Cordelia Taylor, a registered nurse and administrator at a large nursing home in Milwaukee, didn’t like the way her patients lived: residents were roused before dawn and sometimes left in restraints for hours. When her boss balked at her suggested improvements, she decided to open her own facility. That meant quitting her job, selling her house in the suburbs, and renovating a house in a decaying neighborhood on Milwaukee’s north side to accommodate eight elderly residents.
She had moments of doubt: “I didn’t want my husband to know I was afraid I’d made a mistake,” she says. “At night I’d go into the bathroom and cry and pray.” But she didn’t give up. After opening her first home, she and several members of her family bought a few vacant houses nearby, transforming a troubled block into an innovative long-term care complex called Family House.
Now, the block functions as a powerful force for community revitalization, providing disabled and elderly people with a place to live, employing local residents, and even offering afterschool programs for neighborhood kids. Via a partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin, Family House now operates a medical clinic; up next is a community center to be built a few blocks away.
For Taylor, 72, the project has more than lived up to its name: six of her eight children have worked alongside her at various times, and granddaughter Joi Jackson is being groomed to take over Taylor’s role—someday. “Until I feel things are the way I want them to be, I’ll be here,” Taylor says. “A lot of people who do this see it as a business. What we do is a mission.”
* The name of this award was originally the Impact Award. In 2008, the awards were renamed as the Inspire Awards.