BARBOURSVILLE - When Andrew Maass, Jeff Stevens and Matt Walker began Village Caregiving on Main Street in Barboursville five years ago, they wanted to be guided by common sense principles.

"We wanted to offer the most affordable and highest quality in-home care services in the region for seniors," Maass said. "All three of us had personal experience in care for an ailing loved one and saw the need for in-home care that is personal, dependable, competent, professional, caring and transparent."

On Jan. 18, 2013, the trio of law school graduates and entrepreneurs opened the Barboursville location with 12 employees.

"It was a grassroots effort to locate referral services and communicate with senior centers and others about who we are, who we hire and what we offer," Maass said. "I tell people words are words, let us show you through our actions."

Village Caregiving offers non-medical, in-home care services. Companion services it offers include routine housework, cooking, pet care, errands and more. Personal services offered include bathing, assisting with meals, mobilization activities, assisting with self-administered medications and other services.

Now, five years later, the company has hit the 100-employee mark at its Barboursville office as well as 150 other employees at new locations in Charleston, Clarksburg and inside Woodlands Retirement Community in Huntington, as well as a recently opened office in Ashland, Kentucky.

"My mother is a nurse in Kentucky," Stevens said. "I am a University of Kentucky graduate and have roots there as well, so expanding into Ashland is every exciting for us."

The company's growth comes as the home healthcare services industry is expanding significantly nationwide.

In a study released in December 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the compound annual growth rate for home healthcare services from 2014 to 2024 would be nearly 5 percent, the highest among all industries.

That will mean 760,400 new jobs, the report said. For all occupations in the home healthcare industry, the BLS projected that employment would rise from 1.26 million in 2014 to 2.02 million in 2024.

Joining the industry is Ben Keenan, one Village Caregiving's new partners. He is heading up the firm's new office in Ashland.

"I was brought in to provide a different perspective to issues we may face," Keenan said. "Before joining Village Caregiving, I was a vice president district manager for a large regional bank. What allowed me to be successful in banking was having the ability to flawlessly execute customer service and understanding the importance of facilitating an environment that demands healthy employee engagement."

Keenan says joining Village Caregiving made complete sense.

"I have seen it first hand with my own family; there is a strong need within our community for non-medical in-home care," he said. "I'm from this area, born and raised, I wanted to be part of a team that has deep roots within this area and shares the same thoughts and beliefs I have about the Tri-State area. I'm excited to bring my experience of putting the client before the needs of the company and building a team that values employee engagement. We as partners want to see the community thrive, and being a part of Village Caregiving is one way we can give back to a community that has been so kind to us."

The company also announced last week that Village Caregiving has reached an agreement with the owner of SarahCare of Barboursville, an established in-home care company that had also been serving the Tri-State region.

"SarahCare served this community for a long time, and they were ready to wind down their operation," Stevens said. "They were looking for a home for their employees and their clients, so we are very happy to give them a good home here at Village Caregiving."

"Now that two outstanding companies have joined together, we will continue to hire and take on new clients at a steady pace," Maass said.

Stevens says he attributes the company's success to its understanding and recognition of the key elements needed to create a successful service.

"We have relied on personal relationships with our clients and their families and reputation building from the ground up," he said. "A crucial ingredient for achieving success in the in-home care industry is the bond and relationship between the client and caregiver."

Steven says trust does not come easily.

"We have shown that we are a local company and many of our clients choose us because of our relationships with area health care providers and the local community," he explained. "We have earned their trust and realize that each one of our clients is part of someone's family, which is why our caregivers treat them like family."

Stevens added that Village Caregiving has shown they are different from most in-home care businesses.

"We are not a chain, franchise or big business," he said. "We are local with deep roots in the community. We are individuals that grew up here and we are always going to be here. We are part of the communities we serve."

The company maintains stringent requirements for their caregivers, the founders say.

"Our caregivers are experienced in the in-home care industry, they are bonded and insured, they have passed and remain subject to random drug screens and they have been screened through criminal background checks and abuse databases."

Maass says he and his partners understand that each individual client will have different and unique needs.

"We tailor our services to the individual client," he explained. "This is why we match personalities and needs effectively. We want our clients to trust and genuinely like their caregivers."

Staff members also receive comprehensive training that exceeds the requirements for licensing in West Virginia.

Sheri Beneke, a registered nurse on the company's staff, said her role is to perform required nursing assessments for some clients that need it before care can be established in the home.

"Many just need help with basic day-to-day things, from help getting out of bed to bathing or grocery shopping," she said. "We are experienced in making in-home needs assessments to help clients determine their own requirements and assist them with developing care plans."

Maass says most of the time it's one of the owners answering the Village Caregiving phone, and the calls sometimes can be around the clock.

"All of our clients have our cellphone numbers, and they use them," he said. "We want to make sure clients always reach someone when they call."

Kathy D'Antoni, of Barboursville, says she can't say enough good things about the services her family received from Village Caregiving.

"I needed help with my father, who was 103 years old at the time," D'Antoni said. "I was desperate to find an in-home caregiver that I could trust and that understood how to deal with a man my father's age. The person they sent was outstanding and worked with us until my father passed in October. I would recommend them very highly."

They work with private paying clients and families, West Virginia Medicaid and the federal Veterans Aid and Attendance program, available to veterans in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

"We serve over 100 veterans in the area, as well as individuals who may just need companionship, extra help around the home, safety checks, and some bed-bound clients," Maass said. "We cover just about everything that is non-medical."

Maass said more than anything, Village Caregiving's priority is keeping your loved one safe and comfortable at home.

For the past five years, the company has kept to the same common sense principles it started with, according to Maass.

"We decided that if we're fair, work hard and are honest, the company would grow," said Maass. "The growth in the past five years has been remarkable and we are hoping for the same in the next five."

For more information about Village Caregiving, call 304-690-4464 or visit www.VillageCaregiving.com.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter at @FredPaceHD.

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