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Co-creators are motivated by one or more events in life that cause them to take action and do something to make a difference. Such is the case with Mary Ann Stallings, someone who has and continues to do things that have a positive impact. She’s been a teacher, the head of the Lincoln Children’s Museum, a neighborhood organizer, a campaign coordinator and active in a number of organizations in Lincoln. But in this article, we’ll focus on the care of aging family and how Stallings responded.

First, let’s get to know Stallings. She grew up on a farm near Venango in Southwest Nebraska. She met her husband at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln more than 40 years ago, she’s ushered their three children into adulthood and she now enjoys the 10 grandchildren that she and Bob have. And that’s only scratching the surface.

When Mary Ann and Bob returned to Lincoln after a brief time in Arizona, right away Mary Ann showed her co-creator capabilities by helping establish the Southeast Lincoln Neighborhood Association in what was then a relatively new Fox Hollow. Not too long after that, she was called on to help promote a bond campaign for Lincoln Public Schools. It passed, and many schools across the community saw improvements as a result. Along the way she served as Lincoln Children’s Museum’s initial director.

Stallings taught in the Lincoln Public Schools for a number of years. During that time, she always dreamed of starting a business, but life had other challenges. Bob’s aging parents needed care, an aunt and uncle needed help as they aged, and her own parents also needed assistance.

“Every time we dealt with aging family members, we did it with little guidance from anyone outside the family,” noted Stallings. “It was an emotional process for our parents and family.” She added, “When you’re going through the decisions of moving into an apartment or senior care facility for your parents, there are loads of questions and a lot of emotions to deal with.”

It was in 2010 when Mary Ann’s desire to start a business, her teaching career and family challenges merged.

“I got to the point with LPS that I could retire, and from my experience with our family I realized that there was a potential business in helping families deal with helping parents and other family members, so I took the bold step of starting Bridge to Better Living.”

The first step was to seek help in working through the process of establishing a business through the Lincoln SCORE program at Southeast Community College. SCORE helped Mary Ann develop a business plan, establish a budget and plan the marketing of her new adventure. In the five years since retiring from teaching and starting a business, she’s helped hundreds of families and grown the business to serve both Lincoln and Omaha.

In this latest chapter in Mary Ann’s story of being a co-creator, she helps sons and daughters assist their parents in making the transition from living in a house in town or on the farm to a caring and comfortable community that fits their needs, both at the time and in the future.

“When I first meet with people, they’re usually anxious and not even sure what questions to ask,” she said. “It’s rewarding to see how they relax and become comfortable with the process. And the pay … I get paid in hugs and smiles from the family.”

A recent email from a client illustrates how Mary Ann’s efforts pay off: “Thank you again for your assistance in helping my family find a nice place for Mom. I connect with her on Skype, and she’s busy and loving her new place. She’s thriving in her new environment.”

After receiving this email, Mary Ann’s comment was, “When the client loves the benefits and my employees love what they do, then my goals for Bridge to Better Living are reaffirmed. I do thank the community of Lincoln for helping me make a dream become reality.”

Co-creators are people who see a need and take bold steps to meet that need. Lincoln is blessed with many co-creators who are involved in everything from giving us some great entertainment to assisting us with the transition to senior living. Co-creators contribute to the lifestyle we all value in and around Lincoln. I hope next time a need appears, you’ll be moved to act on it. And, when you do, let me know at rgbretz@gmail.com.

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