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July 2020 Aide of the Month — Maria Johnson

Meet Maria Johnson. She’s our July Aide of the Month and a true people person. For her, every new face is an opportunity to explore a new point of view. In her work as a home care aide, Maria doesn’t just take care of her clients, she immerses herself in their lives.

Maria’s first experience with home care was taking care of her great aunt and uncle, an astonishing four generations removed from her. Her Aunt Fannie Mae Hawkins lived to age 96 and her Uncle Pobe Hawkins, 108. “I was so used to having them in my life, so when they passed away, it was kind of devastating.”

Maria has always loved meeting new people, but it was her year serving as a member of AmeriCorps that was the most educational. AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs, and after her training in LA, Maria served in Jackson, Mississippi working for the Mississippi Industries of the Blind. As a computer lab instructor, she tutored them in the use of a computer screen reading program called JAWS (Job Access With Speech). This experience not only introduced her to people from a wide range of cultures, it gave her a window into the extraordinary capabilities of the blind. “Everybody is very, very independent,” she says of the blind people she served. “I knew one guy; he was in a blues band. He could play the guitar perfectly. I had another guy who was a mechanic. He knew a car inside and out. The majority of people there were completely blind and very independent.”

Originally from Flora, Mississippi, Maria’s love of travel led her to explore the people and places of the south, including Memphis, Nashville, Louisiana, and Orlando. When love brought her to Rochester in 2018, one of the first things she did was travel to nearby Niagara Falls. She plans to travel to Canada and other regional destinations when travel restrictions are lifted.

In 2019, Maria found CCOR and embarked on a career in home care. She enjoys engaging with her clients and encourages them in their favorite activities. With one client, who loves to try new things, she and her client will order from new restaurants, trying new foods together. With another client, who loves to reminisce about a childhood church, Maria recently took him to visit that church as a birthday present. “He just went crazy. He went nuts. It’s amazing how your mind works that if that’s a place that you love, you never forget it.” Maria loves to learn all about her clients—their preferences, their families, where they’ve lived, and what they’ve done. She also learns what kind of motivation they need most to live their healthiest life.

Maria’s love of people has led to some truly inspiring experiences. It’s also made her a perfect companion for our CCOR clients. “I’ve talked to some [home care workers] who say their clients are challenging, but I haven’t had that experience at all,” she says, which is not surprising. The everyday challenges of home care are no match for a people-loving superstar like Maria.

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