What is it about someone that simply makes them special? Caring for others is one of the beautiful threads woven throughout the tapestry of Pat Oliphant’s life. She is a lifelong resident of Huntsville, Texas, as were her parents, Isiah and Margaret Kelly. Pat described a way of life growing up that included families taking in elderly grandparents and added, “When I was young, my grandparents were always around. Times were different then, and that is just the way it was done.” Pat explained that someone gave up their bed or their room to make space for those who could no longer care for themselves. She shared a special memory of time spent with her grandfather, who always had a watermelon patch. The grandkid who got up the earliest could pick out the best and largest watermelon. “Well,” Pat said, “I always got up the earliest, but I was too little to carry the one I chose, so later in the morning, my grandfather would go with me and carry the one I picked back to the house.”
Pat was happy to lend a hand to care for her grandparents, all the while learning skills that became part of what would be her passion in life, to care for others. Fate also presented unfortunate circumstances. Her husband and son were in a serious accident, and she was called upon to provide care for them. She was quick to mention that the Huntsville and Phelps communities were there for her and her family during these difficult times. She feels grateful and has a strong desire to give back to the community and help others as they helped her. I asked if she had ever considered moving from Huntsville, and there was no hesitation as she shook her head ‘no.’ When I asked what was best about our community, she immediately said, “I like the people.”
Pat developed a heart for those in need, but it took time before she came to embrace the driving force that would create her thriving group of caregivers. In high school, students who had acquired enough credits to graduate could learn life skills by working locally. Industrial Cooperative Training was a program that provided an opportunity for Pat to work at the hospital (then located in the Ella Smither building) and learn important aspects of nursing care. She is grateful for the chance and especially for Mr. J. I. Woods, who managed the program and helped the students. She said the nurses at the hospital took her under their wings and were willing to teach her procedures to care for the patients. She learned valuable skills and, in the years that followed, she was called on to help out at the hospital.
Pat and James married while still in high school and had three children: Jay, head basketball coach at Huntsville High School; Patrick, a successful landscaping and janitorial business owner; and daughter Kim, who is an assistant athletic director at Forney ISD near Dallas. She also spoke of her daughter-in-law Torrie, who is employed at HHS. Pat happily told me about her grandchildren: Kerrington (21), Jordan (12), and Jayden (15). Sadly, Pat lost her husband James after 43 years together. She and her family are close, and once a year they plan a special vacation. It does not matter to her where they go, she loves their ‘get togethers.’ Pat is the youngest of four siblings who join in the fun, including her sister Darlene; brother Anual and wife Marilyn; and sister Dolan and Jessie Nickens. Pat is a member of True Vine Missionary Baptist Church in the Phelps Community. She is an avid collector of crystal and ceramics when time permits. Her favorites include Lladro elephants, giraffes, and frogs. Pat shares her love of collecting porcelain figurines with her friend Linda Crisp. Pat is an avid gardener, and when asked what is in her garden, she said, “Anything that grows!”
Although Pat worked for Southwestern Bell for about ten years and then accepted a position at TDC for another ten, neither of those pursuits were what she longed for. During that time, Pat also worked at a couple of the local assisted living facilities, and that is when, as they say, the plan came together. She found genuine satisfaction in helping others and started to understand what her mission in life would be. She told me, “People wouldn’t be asking for help if they could do it themselves. They need us and they are asking for help, so I had to help them.” That is exactly what she and her sister Darlene did. They got the word out that they were available to those in need of nursing care. Local residents have learned who to call when unfortunate circumstances come along, and whether for illness or accident, Pat will arrange to help them and improve their quality of life during a difficult time.
God’s Giving Foundation Caregivers was founded in 2001 and started out small with only she and her sister Darlene for the next ten years. The need continued to grow, and more caregivers were added to manage the increased requests for assistance. Pat’s smile bursts with joy when she speaks of her work, and she believes the only way to be successful is to be involved and provide firsthand management. She knows she is responsible for the actions of her staff and is an active influence on all aspects of her business. She requires the same excellent work ethic from her staff that she adheres to and is committed to providing the best possible care for her clients. She understands living in a small town makes it essential to have a good reputation.
Pat uses her expertise to manage the care of her clients from the beginning of their relationship with her. When she gets a request for help from an individual or an agency, Pat personally visits with them to determine the services needed. Her next step is to choose the caregiver that will best meet the needs of the patient. Pat said that personalities and attitudes vary with everyone she serves, and she strives to find the correct person to help them. She and the caregiver go together when meeting with the client on their first visit to ensure the best possible experience. Pat asks her staff to adhere to the highest standards, including honesty and integrity in all interactions with clients in their care. Pat is certified as a nurse aide, but told me that on-the-job training was a strong factor in acquiring her nursing skills. She has worked with Dr. Thomas Cole and other professionals to learn different healthcare procedures. They have come to trust Pat and call on her to help out when needed. She and her group know how to assist patients with basic needs, monitor medication routines, transfer or position the client, plus assist with other medical needs. They also provide companionship and promote a feeling of wellbeing for those being cared for. Pat’s staff is available for patients who are in rehabilitation from illness or accident as well as for the elderly who need ongoing assistance. A person who has never been in the role of caregiver may find it difficult to understand the responsibility, joy, and heartbreak involved in the everyday tasks required to ensure the safety, recovery, and contentment of a patient.
Motivational speaker Debbie Milam says it well, “As joy coalesces with pain, God creates the magnificent tapestry that is life.” There is another bright strand that runs deep and holds together the fabric of the life Pat Oliphant has built. I asked her how she manages the difficulties she encounters, and she responded reverently as she pointed to the sky, “God is number one. If I take Him with me, I’m not going to make a mistake; but even if I do, He will set me back right.” I also asked how Covid had affected her team and their patients. She said, “Not at all; we just kept on doing what we do. We took precautions, and we got vaccinated. That’s all we could do.” In addition to healthcare responsibilities, her organization hosts an annual fund-raising event the third week in December, with gospel singers and great food and friends. She and her organization offer two scholarships each year, one for $800 to someone in need and one for $1000 in memory of her late husband James. The rest is used throughout the year to provide meals for the hungry, to help a family with funeral expenses, or to simply give a hand up to someone as the need arises.
Under Pat’s leadership, she and her team serve as advocates for the elderly and infirmed in Huntsville, New Waverly, Point Blank, Riverside, and other nearby communities. Givers like Pat rarely ‘toot their own horn’ and often don’t even realize how crucial their role is in the lives of others. I asked her what she wanted everyone to know about her organization and the care she and her staff provide. Her answer, “We are honest, courteous, and respectful of other’s homes and belongings. We care.” Pat gets up each morning and strives to meet the needs of others, in their own homes or at one of the local nursing facilities. Pat is an inspiration and often works 7 days a week, 12 – 16 hours a day. Why? She flashed her beautiful smile and said, “I love people–especially old people.”