Senior leadership

By on April 2, 2014

It is an organization and local office firmly entrenched with local roots.

And, as the Ephrata Senior Helpers branch celebrates its one-year anniversary, it has not forgotten what’s important.

Family is what’s important, said Abigail Critchfield, co-owner.

So important that when they named their business corporation, CCJP Inc., they chose the first letters of all their children.

“Which we, as moms, think is cute,” Abigail said of the name.

“When we were originally going for our corporation name, we were told no one sees it, and there were some pretty crazy names out there –  but you do use your name everywhere, so we are glad we did it the way we did,” Rebekah Terry, co-owner, said.

The women and their husbands, Kent J. Terry and Andrew Critchfield, who are both 1990 EphrataHigh School graduates, are celebrating the anniversary of their Ephrata business.

“We came here in October 2012 and then opened our doors to clients in January 2013,” said Abigail.

When asked why they wanted to open a Senior Helpers, Abigail said, “this is very much a family run business, with family values and our family values match those of Senior helpers.”

“We saw this as an opportunity as growth for our families and opportunities to bring wonderful services that we believe and trust to seniors here in LancasterCounty,” she said.

“And like I always say,” said Rebekah, “The way we would want our grandparents treated by us is what we are trying to provide.”

And while the local branch celebrates, there is also the story of another 1990 EHS grad who is at the heart of this national, and international, company.

“As the Ephrata Senior Helpers approaches its one-year anniversary, I’d like to congratulate the wonderful team there of Abigail and Andy Critchfield and Becky and Kent Terry for representing Senior Helpers so well in the local market,” Tony Bonacuse, president and co-founder of Senior Helpers, said. “I grew up in Akron and had the pleasure of attending high school with both Andy and Kent. They are a dedicated team and have accomplished much in the last year through community outreach, including helping our veterans procure much needed benefits through the VA. They are truly an asset to the community and we’re looking forward to many years of continuing Senior Helpers’ mission of helping seniors maintain independence at home.”

Senior Helpers was founded by Bonacuse, with the help of Peter Ross, after their first-hand experience in caring for their respective family members. From their experience, Tony and Peter saw a huge gap that was not being filled properly by the other companies providing care for the elderly in the market. In dealing with these other caregivers, they found that either they couldn’t get caregivers to answer their inquiries or that the companies that would respond left something to be desired in their level of professionalism. It was clear to them that someone needed to address these deficiencies –  the result being Senior Helpers, according to the Senior Helpers website.

Bonacuse opened the first Senior Helpers office in Baltimore, Md., in 2002 to gauge the potential need for such an organization The Baltimore location was a success and it was evident that other locations could be, too. Expansion began in 2004 with Ross joining Bonacuse full time, opening an additional office in Orange County, Calif.

With the success of the Senior Helpers system on both coasts came increasing demand. Bonacuse and Ross began to look into franchising as an option to bring Senior Helpers to the next level. After building a strong reputation over the years, SH Franchising, LLC now enlists the help of quality franchisees to expand on this success, while still maintaining the strong reputation for which Senior Helpers is known, the website said.

So Abigail reached out to Bonacuse. She said she had a background as an occupational therapist and was looking to do more from a career standpoint, from an opportunity standpoint, and from a place-in-her-life standpoint.

“And knowing Tony’s involvement in senior care, I made a phone call to him,” she said, “and our conversation went in the direction of bringing Senior Helpers to LancasterCounty.”

Abigail said it was (during) a conversation with Rebekah and Kent and knowing the opportunities of the business and the responsibilities of the business, that (they realized) it would be best served with both couples.

Kent and I have the business background,” Rebekah explained, “and Abigail brings the clinical background, so we bring the extra expertise to the business that a lot of the others do not have.”

Abigail said Andrew assists with marketing and networking events.

Senior Helpers has several programs they are proud to support, including working with veterans.

Rebekah said there is a large population of veterans that are now turning retirement age and are eligible for a pension benefit for in-home senior health care.

“But it’s very difficult to understand and to get,” she said, “Our office was trained on how to walk veterans through it and get them the information they need.”

“There are 33,000 veterans here in LancasterCounty,” Abigail said. “We are at least a starting off point. Benefits in general is our community service platform, but we are hoping to provide some information they might not know.”

Abigail said Senior Helpers is also an approved vendor of Veterans Affairs.

Senior Gems is another program getting positive feedback.

“It has been a very successful program for us,” Abigail said. “Feedback has been outstanding.”

Abigail said they could take someone to get their nails done once a week or be 24-hour care for another who is in hospice and needs care. She said, for instance, someone who lives alone and has dementia.

“Our services are great and wide, but what we are so proud of is that we are able to specialize for each family what their needs are,” she said. “We are a non-medical home care company so within that licensure, we have a broad aspect of ways that we can help families. We are there to be that help to the family and offer them whatever level of support that might be and we tailor that to what their needs are.”

“We are proud of who we are and what we do,” Rebehak said.

Abigail said it’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.

“We are constantly hearing back from families that we have changed their quality of life, and that’s what it’s worth,” she said. “And families know we are doing the right thing. So it goes beyond living and what we are supposed to do.”

Senior Helpers welcomed their first client Jan. 21, 2013. “And in 14 months, we are now at 35 clients,” Rebekah said. “We have gained some and lost some.”

Abigail said they have been able to bring their fair share of jobs to the Ephrata area and they are still hiring.

There is turnover.

“I think we are averaging 45 right now on staff and we are hiring,” Rebekah said.

“We are looking for qualified individuals with experience in senior care,” Abigail said. “Whether that’s having a CNA working in facilities or experience with grandparents, we encourage everyone to have that conversation with us. We do provide training, along with licensure.

“We are one of about 300 Senior Helpers nationally,” Abigail said.

Both families are proud of their accomplishments in this first year.’

Abigail said their conversations with Tony gave their families an opportunity to come together and see what they could offer his hometown.

“We are proud of our town, we are proud of Ephrata,” Abigail said. “Our husbands are proud of the education they received from Ephrata (and all) that we were able to bring back and have jobs available and a wonderful service.”

Dena Reedy is a staff writer for The Ephrata Review. She welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at or at 721-4434

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