New business will fill a need in the area



Sharon Condra of Brooklyn is healthy, has a beautiful home in Brooklyn, and, by the way, is 82-years-old.

Like most people her age, she could use a little help around the house. With her children living so far away, it would be a comfort for them – and Sharon – to have someone regularly check in on her.

Now she does. Last Saturday Sharon met Sydney Cooper, a pleasant young woman from Jackson, who was recently employed by Comfort Keepers of Brooklyn, a business designed to keep seniors connected.

“I don’t want to have to leave my home,” said Condra when asked why she was hiring the organization. Her daughter, Cheryl, added that knowing someone would be looking in on her mom from time to time would be a big relief for her and her siblings, who do not live a convenient distance away to “just stop in.”

“Our goal has always been to help Brooklyn area seniors stay happy, healthy and engaged,” said Comfort Keepers of Brooklyn owner Butch Irwin.

The company services people with a wide variety of needs, from people like Condra who is “healthy as a horse,” according to her daughter, to quadriplegics, who need help in a variety of ways.

“Basically what we are is a non-medical in-home care company for the elderly and disabled,” said Irwin. “We do a lot of personal care. We service a lot of veterans, paraplegics, quadriplegics, and people who need total care that have to be lifted up by a Hoyer (patient lift).

Comfort Keepers of Brooklyn is a franchise of parent Comfort Keepers, which was started in 1999 in Dayton, Ohio, by a clinical nurse. “She noticed that when she was in a home, people would ask ‘Would you mind going down to the basement to get my laundry. Would you go out and get my mail? Would you mind making me a sandwich?’”

Sharon Condra, seated, recently met Sydney Cooper, standing, of Comfort Keepers of Brooklyn

“Those were not her responsibilities, but she would find herself helping with those chores,” said Irwin. “She had a friend who was a social worker, and the two realized there was a real gap in home care.”

The company has taken off as the need for a helping hand for seniors has grown. “There are now approximately 775 franchises across the country,” said Irwin.

As one might imagine, such a business provides a great deal more services than first meets the eye.

“We do light housekeeping, personal care, bathing, grooming, toileting, and we provide transportation. We work with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, making sure they are safe and stimulated in their minds,” added Irwin.

He said that one aspect of inter-active caregiving focuses on the mind, trying to stimulate it. “We don’t want to just go into the home and babysit. We want to interact with the people as much as we can. If it is women, we want to get them involved in cooking or baking as much as we can. A lot of times we do things like play games. I just met with a gal yesterday who likes to play the game Sorry. She has multiple sclerosis, she isn’t able to get out much, but playing that game is something that she really enjoys.”

Irwin said that they also will take people shopping. “If someone is in a wheelchair, we can help them get into a car, put their wheelchair in the trunk, go where they want, get the wheelchair out, get them into it and take them in shopping.”

Niki Irwin and her father, Butch, in the lobby of Comfort Keepers of Brooklyn, a new business that helps meet the needs of senior citizens living at home.


Companionship is also a huge part of the service, he said. “There are a lot of elderly people who have lost a spouse. We will go into the home and try to fill in the gap, for their sons or daughters who are a long distance away, and sometimes they get really lonely or depressed, we can go in and cheer them up and maybe play games with them and talk to them.”

Those who utilize Comfort Keepers of Brooklyn go through an extensive list of questions. “Usually about two times through my in-home assessment I will ask ‘Are you tired of my questions yet?’” he said. The in-home assessment specifically addresses safety issues. “With dementia patients, it can be a real danger if they have a gas stove,” he noted as an example.

For people who are able to use electronic devices, the company has come up with a tablet that is specifically designed for seniors. “They can email just by touching a button, they can talk into it and hit send, and it really is easy,” he said.

Irwin, who is from Toledo, loves the Brooklyn area. “I used to come up here as a kid, skiing at Clark Lake and Devils Lake, and I have always had a desire to live up here. I love the Irish Hills.”

He and his wife, Dawn, have been in the medical field their entire careers, she as a nurse and he as a respiratory therapist. They have six children.

There are so many aspects to the company that it is difficult to mention them all in one story.

To learn more about Comfort Care of Brooklyn, call 517-481-2177, visit their website at Or, better yet, check out their open house July 13 at 125 Irwin St., Brooklyn, from 4-7 p.m.



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