Paying it forward to the Fauquier community
For many young professionals, the first years after graduating from college are a time of enormous personal and career growth, filled with new friends and new opportunities. For Fauquier High and Virginia Tech grad Chris Gay, it was instead a time in which he and his family learned to lean on the Fauquier community as they grieved the unexpected loss of Chris’ brother, Pat. Now, a decade later, Gay manages a burgeoning home care group that aims to repay the community in some way for its support during the Gay family’s bereavement.
Chris Gay is the next-best thing to a Fauquier native. His parents relocated to Warrenton from Texas when Chris was four. His younger brothers, Pat and Eric, were a toddler and baby at the time. “We were all two grades apart, just a very close family,” Gay remembers.
All three Gay brothers grew up going to St. John the Evangelist School ; Chris for middle school, and Pat and Eric for part of elementary school. Meanwhile, their father Tom worked as a mortgage lender at the old Liberty Savings Bank in Warrenton while their mother Pam took a job as a floor nurse at Fauquier Hospital, where she has now worked for close to 30 years.
After graduating from Fauquier High School (FHS), Chris Gay went off to Virginia Tech. Throughout college, he kept one foot in Warrenton, working as an intern in the IT department at Fauquier Hospital. He graduated with a degree in business management. He worked at Accenture in D.C., then moved back home and started work as an information systems support specialist at Fauquier Hospital.
Then the unthinkable happened.
“I lost my middle brother a little over 10 years ago,” he explains. Pat Gay, a 2003 graduate of FHS, had just started his own post-college career with Lending Tree in North Carolina. On the evening of July 15, 2007, Pat was enjoying an evening out with friends in Charlotte, North Carolina.““He was walking home with a group of friends when he was tragically killed by a hit and run drunk driver.” Chris explains.
The family was devastated, as was Pat’s large circle of friends and loved ones. Nearly a thousand people attended the young man’s funeral. In the aftermath of such a loss, the Fauquier community rallied around the Gay family in a way Chris will never forget.
“People were there for us around the clock when it happened,” Chris remembers. “There’s no way I can repay these people.” His parents were buoyed by the community, their faith, and their St. John’s church family. “They were also so touched and helped by Spiritual Care Support Ministries,” a Warrenton-based bereavement and grief counseling nonprofit organization, Chris says.
Soon after Pat’s passing, the family decided to honor Pat’s memory by holding an annual charitable golf tournament. The first “Pat’s Q,” as the tourney is called, was held on what would have been Pat’s 23rd birthday. The “Q” in “Pat’s Q” comes from Pat and his best friend’s nickname for their college apartment, which was shortened from its original moniker of “The Headquarters,” or “HQ.” The “Q” was the hotspot where Pat’s friends gathered together; in the same way, “Pat’s Q” now serves as an annual get-together for those same friends, Pat’s family, and the greater community.
“Pat’s Q” was held at Bristow Manor Golf Club until 2014. For the last three years, the event has taken place at Stonewall Golf Club. Held on the Friday before Memorial Day each year, Pat’s Q has sold out every year since its inception. “The support from the community has been fantastic,” Chris says, “from players and volunteers, to sponsorships, to raffle items, to donations for the live auction.”
The proceeds of the first Pat’s Q went toward funding a scholarship for a FHS student headed to Pat’s alma mater, James Madison University. “We now give scholarships to a JMU-bound senior from Fauquier, Liberty, and Kettle Run High Schools,” Chris says. As the tournament has grown, the Gays have been able to not only fund the scholarships but donate to several local charities.
And now, in his own way, Chris Gay has found a means for giving back to Fauquier some of the care and support he and his family received from the community as they grieved. He now operates Commonwealth Care Group of Northern Virginia (CCG), soon to be rebranded as Commonwise Home Care. CCG is a home care services group that provides personal care and companionship services to aging or disabled individuals, thereby supporting families in the Fauquier area and beyond.
“The company was started in 2013 by two good friends who live in Charlottesville,” Chris Gay explains. “I was the first franchise.” Gay was working at Deloitte when he decided it would be more fulfilling to switch career tracks to the home healthcare industry. “It’s a service that we feel is essential, especially as the Baby Boomer population ages. It’s also a service that is often not performed at the level that we feel it should be.”
Gay explains that Commonwealth Care Group provides personal care and companionship services like bathing, toileting, transportation, meal preparation, and light housekeeping duties. “Some people need our services long term, for the duration of their lives,” Gay says. “Other people get injured and need help for just a few weeks while they rehabilitate.” He gives the example of someone who has been discharged from rehab but is not yet completely independent and does not have family in the area. “We can come in and help with traveling to appointments, grooming and hygiene, and even services like pet care until that client is back on their feet again.”
“Our services are not strictly confined to elderly folks,” Chris says. “There are young people we help, too.” CCG recently came to the rescue of a pregnant mother who was ordered to go on bedrest. A caregiver helped with meal prep, shopping, and other daily tasks that the young woman could not perform for her young family until she had safely reached full term.
Gay personally vets all of his CCG franchise’s caregivers. “I look for people who have the emotional intelligence and passion needed to do this work well,” he says. “A special caregiver will be able to empathize with folks, be able to understand their situations and tailor their care to what is truly needed.”
Gay values reliability, compassion, and responsiveness. “You prolong clients’ lives and bring them more comfort and happiness when, as a caregiver, you connect with folks emotionally, engaging with them and developing lasting relationships.”
One of CCG’s core beliefs is that exceptional caregivers deserve fair compensation. “We pay our caregivers upwards of 70 percent over industry average,” Gay says. “Turnover is a major issue across our industry. Compensating employees appropriately encourages better employee retention, which in turn helps with consistency, continuity, and quality of care for our clients.”
Gay now lives in Alexandria with his wife, Kendall, and their son, Parker. He and his family often return to Fauquier to visit with his parents, friends and family. “It’s so peaceful and laid back, such a different pace of life from the city,” Gay says. His favorite stop for food and a beer is Molly’s Irish Pub, “although it’s not as easy to get out and enjoy the nightlife now that we have a sixteen-month-old,” he laughs.
Gay looks forward to serving Fauquier county area for years to come through CCG. “It’s incredibly rewarding,” he says. “It also helps me achieve my ongoing wish to give back to this community, which means so much to me.”
Patrick Ryan Gay Memorial Golf Tournament
For more information about the Patrick Ryan Gay Memorial Golf Tournament, please visit http://Patsq.com. The eleventh annual tourney will take place on Friday, May 25th, 2018 at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville.