• NEWS-JOURNAL PHOTO/BRANDON ROBERTS Harry McCall, left, reads a handmade card from Nicole Brewster, right, during a birthday party for the pair at Mary’s Caring Hands.
    NEWS-JOURNAL PHOTO/BRANDON ROBERTS Harry McCall, left, reads a handmade card from Nicole Brewster, right, during a birthday party for the pair at Mary’s Caring Hands.

Mary's Caring Hands offers respite for caregivers

SPRUCE PINE – Everyone needs a break sometimes.

Mary’s Caring Hands at First Baptist Church of Spruce Pine provides a respite for caregivers’ loved ones from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays by offering social and recreational activities in a secure and supportive environment.

Named for its founder and first director Mary Tichenor, Mary’s Caring Hands was developed in partnership with the Mitchell County Health Partnership, the High Country Area Agency on Aging, First Baptist Church of Spruce Pine and the Brookdale Foundation.

“For many, the challenges of caring for an elderly, chronically ill or disabled family member are simply a part of daily life,” said Ann Shortinghouse, Mary’s Caring Hands program director for the past seven years. “Caregiving is a demanding job and no one is equipped to do it alone. Respite care provides short-term breaks that can relieve stress, restore energy, and promote balance in your life. It’s a chance to give caregivers a break because they can’t take care of people if they don’t take care of themselves.”

The program began as a one-day, adult daycare program for people with Alzheimer’s.

Nicole Brewster is currently the program’s lone client – she suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was 16 and has been coming to the program the past five years. Nicole had to be brought back to life after the wreck and when she awoke could speak only German. Shortinghouse and the program’s volunteers speak fondly of Brewster’s delightful laugh and her love of playing UNO.

“We do fun stuff here,” Nicole said. “We play cards and help other people.”

The wreck left Nicole with the inability to smell or cry but it has not hampered her love of pasta or bowling.

“We go out and do field trips that are a lot of fun,” Nicole said.

Nicole attends Hinds’ Feet Farm in Asheville Monday through Thursday, a day program for people living with brain injuries. Her mother, Brenda, said Nicole’s injury makes it difficult for her to sit through church or Sunday School but she wanted her daughter to still be involved in church, so she started bringing her to Mary’s Caring Hands.

“Ann mentioned it to me and Nicole starting coming,” Brenda said. “She absolutely loves it.”

Shortinghouse said there are some misnomers associated with the program.

“People feel like they are pawning their loved ones off when they bring them here, but it’s not that at all,” she said. “They make friends here. They get to know each other. People also tend to think they are going to come here and just hear preaching all day long, but it’s not like that. It’s a Christian environment but it’s for people of all ages who are agnostic, Buddhist, Muslim or whatever. The program is about caring for other human beings.”

First Baptist Church of Spruce Pine Pastor Rocky Branch said more people would participate in the program if they knew more about it.

“It’s a safe, convenient and Christian place for caregivers to get a respite from the difficulty of caring for another person,” he said. “It’s all on one level so there’s no worry about stairs, it’s wheelchair accessible, has comfortable furniture and nutritious food. I’ve never met a grumpy person in that program and I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t jump into this with both feet.”

Public transportation to and from Mary’s Caring Hands is available if needed and the church is wheelchair accessible. Cost of the program is $20 per week. Call Shortinghouse at 828-776-2462 or email her at shortinghouse@yahoo.com with questions or for more information.

The MItchell News

Mailing Address: PO Box 339 
Spruce Pine, NC 28777 
Phone: 828-765-7169
Fax: 828-765-1616