Spotlight: The Unity Care Team

Fourth Quarter 2018 Volunteer Spotlight:

Carolyn Bailey & The Care Team

by Mary Lee Gowland

Carolyn McCowan grew up outside of Springfield, Illinois, in a small town of farmers and coal miners. At a young age she noticed when a person got sick, or was terminally ill, members of the community would stay with him or her, to comfort and bring food.

She graduated from Dixion School of Practical Nursing and became a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). Working in Chicago, she was introduced to the teachings of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross which seemed in direct conflict with how the medical profession viewed end-of-life care. She found that nurses wanted to comfort patients, let them live the best lives they could, and let them pass peacefully. But doctors looked at dying as a failure of their skills.

In the late 1970s, Carolyn got pneumonia. Her brother invited her to his and his wife’s home in El Paso to recuperate. The weather was better for Carolyn’s health, so she sold just about everything and re-located there. Her brother urged her to go back to school and get her RN but she said she liked the hands-on work of an LVN. She began having dreams of Texas towns. Putting a map on her wall, she realized all the towns surrounded San Antonio.

In 1982, a friend invited Carolyn to accompany her to San Antonio to visit a niece. The niece showed Carolyn a job posting that seemed perfect for Carolyn. But it wasn’t until a month later, back in El Paso, that she called about the position. The phone interview went so well she went back to San Antonio where Concepts of Care hired her on the spot. She found a one-bedroom house in Fredericksburg, and her work took her to all the towns in the Hill Country she’d dreamed of.

In the late 1980s, in Dallas, Carolyn attended a large Episcopalian evangelical church. She was seriously injured in a car accident, and had to wear a neck brace. Being unable to work was very depressing. So, she asked her pastor if she could volunteer at church. This led to her developing a program of volunteers to help parishioners in need – drive them to doctors, pick up prescriptions, etc.

In the late 1990s, back in Kerrville, she reconnected with Jay Bailey, whom she’d met years before when she took her godmother to visit Jay’s mom in the hospital. A year after she and Jay married, he too was in a car accident, and had a near death experience (NDE). The accident crushed his hips, and left him in a coma. Slowly he recovered but the NDE altered his fundamentalist beliefs. He no longer saw God as a distant judge, having experienced the presence of Brother Jesus. At a meeting of people who’d had NDEs, Jay and Carolyn met Buster and Anita Hays who told them about the burgeoning Unity community here. 

Last year Carolyn attended a workshop Patty Edwards offered on creating a Love in Action Team, which was renamed Care Ministry Team. When Patty retired, the team continued under the guidance of coordinator Tina Thompson, semi-retired RN. They set up classes for those interested in participating and created a Mission Statement, and Policies and Procedures. Per the Mission Statement the team offers “information and local resources of the community to those with acute and or long-term needs. Our team consists of persons with various skills and talents that may help to direct persons in need with the appropriate organizations that can provide the necessary assistance required.”

The current team consists of Tina, Carolyn, retired R.N. Kathy Daleo, Janet Robinson, Hedy Bohnam, Norma Leonard, Jack McRae, Gerry Lanctot and Lynne Key. Besides offering to help find appropriate care, they send cards, prepare food, and visit (always in pairs) congregants in nursing homes and hospitals.   

Says Tina “It’s important for people to know that the team members do not offer medical advice, but direct individuals to programs or health care providers who can meet their needs. One of the team’s new endeavors is a Welcome New Babies program to help the whole family when a new baby arrives.”

Carolyn adds, “We’re continually evolving and growing and moving forward in positive ways. We’re open to develop new ministries to meet the needs of the community.”  

The Care Team meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 10:30 a.m. in the library. Anyone needing help for themselves, or a spouse, or family member should call the office and a member of the team will be in touch.