BY JACK SHORT - Grace Ott has narrowed her focus a little, but the spirit of volunteerism, advocacy and caring for others remains at the heart of what she does. From building a community sports field to organizing fundraising efforts for the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, to volunteering for the Caregivers group and more, she has kept her focus on advocacy and positive contributions to her community in her work and her personal life.
In that same vein, the Boca Grande resident is starting a business here on the island, called My Halo, to help people manage their everyday lives when they’ve reached a stage at which that may be difficult to do so. In short, she helps people maintain as much of their independence as possible.
She recently graduated from Hunter College School of Social Work in New York with a master's degree.
Grace said she was inspired by her mother, Alice, to return to continue her education. Alice went back to school to earn a Masters in Fine Arts degree in creative writing.
“I believe in having a second, third, many different careers,” she said. “My mother was an example of that. She was a great mentor and role model.”
Grace chose social work because of how many different doors it could open.
“You could work in healthcare, government, advocacy, psychotherapy, in offices, hospitals, so many different settings,” she said.
She also pointed to the importance of credentials and qualifications needed in most fields, and added that education can be a great way to test the waters before embarking on a new career path.
During her face-to-face time with patients as part of her graduate degree’s program requirements, Grace said she’s been learning a lot about what people need, emotionally and practically, which led to the conception of My Halo.
“The idea of My Halo is to help keep people from having to move away from their homes to an assisted living facility,” she said.
They are a non-medical service as yet, and will coordinate with the Boca Grande Health Clinic for some medical needs, according to Grace. However, the variety of tasks that remain, such as dealing with contractors in efforts to retrofit a home with grab bars or widened doorways, maintenance, errands, paying bills, all present a need that just grew, as Grace said.
“In conversations with people,” she said, “they would say, ‘Gosh, we could really use help with this, or we could really use help with that,’ and I thought, ‘We could do that.’”
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