Founder - New Concepts by Visions
Who is Barbara Cook?
Barbara grew up in a military family the 4th of 5 children. Settling on a farm when she was 8 learning where she learned the meaning of hard work, discipline and teamwork and business. At an early age she cared for animals that needed more care than the mothers were able to give. This nurturing gift is part of her makeup and is so easily shared with others. In school she was very involved in her local FFA learning leadership skills, as the Chairman of several committees, as well as Regional Reporter for our area of the state. As the green hand public speaker, part of the agriculture forum team a competitiveness side emerged that continues with her tenacious pursuit to achieve the dreams and goals she sets.
After High school she continued her education and became a beautician, managed a 48-unit apartment complex and built a house all by the age of 25. This is when her adventurous side emerged doing hair in a nursing home, and opening her own mobile shop going to foster care homes. This opened the door to her love of others in need. She worked on campus as a night manager for a transitional program for individuals with mental illness. Learning to deal with many personalities fostering the optimistic side in them to believe they could do many things they were previously told they could not. Using humor and being relatable was a way to build the trust and the working relationship they needed while maintaining integrity and discipline.
In 1999 she moved to Florida with her husband and youngest son and began working as a group home manager, as a case manager then as an assistant director of a program for individuals with disabilities. This is where the adventure began. . . 2003 branching out to start a company of her own, offering choices for meaningful daily activities then a second company a not for profit. Using her optimistic persistent side she managed to get through the red tape. Barbara wrote her first grant (with the help of a parent of an individual she served). It was a federal grant for a 14-passenger lift van to be able to take the individuals out of the 4 walls of the day program and into the community. Let the adventures begin. The look on the faces and the joy in their voices when they tell of the experiences they are having. When asked what they liked and did not like about the trip to the zoo the one response that sticks very vividly is the crinkled-up nose on the young lady that said she did not like the monkeys because they stink.
Teaching the individuals we serve that it is okay to not like something has been a challenge while teaching they can do thing for others has been a new experience for all. We were creative and started a food pantry where we are partners with Heartland Food Bank and provide food to others in need. Teaching job skills and the importance of doing whatever you can for another person even when they cannot do something for you. This has increased the way the individuals think about themselves increasing self-worth and stimulating the “I can” instead of the “I can’t” poor me.
Recognizing that it could not be done without the incredible staff who work for much less than they are worth. Balancing the business and the staff can be a bit challenging but having fostered the I can in them and being a work in progress myself not micromanaging them and letting their creative sides shine has built a team of dedicated determined staff who are second to none.
The teachable moments when you see on the individual’s faces that they found the key and unlocked the right answers, was and still is the reason why Barbara does what she does.
I have a great family who taught me I could do whatever I wanted. Even fly if I tied mom’s sheet to my ankles and wrists and ran really fast across the chicken coop roof and jumped off. When it didn’t work my brother told me it was because I did not run fast enough and to try it again. . . yep I did and the same thud occurred. HUMOR, Optimism, and Passion are an important factor in my life, learn from the things you try even if they don’t work. Look, reflect, learn, and if nothing else they are a great reason to laugh.
I'm going to try and write a short story of how it came about that I took care of my mother for 22 years.
My mother and I have always been close because we were kindred spirits. I am her oldest daughter, of 3 and an older Brother.
When our Dad passed away she tried living with my brother and his wife, but there was conflict so that didn't work out. Then, my grandmother’s health got bad and she moved to Alabama to take care of her. She took care of her for about two years. We communicated back forth. She finally told me she couldn't do it anymore and had to put her in a nursing care center. So, I told her we were going to sale our small home and get a bigger one, and she was going to come live with us. Of course, my husband agreed.
So, my youngest sister, and I got on a plane and flew to Alabama to get mom and drove mom’s car back to Florida in 1998. We sold our place and bought a 5-bedroom home. Our son and daughter also lived with us, until they got married. After two years of being married and becoming the father of our first grandchild, he went through a hurtful divorce, his wife threatening to keep the baby from us, our son attempting suicide, this momma did a lot of praying, and God had mercy! He came back to live with us and was able to see his daughter.
I went to work, while mom stayed home, and she would have the house cleaned supper cooked and ready when I got home. I loved my mom’s cooking. Then one day I come home, and there had been a fire in the kitchen, mom had turned the wrong burner on, and went to lay down, and there was a pot of grease on the eye she had turned on. Our son was asleep because he worked at night he smelled the smoke and heard the alarm and jumped up and put the fire out with the fire extinguisher. Mom was in her 70's then, and experiencing chronic pain, from a fall and accidents in the past years, where she had been hit by a car and thrown and injured her head and crushed her pelvis, The Drs told her she would not walk again, but we prayed and God healed her, but as time went on the nerves in her body began to burn: The doctor called it Fibromyalgia.
It got to where she didn't want to move, so I quit my job and started staying home to help her. It was then I realized my mom was getting old. As the years went by she got worse, and it was harder and harder to get her to do anything but lay in bed, so I would wait on her and help her with her bath. Then her insurance changed and I could get a nurse to help her. Mother started losing her taste and smell it was hard to find her anything she would eat.
One thing after the other. She could not take the meds the doctor subscribed, we tried it all, she was allergic or had a reaction to them. So, we just gave her pain meds over the counter. As time went on she started losing her muscles from not moving, I couldn't get her to do anything, so they started sending out a therapist. She would try and use her walker, but it hurt her hands. So, she started falling, having to go to the hospital for broken ribs, twice and breaking her hip, and bruising herself up. I felt so helpless not knowing what to do, but pray, and pray I did. She has fallen 7 times in the last 5 years. I struggled for years whether I should put her in a convalescent center, but it was hard. So, I did not do it, at that time. In between all this, I had an emotional breakdown.
Anyway, back to my story, as time went on my daughter had our 3 grandkids that lived here and went to the same church. The church broke up because of burnout and other things happening in his life. Our pastor went on the streets pastoring the homeless for two years. All the while, all of us that were left looking for a church go to, we all started Transforming Life Church, running a feeding ministry out of it. My daughter and Son-in-law are very involved. Eventually turning it over to my husband and me. We would pick up the food from another church and deliver it to feed them in the park. We did that for about 3 years. All the while our pastor and my husband Don, running a prison ministry. Our pastor and his wife took in a man that was mentally challenged because his mother passed away, so they became his legal guardian. Our pastor and his wife decided they wanted to start a ministry for pastors that have experienced burnout in the church, but they wanted to do it in NC. So, they set out to do that. All the while my daughter and grandkids planning to go with them to help with the ministry. (You can imagine when they came and told my husband and me that they were moving to NC, it broke my heart, I wanted to go with them, but I couldn't because there was no one to take care of mom, I was torn between wanting to be with my grandkids and leaving mom in a home I still couldn't do it).) Anyway, the Man, our pastor and his wife had living with them did not want to go. So, they had to find a place for him.
They ask several people and they could not take him in. My husband knew the situation and volunteered to take him in talking to me first, although I was against it because I had enough to worry about with mom, he talked me into it. I told him that I was not going to take care of him, that was his baby, and mom was mine. Although it turned out to be mine, because I had to do all the cooking, until I realized he could get meals on wheels. My husband does his laundry and takes him to his doctor appointments and make sure of his hygiene. (Thank God) Just being honest I was still dealing with the fact I wasn't going to get to see my grandkids. I cried off and on for that a whole year! I had to pray, God if this is you, help me! It's been hard, but I have adjusted, and God has made a way for us to go back and forth as much as we can to be with them. It has been almost 7 years now.
Backing up my story, in 2011, my husband was diagnosed with COPD, due to his and my health now (my knees, avoiding surgery.) I could not take care of mom anymore, and he can't take care of Jimmy anymore. I tried putting mom in a care home, but she kept falling.
And in the meantime, my youngest sister's granddaughter moves out, she that had lived with her at the time, so she offered to take mom in, I prayed. It was hard to give her up, but I knew it was time. Seems that was the answer, her husband is a truck driver and she has time on her hands now. So now Mom is with her. I recently took mom for a week for her to spend time with him, and she had to sleep with me, it was great to have her lay beside me, and her and I to be able to hold each other. Just like I did as a child. I'll have that memory for when she's gone. Although she is doing better, she is losing her memory, (having signs of Dementia.)
We are looking for someone to take Jimmy (the man child) in because we are ready to live our lives together while we still can. We are in our 60's. We are going to sell our home and find a smaller one here, and a small one in NC, with our kids, because in between all this our son also moved up there to be with his daughter. So that's it in a nutshell, God has helped us all the way, and helped me to be patient. He has a plan, and he is working everything out for our good!