local nonprofits and participating in Chamber events. Second, Toneka is a very active patron of Lean Rocket Lab, which she excitedly shared was a huge resource to her when it came to starting her business. It’s become a home away from home and the perfect place to meet great, entrepreneurial minds alike. A piece of advice Toneka shared was that her favorite Chamber event is Live at the Lab because it’s the perfect setting for members and nonmembers to introduce themselves in a laid-back setting.

Photo Credit: Loveland Farms Photography

Finally, working with her business mentor, another Chamber member, Felicia Carter from Shortie’s Sweets, Eats, & Treats, who she met through the Launch Pad. She explained that it’s great to have someone similar to her who she can bounce ideas off and brainstorm with. Having a mentor like Felicia has been great for someone who is an independent business owner, like Toneka.

Toneka primarily works through her Facebook page for bookings. She also is available by email at tsmithbusinessconsultingllc@gmail.com and by phone at (734)210-0218. She prides herself on her quick response time; she’ll even answer a quick Facebook message, as she likes to make each experience with clients and potential clients personal. Toneka is local to Jackson, the best networker your business will find, and ready to work with you.

T. Smith Business Consultant’s Chamber membership is made possible by the help of Monster Motors. Monster Motors has said time and time again that they see so much value in being able to work one on one and support the small business owners in the community.

County National Bank is More Than a Bank

A bank is something every person is familiar with. You stop by the ATM on your way home from work. You call them when there’s a problem with your card. You set up a savings account for your future. County National Bank (CNB) does so much more than a traditional banking institution. Celebrating its 88th birthday, CNB proudly serves small businesses and corporate offices alike. Headquartered in Hillsdale, CNB has opened twelve branches over the past 88 years and plans to open their thirteenth on Spring Arbor Road very soon.

Melissa Stroede has been with CNB since 2002. She is the definition of “moving up the ladder.” Starting out as a teller in college, Melissa is now the VP of Treasury Management and has 20 years of banking experience. This department is newer, starting in 2017, and covers all business banking needs; from business online banking to fraud prevention, Treasury Management can be beneficial to your local mom and pop to a worldwide corporation.

CNB sets itself apart from your big-name commercial banks. The difference between CNB’s philosophy and that of commercial banking is not only on the deposit side but also the lending side. Melissa explained, “We strive to make sure that business wants for nothing when it comes to a banking relationship.” With that, CNB is able to cover commercial loans and deposits, talk to owners about their investments, and even help with 401Ks and retirement plans. Melissa further said that it’s more than just an account number with CNB, they’ll offer anything a business owner needs guidance with financially.

Banking locally, especially for businesses, has countless benefits. CNB has seen tremendous growth in Jackson’s market, and still has flexibility when it comes to loan approval because of community bank philosophy. They’re able to consider the individual business and work to make a financing plan that suits their needs. Whether you’re a small business ready to expand or a large corporation needing increased line of credit, CNB works to accommodate the individual business.

For a small business, there’s a lot of value in banking with a local institution, simply based on the fact that they know your area and can offer local decision making. They have the ability to think outside the box, rather than just go through the motions of creating an account for you. Melissa shared that being able to see a small business grow firsthand is the most fulfilling thing for CNB to see. Utilizing CNB and having someone on your team that’s also local can be a huge benefit because they live and work here too. If you have a small business, CNB has a huge portfolio of loan types they can help with. There’s rarely something they can’t do, no matter the size.

On the deposit side, CNB also works differently than your typical commercial bank. Commercial banks often charge clients a fee per transaction. CNB has a hard monthly charge that is a fraction of what other commercial banks charge for services. They’ve found ways to build a better, stronger business, without charging additional fees to your local shops, restaurants, and businesses. Therefore, businesses’ relationship with CNB can be focused on strictly helping their business, rather than sweating over the small fees.

CNB also assists with wealth management. For a long time, CNB has had a wealth management department, which specializes in business banking. CNB has a great team of financial advisors local to Jackson, and just like they personalize banking, they give that extra, personalized effort to manage the wealth of their clients. To have one business owner have one holistic relationship with one bank can be huge, and there’s not a lot that CNB can’t handle when it comes to business owners big and small managing their finances.

Aside from being different than commercial banks, CNB is so much more than a place to deposit a check. Melissa took the time to explain CNB’s deep commitment to the Jackson community. All employees serve on boards, volunteer for local nonprofits, and more. Their work culture is based highly on community involvement. Their involvement translates to the events they sponsor; they choose sponsorships very specific to community needs. For example, CNB is the presenting sponsor of the Art, Beer, and Wine Festival, because they find huge value in helping sustain the Ella Sharp Museum. It gives them the opportunity to be really involved in big, local events.

“What’s cool,” Melissa continues, “is hearing CNB mentioned on JTV or the radio.” Everything they do is local, so it’s easy to be involved on a local board. People who work at CNB are local and are involved in the community organizations and are visible to those in the community. Visibility is what sets them apart, and it’s something they pride themselves on. Melissa shared that John Waldren, President of CNB, doesn’t want to see the employees in their offices. He expects them to be out, involved in the community.

When asked “What one thing you want the people of Jackson to know?” Melissa said “We were there during the pandemic. Flexible and quick with implementing loans, and I firmly believe that we saved some small businesses.” Melissa then went on to say that CNB doesn’t do what they do for accolades, they do it because they care. From commercial business owners to small businesses downtown, County National Bank is highly committed to Jackson and the people and businesses who call this home.

The Chamber and Experience Jackson: How Are They Different?

Have you ever stopped by the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, or maybe Experience Jackson? If you have, you ended up in the same office. What comes as a surprise to most, however, is that the Chamber and Experience Jackson are two completely separate entities. This can be confusing, given that some of the team members overlap and each organization collaborates on some of the same projects. However, even with their similarities and overlap, the Chamber and Experience Jackson offer two entirely different purposes to Jackson.

Rachel Buchanan, Marketing & Development Director of Experience Jackson, described the two the following way: The Chamber is here to equip and grow your business and grow your professional connections. Experience Jackson is meant to attract people to those businesses.

The Chamber puts on events meant for networking and growing your business. It also provides business resources, advertising and sponsorship opportunities, legislatives support, and leadership development to its members. The Chamber is member-based, whereas Experience Jackson focuses more on the promotion of all local attractions.

Experience Jackson draws people to the community by promoting what Jackson County has to offer. They do so by sponsoring events or highlighting local restaurants and attractions to those that may not be familiar with the area.

Experience Jackson enjoys taking a hands-on approach when sponsoring and promoting local events, rather than just being a recognizable brand. Playing a role in the growth of Jackson is a large part of their mission, and they love seeing just how many visitors come to explore events like Bright Walls, Museum Day, Gus Macker Tournament, downtown events, and many more. The organization develops deep relationships with tourism locations and offers support where needed, to make sure new faces and returning visitors have plenty of reasons to return.

Photo Courtesy of JTV

Outside of event promotion, Experience Jackson also works closely with the local hotels and can set visitors up with hotel blocks, private meeting spaces, or recommend beautiful local venues to host your next event. Experience Jackson also offers golf packages to help bring visitors from all across the Midwest to Jackson’s award-winning courses. Golf is just one thing Experience Jackson focuses on throughout the year, they also push campaigns for fishing, hiking, festivals, food and beverage, and more. Maybe you’re simply wondering how you can fill your weekend plans? Experience Jackson sends out monthly newsletters and weekly updates about local events and happenings. Sign up here.

Experience Jackson specializes in staying involved with the community by investing in the Chamber. Since the Chamber is naturally recognized as a huge professional asset to the community, Experience Jackson takes advantage of its partnership by taking the opportunity to network with other members at Chamber events. By doing so, this opens the door to new partnerships and chances to continue to help bring people to those local businesses.

A must-visit destination is made by having healthy businesses. Therefore, Experience Jackson plays a role in helping those businesses thrive and keep the community vibrant by continuing to highlight them on their social media pages, blog, in publications, and their website. Say you have a friend from out of the area staying for the weekend and you want to plan a visit full of local eats, one-of-a-kind entertainment, and unique nightlife, look no further than ExperienceJackson.com.

Photo Courtesy of JTV

There are plenty of ways that Experience Jackson makes the most of their Chamber membership. Experience Jackson loves being a part of is the MLK Diversity Celebration. Not only did Experience Jackson help sponsor, but the team also helped promote professionally and did some assisting behind the scenes. Experience Jackson is also excited to be the presenting sponsor of Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement, put on by the Chamber. If you kept tabs on Community Awards Week, you may have noticed that the Omotenashi Award was also sponsored by Experience Jackson.

Experience Jackson has a Community Champion-Level Membership, which means that they proudly sponsor a few Chamber memberships as well and bring that opportunity to a business that may be just getting started or needs some financial assistance to get their foot in the door and their name out into the community.

The Chamber is proud to have an organization dedicated to the growth of Jackson’s tourism, and to have it “in-house” at the Chamber makes the team feel especially lucky. To learn more about what Experience Jackson does for the community, click here.

Mission of Hope Cancer Fund Brings Relief to Those Affected by Cancer in Michigan

Cancer hits close to home for many people. You may know someone affected by cancer: a coworker, a family member, a friend. It may be yourself. Unfortunately, cancer has likely affected most, if not all, people in some way.

Sara Cyphers, Secretary (left) and Maria Ethridge, Executive Director (right)

You’ve probably heard of the 5Ks, the fundraisers, the GoFundMe pages, but have you heard of Mission of Hope Cancer Fund? A local nonprofit determined to help those affected by cancer. Mission of Hope Cancer Fund is made up of a dynamic duo, Executive Director, Maria Ethridge, and her secretary Sara Cyphers. Along with Maria and Sarah, there are eight members that sit on the Board of Directors. These board members offer support in many areas, including helping at events and visiting patients.

Maria stepped into the role of Executive Director recently. With experience working in education and human services and substance abuse, Maria has always had a passion for helping people. The essence of helping people has always been her focus, so when the opportunity came for her to alleviate one of the most stressful components of people’s lives, becoming the Executive Director of MHCF was perfect for her.

MHCF provides direct financial assistance, starting with something as simple as an online form. It’s easy, and only takes about ten minutes to complete once a doctor confirms the diagnosis. From there, MHCF is able to provide assistance for medical bills, insurance, supplies, and field costs. There are countless great things about what MHCF does, but to name a few, MHCF is able to assist with every type of cancer. Whatever diagnosis you or someone you love may have, MHCF is able to help in some way. It can be as small as providing a gas card to get patients to and from chemotherapy, and as large as assisting with medical expenses.

Fill out the form here.

Recently, the MHCF put on Concert for a Cause at the Michigan Theatre, where guests enjoyed an evening out featuring bands such as B!g L Code Blu & Kung Fu Diesel. Maria recalled that she heard stories of patients experiencing a sense of normalcy at the concert for the first time since their diagnosis. Another concert patron was struggling with her husband’s diagnosis, and the Concert for a Cause gave her reason to enjoy a girls’ night out.

In the future, MHCF hopes to continue to build their existing programs, like Concert for a Cause. They are also looking to expand their travel program. This could be ways to cover travel costs for patients going to and from treatments, or even having volunteers drive patients who are incapable of driving themselves. They hope to get out into the community more and connect people with MHCF. Maria and Sara have found that so many community members want to find ways to help, and MHCF is looking to give back in a similar way. With the state of the world being what it is, we need each other, and need to help in any way we are capable.

Maria and Sara have helped a number of patients, from the newly diagnosed who are overwhelmed with the treatments ahead, or a family member who is struggling with support. In many situations, friends and family of those with cancer want to help, but don’t know what they can do; Mission of Hope does. Sara explained that Maria is incredible with clients and patients, and always knows exactly what to say. If MHCF can’t assist you with exactly what you’re looking for, they will point you in the direction of a nonprofit who can.

Mission of Hope Cancer Fund is always accepting donations to continue offering assistance to cancer patients and those affected by this disease. To donate, click here.

If you or someone you know could benefit from the help Mission of Hope Cancer fund provides, click here. Mission of Hope is always open to community members to get involved and are always looking to partner with fundraising. If you hope to get involved in Mission of Hope Cancer Fund, you can reach Maria at mhcf@cancerfund.org.

J&F Audio Brings New Beats to Jackson

In their early twenties, most people are trying to finish college or just figure out what field they want to dive into. For Tyler Boyer (21) and Ean Warren (20), they are working on wrapping up their first year of business with Jacob & Fritz Audio. 

J&F Audio is an audio retailer that specializes in selling audio equipment for events and spaces of any kind. A common demographic J&F Audio targets are churches, since that is where their passion for audio stems from. Tyler’s audio experience began when he was just ten years old when he helped with the internal sound system in his church. From there, he became involved with other churches as well. He and Ean have been friends for as long as they can remember and aren’t surprised that their friendship has grown into a professional partnership. 

Tyler is currently training to be a lineman and loves working on electronics on the side, like building RC cars or the wood casing for speakers. Ean is studying computer science at Spring Arbor University and enjoys tinkering with computers and electronics while dabbling a bit in the culinary world on the side. It’s no secret that these two have a knack for what they do, and both agreed that if you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t feel like work at all.

When starting J&F Audio, Tyler and Ean found the process surprising, as they didn’t realize how much of a need Jackson had for an audio retailer until they got into it. Now, after a few months of growth, Tyler and Ean offer services unlike any other to accommodate clients’ audio needs. J&F Audio even offers free consultations to determine exactly what fits your vision and budget. Whether that be mixers, speakers, soundboards, or even equipment for live music.

When asked what their favorite piece of equipment to sell is, that answer was easy: speakers. Tyler and Ean explained that speakers provide a way to be somewhere you’re not through sound; good sound transports you. With an increase in media trends that more and more businesses are taking advantage of, J&F Audio has recommendations regarding things like podcast and video equipment, like shotgun mics, headsets, interface, and much more. Interested, but seems a bit beyond your capabilities? That’s where J&F Audio comes in. J&F Audio is available for consultations and troubleshooting. One thing Tyler and Ean love for clients to remember is that there is so much when it comes to audio, and if you’re overwhelmed with choices, it doesn’t hurt to just ask. Most often, they’ll have an answer, and if they don’t, they will lead you in the right direction. “Phone calls are free,” they continued, “and will probably leave you happier than before you called.”

 J&F Audio had just joined the Chamber right before JAXPO. Days before the event, the Chamber had a cancellation and offered a last-minute booth to J&F Audio. Even with the short notice, J&F Audio was able to win third place for best booth at the whole event! Tyler and Ean share an impressive work ethic and initiative, seen both by the Chamber staff and by their Membership Sponsor, Monster Motors.

Monster Motors has enjoyed being an Executive Member of the Chamber because it gives them an opportunity to offer sponsored memberships to new businesses, like J&F Audio. Ron O’Rourke (Fixed Operations) and Lori Jackson (Owner) both agreed that being able to sponsor memberships is the perfect way to give back to the community. Ron continued that Tyler and Ean both have great vision and hope to utilize this sponsorship as a mentorship as well, meeting with Ean and Tyler, giving business insight, and helping them reach their goals. Monster Motors plans to continue developing relationships like this in the future by sponsoring more memberships for small businesses who want to get involved with the Chamber.

With all this expertise under their belt, it’s hard to believe that the two friends started their business just in July of 2021. In the future, Tyler and Ean hope to open an interactive storefront where customers can see, touch, and hear equipment for themselves. They hope to fill the store with music and electronics that will enhance each customer’s experience while appealing to each of their needs. While they’re still structuring their business plan and assessing the needs Jackson has, Tyler explained that the story is still being written. The two of them want J&F Audio to be a known asset to Jackson, something everyone knows about, and no matter what passion you have, you can go to the J&F Audio store and have some fun. For now, whatever your audio needs may be, J&F Audio is here and eager to help.

For help with your audio and electronic needs, you can contact J&F Audio on their website, send an email, or give a quick call or text at 517-499-1412.

Endurance Law Brings IP Resources to Jackson Entrepreneurs

Starting a business can be intimidating. You have an idea, now what? How do you protect that idea? The startup scene is something more and more entrepreneurs in the Jackson area are dipping their toes into. For that reason, the Jackson entrepreneurial community is lucky to have dedicated intellectual property (“IP”) expertise in Endurance Law Group PLC. Jon Shackelford, one of the partners, explained that Endurance Law is made up of patent lawyers, a rare breed who are as much engineers as they are attorneys, which makes them unique in the legal field.

Endurance Law was formed by Jon and law partner Brad Smith, who each left big Ann Arbor firms in 2012 to set-up shop in Jackson. The motivation was different for each. For Jon, he always admired clients who were entrepreneurs, taking risks on ideas and new ventures. The thought of starting a business seemed exhilarating to Jon. Brad was motivated by the prospects of a better quality of life and the ability to closely manage the working family farm in Addison.  Leaving the security of large firms and steady incomes to start a boutique IP practice in Jackson was daunting, to say the least, but the pair have never had any regrets for taking that leap of faith, now ten years ago. 

A patent lawyer must be able to understand an invention in order to write an effective patent. Brad and Jon both come from a mechanical engineering backgrounds, meaning they love inventions made of gears and springs and moving parts, but have less experience dealing with inventions based in electrical, software, and E-commerce tech. That’s why they’ve recently made an important addition to the firm, Jim Yee.  Jim is an electrical engineer and specializes in exactly these areas. With Jim, Endurance Law is able to better serve clients in the electrical, software and E-commerce spaces at a competitive cost.

Example of a Patent

All three lawyers that make up Endurance Law came from big firms, posh offices and expensive hourly rates.  Here they are now, in Jackson, the very same lawyers without the flashy surroundings and big city rates.  When the Lean Rocket Lab was established in downtown Jackson (2018), Endurance Law jumped at the opportunity to relocate its offices within the hub of the city’s entrepreneurial heartbeat.  The Lab offers Jim, Brad and Jon the ability to easily connect with Jackson’s best and brightest rising stars on the entrepreneurial scene.  Endurance Law passionately believes that the future entrepreneurs of Jackson are to be found flowing through the Lean Rocket Lab in some capacity, and that’s why the firm is exactly where it needs to be. Jon testified that after observing the entrepreneurial scene in Jackson over the past 10+ years, the Lean Rocket Lab has done a remarkable – make that miraculous — job establishing a genuine, fully-functioning, entrepreneurial community in Jackson. Being in this environment allows the Endurance lawyers to be one step closer to their clients, while offering their specialized type of support to this important growth sector of our community.

Endurance Law specializes in Intellectual Property Law, IP law for short, which is an umbrella term for four different legal tools/devices created to protect different facets of human creativity: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. They work mainly with inventors and creators to protect and defend their creations.

Example of a Trademark

If a client has an invention, they need a patent. If a client has created a work of art, they need copyright. If a client has come up with their own brand, they need a trademark. Confidential formulations need a trade secret.  Brad, a seasoned litigator, handles IP disputes for the firm.  Jon described their services as a sort of cocktail. Depending on what each client creates or needs, Endurance Law devises a “cocktail” of intellectual property ingredients to maximize protection.  With that, the partners at Endurance Law see themselves as “mixologists” for Intellectual Property – custom IP cocktails made to order.

Entrepreneurs have something unique to offer their customers. Businesses without a unique offering at least want to be distinguishable from their competition.  In both cases, the path to distinctiveness in the business world travels through Intellectual Property. Though needs differ from business to business, Endurance Law helps entrepreneurs and businesses of all kinds establish themselves in a unique way so that they can maintain, and hopefully grow, their market share.

One major point that Endurance Law wants to get across is – why pay for showiness? Jon explained, “If someone is looking for a flashy, expensive IP lawyer, go to a big city like Ann Arbor, Detroit or Grand Rapids.” Rather, the Endurance lawyers are highly qualified, experienced “IP mixologists” that know the ins and outs of entrepreneurship.  For day-in, day-out IP legal affairs, come to Endurance Law for the same quality of service as you will find in the big firms, just with lower rates and skipping the superficial stuff.

To find out how Endurance Law Group PLC can mix a custom IP cocktail for your business, give them a call at 517-879-0261, visit their website, or find them on LinkedIn.

Grow Jackson’s Fight Against Food Insecurity

The Feeding America Network defines much of the city of Jackson as a “food desert.” It’s hard to believe that such a jarring issue can be found so close to home. It seems as though most people are able to make that quick run to the grocery store after work to pick up those last few ingredients to put a meal on the table. For Jacob Inosencio, founder of Grow Jackson, his involvement in extracurriculars and classes during college and growing up volunteering at the local food pantry opened his eyes to the environmental inequalities found in the food system. It may not seem like it, but every county in the United States has food insecurity, and no demographic has consistency in their diet.

The basic need for food seems like it should be widely attainable. Waking up, making breakfast – it should be as simple as that. Jacob points out that food insecurity harms many people in our own city but disproportionately affects children, the elderly, and people of color. It could be affecting someone as close as your next-door neighbor, a coworker, or even a friend.

Knowing this pushed Jacob to put an end to food insecurity, starting in his own hometown. Jacob founded Grow Jackson, a non-profit 5O1c3 dedicated to ending food insecurity in Jackson through inclusive access to organic produce. Grow Jackson rescues food from being thrown away and has built a number of local urban community gardens. These gardens not only grow produce to sustain the people of Jackson who may need it but grow our community as well.

They continue their involvement by managing the gardens, growing organic produce, and keeping that produce available for people to harvest their own flowers or vegetables, or to be given away. Volunteers have the opportunity to get their hands dirty and be rewarded by seeing the product of their hard work, as well as the faces of those they are feeding when they harvest. Just recently, Grow Jackson was able to dedicate Martin Luther King Jr. Day to rescuing boxes of food from landfills, and giving them out to communities in the Jackson area.

Grow Jackson offers a variety of programs in the area to further its mission. One of which is the Garden Education Initiative, in cooperation with St. Mary’s School, the City of Jackson, and Young People of Purpose, where students K through 8 have the opportunity to learn about environmental science, plant and soil science, the food system, and home gardening skills.

Jacob and Grow Jackson are especially excited to be partnered with Orthopedic Rehab Specialists to put on this year’s Groundhog Gallop, sponsored by Experience Jackson. This 5k race is a great opportunity to raise money during the season of giving. Grow Jackson believes food and nutrition are a human right and being active as a community is a great way to support wellness, as well as Grow Jackson’s mission to end food insecurity. The Groundhog Gallop matches up with Orthopedic Rehab’s race series, this being the first of the year.

Even though it’s winter, Grow Jackson is gearing up for another busy spring and summer full of gardening and giving. More information will be posted, come summer. To donate, visit GrowJackson.org/Donate. If you or someone you know may be interested in volunteering at a community garden or packaging food, visit GrowJackson.org/Volunteer.

Arbor Hospice Offers Rewarding Ways to Give Back

Hospice – confronting the concept of it can be daunting. For a lot of people, once they hear “hospice,” they immediately jump to the idea of death. However, Alana Knoppow from Arbor Hospice mentions that, though the idea of hospice and death being synonymous is common, something Arbor Hospice hears often is that relatives and friends often wish they had enrolled their loved one in hospice sooner, to make the last phase of their life as comfortable and content as possible.

Alana Knoppow has been with Arbor Hospice for almost nine years, caring for those as they enter and leave the last phase of life. Arbor Hospice is a non-profit organization that specializes in care for people at that point, by providing comfort and enhancing their quality of life in any way possible. They provide aids and volunteers to patients both in their residences, in patients’ homes, and in other care facilities.

Hospice is described by Alana as palliative, meaning “comfort care,” which is exactly what those in hospice aim to do. Those who work in hospice specialize in symptom management, which can fall under spiritual, physical, or emotional pain. Something that Arbor Hospice recognizes in their practice is that as long as a patient is living, they are in fact alive. With that, Arbor Hospice strives to make patients’ quality of life as valuable as possible, even in its final stages.

Arbor Hospice provides a unique approach to hospice care. Rather than simply sitting at someone’s bedside, Arbor Hospice enlists volunteers such as massage therapists and musicians to gift patients with their talents. Veterans can visit fellow veterans. Whatever special care a patient wants or needs in their time with Arbor Hospice, it can be achieved. Arbor Hospice also brings in licensed cosmetologists to provide haircuts and paint nails, so that patients feel their best, even when their best may seem unattainable. Something that makes Arbor Hospice unique is that they provide pediatric hospice, which Alana expressed can be hard to find, but at the same time, so necessary to young patients and their families.

When asked of a time that stood out to Alana in her nine years with Arbor Hospice, she reflected on one specific patient that had a projected 48 hours to live. It was Christmas Eve, and this patient had no family or friends at their side. A vigil visit was requested, which is when a volunteer offers a quiet and supportive presence to a patient. The request was put out to all volunteers, with the hopes that maybe one or two would make time around their holiday celebrations to be with this patient. The response was overwhelming, and Alana was able to provide volunteers back-to-back until the end of life, which was about 72 hours later. As Alana recalled this memory, she referred to it as “The Christmas Miracle Vigil.”

Hospice care not only greatly affects the patients, but the loved ones of those in hospice care. Arbor Hospice offers incredible resources to those who may be struggling with having a friend or relative in hospice or are grieving. Arbor Hospice offers grief support, which is open to the community at no cost. They also provide a variety of educational offerings and are very involved in the community. You may have even seen them at Paws in the Park downtown.

Speaking of paws, volunteers and aids can even visit with a pet. Alana has visited with a few of her own furry friends. Her first therapy dog, a black pug named Sammi, had one eye and was blind. Even though Sammi was blind, he always knew to put his paw into others’ hands for comfort. Her current black pug, Albert, is described as very playful and energetic, but always provides a calming presence alongside hospice patients. Alana expanded on this by saying that dogs have a special way of sensing who in the room needs them most.

Being an employee or volunteer in hospice can be quite heavy and weigh on anyone emotionally. Alana mentioned that there are a few ways to keep morale high among staff and clients. She continued that everyone at Arbor Hospice has a team to lean on. At Arbor Hospice, they hold weekly team meetings, in which each person has the opportunity to talk and reflect on their experiences. Though dedicating their lives to helping patients pass and comforting loved ones would ordinarily be something that would weigh heavily on a team’s morale, Alana explained that it is meaningful and an honor to be included in that critical point in a loved one’s life. Arbor Hospice often receives calls of gratitude and reflection for the wonderful things their team has done to provide patients with the utmost quality of care.

Alana explained that the people behind hospice care are truly one of a kind. There is a type of person who wants to get involved in hospice, and it’s evident that they are selfless and strong.

Arbor Hospice is always looking for volunteers to spend time with patients. They can do so on a weekly or monthly basis; Arbor Hospice just asks that volunteers make a one-year commitment. All volunteers are screened and trained, and a staff member will go with any new volunteers for their first visit or two. Arbor Hospice is eager to welcome any and all potential volunteers who hope to get involved in hospice care, they just ask that, if you are grieving, wait 12 months to process your own loss before stepping into someone else’s.

Anyone hoping to get involved can reach Alana Knoppow at aknoppow@arborhospice.org and 248-303-6818. If you aren’t available to volunteer yourself, Alana shared that even something as small as liking and engaging with Arbor Hospice on social media and sharing what their organization does can be huge for their organization.

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134 W Michigan Ave.
Jackson, MI 49201
517.782.8221

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