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posted: 11/4/2017 7:00 AM

Once homeless, Mitchell woman wins statewide award

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MITCHELL, Ind. -- "There's always something you can do."

That's how Shauntina (Masters) Hickey looks at life. Three years ago, she was desperate for a way out of the circumstances she found herself in after a divorce. Homeless and carrying nothing more than a duffel bag filled with a few clothes, she came to Mitchell when her brother offered her shelter.

She had no money, no job and only her two feet for transportation.

But she was willing to work.

"I remember that day like it was yesterday," said Toya Lamm, the director of Living Well Home Care Inc. in Mitchell. "Shauntina came in looking for a job, and after meeting her, we talked amongst ourselves in the back, wondering what to do."

"I didn't have anything," Hickey said. "... But I was determined to get back on my feet ASAP. ... I told them what my situation was, and I said, 'If you will work with me, I promise to work hard for you.'"

They took a chance on Hickey.

And Lamm's only regret is that she can't clone her.

"What you see is exactly what you get with Shauntina," Lamm said. "She is a light in this world. ... Not only is she full-time, but she asks for all the hours she can get, so we give her overtime. We're in 41 counties, so we want her everywhere she wants to be because she's a model employee, and her clients love her. When you have an employee like Shauntina, you want her out there. I always picture her as this little light that just criss-crosses the area, lighting up lives as she goes."

Example of excellence

Hickey has worked as a personal care attendant for Living Well since May 2014. Her job is to help home care clients with whatever nonmedical needs they might have. That means she is often shuttling them to doctor's appointments, doing their grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and helping them with hygiene.

"If there's a client who has a need, she finds that need," Lamm said. "She's our eyes and ears and always makes sure her clients have what they need."

Recently representatives of Indiana Association of Home and Hospice Care surprised Hickey with the Cheryl Atwood Award for para-professionals. The honor is given to one person in the state who represents the highest level of caregiving and leadership.

In Hickey's nomination letter, Anna Newberry, Living Well's staff training manager, wrote, "Shauntina is a success story as an employee and a human being. She came to us in 2014 homeless, with no car. She faced her disadvantages with a positive attitude and proved herself to the office staff and our clients while improving her personal situation. ... Shauntina is very passionate with her clients and passionate about her work and community. She is loved by our clients and office staff, fills in, never complains, works over 40 hours when needed and donates what she can when she can."

Hickey still can't believe she was chosen for the award.

"The day after I got this award, my car broke down," she said. "If that ain't real, I don't know what is. ... Out of the whole state of Indiana, they picked me? That's what I ain't getting. I always feel like I could do more, but I guess I can only do what I can. One thing is for sure: When I set my mind to something, I'm not going to fail. I'll work until I make it.

"If I commit to something, it's full throttle."

Working her way up

Before Hickey was hired, she explained her situation to Lamm and her staff. Because she lacked transportation, Hickey was given clients who lived in the city of Mitchell so she could walk to her appointments.

"I started in May, and by June, I had an apartment," Hickey said. Danny and Sue Compton, she said, were willing to work with her, providing her with a home of her own in their apartment building. "I had so many people who helped me get back on my feet; it wasn't just me."

A few months later, Hickey took on a second job.

"It's a real struggle getting back on your feet," Hickey said. "... You've got to stay positive and stay focused."

Soon, she was checking off life goals and working her way up through life.

"Shauntina is a genuine person," Lamm said. "What you see is exactly what you get with her. She is exactly why I do what I do every day. We kept giving her goals ... and every time, she has successfully reached them as we've been in here rooting her on. ... We're a family, both in here and out there, and we're all focused on the same goal - helping as many people as we can."

After a couple of years on the job, the next goal for Hickey was transportation.

"Once I got my car, it was game on," Hickey said with a laugh. "I was stuck in this town for so long that I was ready to go anywhere."

And she does. She drives to Williams, Bloomington, Orleans and even Owen County to see clients.

"I'm a walking, talking testament of what God can do for us," Hickey said. "It's not me, it's him. He gave me the courage and confidence to do all that I have done."

She attends the Tabernacle of Grace, where she volunteers to clean the church. She has served for both Bertha's Mission and the free Thanksgiving dinner offered at the Mitchell Wesleyan Church. She has collected donations for various drives and charities, including Alzheimer's care.

"If you have free time, don't waste it," Hickey said. "There's always something you can do. ... It could always be worse. It's always important to stay busy and do some good, and for me, I want to pay it forward. There was a time I needed help, too, so I get out there and do what I can. It's a challenge sometimes, but it's our job to help as we can."

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Source: (Bedford) Times-Mail

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Information from: The Times-Mail, http://www.tmnews.com

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