Shining Star Caregivers: Finding Purpose after Tragedy

Eight years ago in Atlanta, Mary Cardin packed up her belongings and her little dog Santana and moved to Durango. Having just separated from her husband, Chris, of 30 years, and ready for a change, she remembered a trip to Durango in 2004. “When we separated in 2007, we’d never had children, so it was just a case of, what does Mary want to do and where does Mary want to go?” she shared.
Her husband, a well-known Southwestern painter, had moved to Taos. “I’d remembered how wonderful Durango was,” she added.
When Mary arrived in Durango, she found a job at an assisted living facility. Hurting from the separation, she wanted to care for others. After three years, she decided to start her own business. She had worked in the corporate world while living in Atlanta, which had provided her with a strong business background. “I saw how devastated and sad people were to leave their homes. I decided I could start a business to keep folks in their home as long as possible,” said Mary.
Already well-known by home health agencies and some of the local doctors, Mary had no trouble getting referrals when she started Shining Star Caregivers in late 2010.
Then another blow came. Shortly after Chris moved to Taos, he committed suicide. “I was even more devastated,” revealed Mary. “That’s why caring for all of these people is so wonderful. It got my mind off of myself and onto caring about someone else. He used to call me his shining star, so that’s how I came up with the name for my company. I felt like he was guiding me.”
Now, with close to 50 clients, Mary has found the community’s reaction to be positive. She doesn’t want her business to be the biggest agency in town, but she does want to be known for providing quality care, which she can guarantee with her 21 caregivers. She also continues to work closely with the assisted living facilities in town, explaining that the facilities are important. “But if we can keep them in the home, safe and independent for as long as possible, that’s what we want to do,” she added.
As a non-medical business, Shining Star cannot administer medications or insulin shots or refill bill boxes. As a result, the business also does not accept Medicare or Medicaid. However, most companies that provide long-term care insurance will pay for caregiver services.
Concerned with quality, Mary keeps services contained to Durango. “I feel like if I get too big, I’ll lose control of the quality,” she explained. “I want to continue being known as one of the best quality caregivers in town. I will continue to expand as long as I can get good, honest caregivers. I know the need is only going to increase.”
Mary has found Durango to be a wonderful place to heal. “The people are so loving and accepting,” enthused Mary. “The community has embraced and supported Shining Star so amazingly. I love the weather. I love the seasons here. It’s a very welcoming and embracing community for me and I definitely feel a part of it.”
While healing, she wrote “Peace: My Final Gift”, a short memoir about her journey with her husband’s suicide and the process of grieving and healing. The cover of the book is her husband’s last painting, which Mary considers his suicide note. “It says volumes,” said Mary. “He was such a great artist, so I didn’t want his art to die with him.”
Through her healing and caring for others, Mary has found her purpose in life with Shining Star Caregivers. “It’s the best thing for me,” confided Mary. “I work seven days a week, but it’s not work. It’s wonderful. I know it’s what I should be doing with my life. All of the hurts and loss have brought me right to where I am today – very blessed.”

Originally published in the May 2015 issue of Durango Neighbors Magazine.

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