National caregiver

National caregiver of the year Cherise Knowlin gets her award at the FirstLight Home Care National Conference in San Antonio, Texas, from CEO Jeff Bevis.

Being one in 4,500 might as well be one in a million for Cherise Knowlin.

Chosen from more than 4,500 caregivers in the country, Knowlin is the national caregiver of the year.

Recognized in San Antonio, Texas at the cowgirl-themed FirstLight Home Care National Conference, Knowlin said she’s “still in shock” about being honored.

“Sometimes the tears just pour,” she said. “I thought, ‘Me? Really, this is for me?’”

“She’s a one-of-a-kind caregiver,” FirstLight Home Care of the Grand Strand general manager Jamie Recupero, one of the people who nominated Knowlin, said about her.

“She is excellent at putting herself in others’ shoes, and she will go out of her way to relate directly to a client’s needs.”

Knowlin, a single Mom with two grown children and two grandchildren, said taking care of her own grandmother showed her she had what it takes to do this kind of work.

Knowlin was working as a shift manager at Bojangles’ when her grandmother, who raised her, got sick.

When her grandmother died, Knowlin went to the Professional Medical Training Center in Conway and got her certified nursing assistant [CAN] degree.

Before long, she also nursed her mother who became critically ill.

“People ask me how I can do this, how can I take care of my own, but that’s where it started,” she said.

“If I can do that, I can do it in other people’s homes and facilities and take care of other people, and here I am.”

Sometimes the non-medical care Knowlin provides involves sitting with clients to keeping them company, or taking them shopping.

Other times, it’s more personal and includes bathing and grooming them, setting up their prescribed medications and helping them get meals together.

She takes care of disabled people, people with special needs, and people who need a companion.

“Cherise is an extraordinary caregiver because she makes difficult situations better,” said Kristin Randall, FirstLight owner.

“She is loving, caring and compassionate, and simply wants to make her client’s day the best it can be.

“To Cherise, this is not just a job. It’s a calling.”

“What you need to be able to do this is a loving heart, and I have a loving heart,” Knowlin said. “I am a loving, caring and compassionate person.

“If you have a heart like that, you can help people who want to be at home and not go into a facility.”

The caregiver said her experience at the cowgirl-themed award ceremony in Texas was awesome, and “the love was there.”

Getting the national award has encouraged Knowlin to expand her education and her experience.

She’d like to go back to school and get a nursing degree, and thinks about being a traveling nurse.

“I’m comfortable, but I know I can go further,” she said.

When Knowlin isn’t working, she spends time with her grandchildren, she likes to shop and she likes to go out to eat.

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