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Success Stories

Home Care Cooperative Training Meets Pressing Need in Rural Nebraska

USDA Rural Development
Cooperatives
Grants
Health Care
Underserved
Community meets to discuss creating a home care cooperative in their community

It started with a simple phone call. A few years ago, a woman contacted Cindy Houlden, the Cooperative Business Director at the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, with a question about home care cooperative job opportunities. At the time, Houlden and her team were not aware of any home care cooperatives in the state. As an organization dedicated to empowering people with resources to start cooperatives in their communities, Houlden and her team started making calls. 

They soon learned of Rural Development’s (RD) Socially Disadvantaged Groups Grant which provides grants to cooperatives and cooperative development centers to provide technical assistance to socially disadvantaged groups. In 2022, they applied and used the grant funds to recruit individuals to complete a home care cooperative academy training in an effort to help start the first home care cooperative in rural Nebraska.

“The number one benefit of home care cooperatives is really the benefit of cooperatives – it is owned by the community, it is not owned by a corporation,” Houlden said. “People who live in the community get to make decisions about how the business impacts their community.”

The Arapahoe community knows this better than most. In 2021, a 60-year-old nursing center closed abruptly forcing families, patients, and workers to commute out of town for care and jobs. As the second largest employer in the community, its closure was felt deeply. Heidi Thomas was one of the affected workers and was recruited by Thomas to complete the home care cooperative training funded in part thanks to the RD grant.

“Our community is the same as every community across the nation,” Thomas said. “Everyone needs to take care of their aging patrons, and everyone can. No one needs a good Samaritan; they just need a vision. The cooperative class was the start of that, and I couldn’t have thought of that by myself.”

Thomas has since hired four home care workers to care for her husband at home and is in the process of starting a home care cooperative to fill the pressing need to care for aging community members. The Nebraska Cooperative Development Center hopes to build upon their efforts from the previous year and educate more of the community about the power and benefit of home care cooperatives.

“This year’s funding will be used for more promotion and training for individuals who want to form a home care cooperative, targeting women, low-income or socially disadvantaged groups to allow them autonomy and self-actualization so they can create an entity that they own and operate that follows some of their passions and is needed in rural Nebraska,” Houlden said.

Interested in starting a cooperative? Read more about USDA RD’s Cooperative Services Branch and technical assistance available.

Date of Obligation
Obligation Amount:
$175,000
Date of Obligation:
Congressional District:
01