SPECIAL TO THE HERALD
BERLIN - To Maggie Drag and her staff of caregivers, her Berlin-based agency isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle.
She says that Euro-American Connections and Homecare LLC has been built almost entirely on trust from satisfied clients and their families, together with loyal caregivers.
“More than 95 percent of our new clients come to us as referrals,” said owner-founder Drag, who boasts that Euro-American was Connecticut’s first and original provider of primarily Eastern European caregivers.
“Whether it’s live-in care, companionship, light-housekeeping, shopping or errands, our care team is available 24/7,” she said.
Earlier this year, Euro-American received the recognition many of its clients believe the agency deserved: An honor bestowed by Homecare Pulse as one of the best home care providers in the nation. The agency earned 2017 Best of Home Care - Provider of Choice and 2017 Best of Home Care - Employer of Choice awards. Homecare Pulse, a leading satisfaction research and quality assurance firm specializing in private-duty home-care, interviews companies’ clients and their caregivers, providing detailed, unbiased feedback.
During the 28 years Drag has run Euro-American, she says the home-care industry has experienced changes. Since the recession of 2008, many home-care businesses have opened with one intent: to make money. According to Drag, that has never been her goal. As a young girl growing up in Poland, she learned the value of caring for older members of the community. She wanted to help people needing assistance, matching them with others who genuinely wanted to assist them. In fact, she built her company on this value of commitment to care.
Yulia Vasilenko, Euro-American’s special projects manager, points out that the agency does more than provide home-care. Its purpose, she says, is to “bring back meaning to our clients’ lives.” When hiring caregivers and working with clients, she and Drag look for what is unique and special in both.
It was a challenge for Drag 30 years ago when she came to the U.S. from Poland. She left her homeland because she saw no opportunity under Communist rule. She said she felt alone and spoke little English. However, she had an uncle in Portland and was able to live with an American family. As an exchange student, she attended Portland High School.
“I was unfamiliar with the rules, the laws and culture of the United States,” she said. “It was a struggle to establish a living in this country. So, I had to learn the language quickly.”
Over the years, she met other immigrants from Eastern Europe. Most faced cultural and financial difficulties. Gradually, she became known in Greater New Britain.
The word got out: “If you need an apartment, call Maggie, or if you need a job, tell Maggie. She can help you.”
Drag says Polish people came to America with her telephone number in hand and later became caregivers. A friend advised her to open an agency in New Britain to help Polish people find jobs, get drivers’ licenses or negotiate a doctor’s bill. So, she opened an agency on Broad Street and focused on domestic help, placing caregivers, housekeepers and babysitters in area homes.
When a larger building became available on Farmington Avenue in Berlin she relocated her agency. Then in 2016 after 28 years, her business has grown. She added 15 new staffers and moved the business to an office building at 1436 Berlin Turnpike. Though most of her 100 employees are Polish or Russian, the agency serves clients of all nationalities. Drag says each employee and independent caregiver undergoes a rigorous, 10-step screening and evaluation and a criminal background check; all caregivers are bonded.
“We focus our efforts and money on people, not advertising,” Drag explained. “If we choose the right caregivers and pay them well, we will take care of our clients - whether it’s cleaning, cooking, shopping, or live-in. We always look for the best (home-care) solution to the family. That sets us apart from our competitors.”
Linda Worden, RN, MPH, is Certified Dementia Practitioner Owner & Certified Care Manager of Worden Eldercare Consulting in Cromwell.
“Maggie takes pride in her work,” said Worden. “Her staff is professional, reliable and compassionate. As a care manager, I have referred Euro-American over the years and have been pleased with (how) they have met my client needs.”
Worden said she has called on Euro-American for her own family when additional care was needed.
“Maggie and Euro-American Homecare are a welcome addition to Berlin,” said Berlin Economic Development Director Chris Edge. “The fact that she has achieved national recognition, and was able to acquire an impressive office building on the Turnpike is a testament to her successful approach to home-care.”