Springfield based business marks 20 years of growth

Comfort Keepers now has more than 700 offices worldwide, but the home caregivers business got it start in Springfield after a home health nurse noticed clients needed help with basic chores like laundry and cooking.

The company celebrated 20 years in business this week with a ribbon-cutting at its Springfield office and by sponsoring free admission to the Heritage Center of Clark County.

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Kristina Butler, who founded the business in 1998, still operates locations locally include Springfield, Beavercreek and Dayton. When it started, Butler was working as a home health nurse for Mercy Medical Center.

The company began franchising the business a few years after it was founded, and Sodexo Inc. purchased the franchising rights to the business in 2009. The business employs caregivers who visit clients in their homes and perform a variety of services, including light housekeeping, meal preparation and companionship.

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“At that point it was one of those things that we asked do we have a sustainable business that we think would be something good other people could benefit from if we looked at franchising,” she said.

They had to raise $250,000 in order to start franchising just 15 months after the Springfield location opened. The first franchise opened in Lima, Ohio. That business remains open and will celebrate its 20th anniversary in about a year and a half.

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Elizabeth Bowling, a caregiver for the business, said she’s been with the company for four years and sees about five clients a week. In a typical day, she assists clients with tasks like laundry, grocery shopping or transportation to doctor’s visits.

”The stuff they’ve done in their lifetime, they deserve this,” Bowling said of her clients.”They deserve good care so I try to give the best I possibly can.”

There are similar companies, both nationally and regionally, including Home Instead Senior Care. But at the time, there were few options locally that provided a similar service, Butler said. Numerous home care companies have developed since Comfort Keepers opened.

Most of the business early on was providing companionship like playing cards or just talking, Butler said. As the population continued to age, the business shifted to providing more hands-on care like providing help with baths or changing clothes.

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Some franchise offices have expanded into providing more extensive services like changing dressings on wounds or assisting with tube feedings, but Butler’s locations in the region have focused on more basic services.

“When I sit back and look at the map and I see everywhere Comfort Keepers is today, and I look across the ocean and I see all the countries we’re in and how many lives we’ve touched, those are the things that are surreal to me,” Butler said.

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