2019 Newsmakers: Patricia Morris

Helping is part of who Patricia Morris is. It's why she loved working as a Department of Youth Services (DYS) teacher for 12 years, and why she founded Keidra's Caring Centers in Sikeston, Missouri, and Caruthersville, Missouri. She says her husband jokes she helps and gives too much. But Morris says she can't help it.

"I think my spirit is to help," Morris says. "It's just in me to help in any way that I can be of any service. I'm willing to do it, if it's within reason."

This desire to help prompted Morris to found Keidra's Caring Center, a day care facility for adults with special needs in Sikeston, in 2007. The inspiration was her daughter, Markeidra, now 33, who has special needs. At the time, Morris' mother-in-law, who had been a caretaker of Markeidra during the day while Morris worked at DYS, had recently passed away, and Morris didn't want Markeidra staying each day at a facility that didn't offer full services to people with special needs.

"So I just told my husband, 'I think I'm a try to open me up a center,'" Morris recalls. "I almost backed out because it's a lot of red tape, but I just pushed forward ... and we got it started."

The facility was a success from the beginning. Although Morris initially thought only three or four people would be interested in attending, by the end of the first year, she had 16 clients. A state worker then approached her, asking her to open another facility in Caruthersville. After praying about it, Morris said yes. Today, there are nine people who attend the Caruthersville facility and 12 who attend the one in Sikeston.

It's not only that Morris offers these services, however; it's that she goes above and beyond to ensure she is providing her clients with experiences each day outside the walls of Keidra's Caring Center. She says when her clients offer suggestions for activities they would like to participate in, Morris writes it on a list and tries to make it happen. As examples: her clients have traveled together to the Saint Louis Zoo and Tennessee Safari Park. They go bowling together. They take limousine rides. And recently, they have begun participating in an employment service in which they go into the community to learn life skills such as vacuuming, cleaning windows and wiping down tables.

Another testament to the love Morris shows her clients: when they pass on, they are remembered with their photo on the "Wall of Pain" in the lobby of Keidra's Caring Center, to let everyone know they are not forgotten.

In addition to creating a place of belonging for her clients, Morris also creates a positive atmosphere for her employees: she says the majority of her employees have been with her since the center first opened. Dana Tipler is one of Morris' employees and was also a student of Morris' when Morris worked for DYS. Tipler says Morris was a positive influence in her life who "kept her on the right path," and that without her, she "wouldn't be here." Tipler has a sister who is handicapped, and believes the work Morris is doing in the community is vitally important.

"They matter, too," Tipler says of the clients they serve at Keidra's Caring Center. "The things we do with them, we let them know that, that they matter."

Morris hopes she is providing respite to parents and caretakers of people with special needs while creating experiences for her clients that they will always remember.

"They give more to us than what we give to them," Morris says of her clients. "And I enjoy it because it's never a dull moment. It's something different everyday."