Hero Highlight: The Mighty McCays

December 17, 2020

We all make sacrifices for our families.  At JAA, there are many team members with school-aged children who need to find creative ways to make schedules fit, finding the right balance between their jobs and childcare.

Adding COVID to the mix places additional stress in the middle of all our JAA families.

Jennifer and Dan McCay both work for JAA.  Jen is our CEO’s executive assistant and Dan is our purchasing coordinator. Together, they have 45 combined years of service at JAA.

Working in long-term senior care under COVID restrictions requires them to be extra vigilant at work and at home.

“It’s hard, but we try to make it work. We laugh a lot,” says Jen.

The McCays are among the most creative people at JAA. They are musicians, (she sings, he’s studied saxophone and piano), they courted while in a theater company (he was the director, she acted and helped out backstage), they volunteer for their church, singing and playing in the choir, and, when they married 20 years ago, it was a full-scale Scottish ceremony, kilts, bagpipes, the works.

Every employee at JAA, all 495 of them, know Jen and Dan. 

Eight years ago, they added Grace Jean to their family. The shared anticipation of her adoption ran across JAA.

It took three years for them to adopt and, says Jen, “Everyone waited with us.”

When three-month-old Grace finally arrived, she became part of the McCay package because, as with her parents, everyone at JAA has fallen in love with Grace too.  Everyone agrees Grace is one of those kids you just want to be around.  She’s fun, funny, and creative.

That’s no surprise considering how she is being raised and by whom.

According to Dan, “Grace likes to sing, loves music, and likes to dance.” Jen says, “If she wasn’t a performer, we’d be sunk.”  

Before COVID, Grace came to the office, went on rounds with her mom on weekends, and got to know the residents and employees. 

When COVID hit, this family reacted as everyone did, making major changes forced upon them that required some serious thinking and difficult decision-making.

The first eleven months of COVID were a rollercoaster ride especially when figuring out Grace’s school schedule.  Last spring, classes shut down for two weeks moving to online learning until the end of the school year. After an unusual summer, then came September’s hybrid model, according to Dan, with Grace “in school Tuesday, Friday, and every other Wednesday, the rest of the time online.” With the second big surge in cases, it was back to all online, virtual learning.

What is a family in this situation to do? When you are creative like the McCays, you figure it out.

Jen and Dan went to their supervisors asking, “Would JAA be comfortable with us working a ‘Swing Shift’” splitting workdays so one of them would always be home with Grace?

“It just seemed natural,” said Jen. “I needed to be in the office during the day. Grace needed to be at home.” For Dan, “There was no question; I was working the night shift.”

Their request was immediately granted, no questions, no hesitation. The result, they both agree is that, “It just feels really weird to not be together.”

He’s just about getting to sleep as she’s up walking the dog and heading to the office.

Grace sees Mom at night and Dad during the day and then they are all together on weekends. Jen admits, “Saturdays and Sundays are really precious because that is literally the only time we see each other.”  

Sunday nights are always tough when they collectively say, “See ya Friday!”

The hardest part of the week is when Dan drives with Grace to start his workday in the afternoon and Jen goes home with her. Those brief few moments, when Jen jokes, “We meet in the parking lot and swap her out. Seriously, though, that was tough.” As for Grace, Jen says, “Sometimes she’d just burst into tears. She’d look at her dad, crying, ‘I don’t want you to go.’ It was heartbreaking, you just felt so bad.”

When asked about splitting up like that, Grace says, “I just missed us being together.”

Grace’s heart was always inside JAA even though she couldn’t enter the building.  When PPE was in short supply and the call went out for facemasks to help protect the staff, Grace stepped up.  She took to the sewing machine and, alongside her mom, made hundreds of masks when we needed them most.   

For Jen, the sacrifices her family made were small in comparison to others at JAA. “We look at what everyone else is putting up with, the work they have to do all the time, we don’t feel this really isn’t that much to ask of us.”

Do they feel heroic for the sacrifices they are making?

There is nothing heroic about it, they agree. Jen admits, “The people in the front lines, taking a chance every day, they are the heroes.”

They are just grateful it is all working out.

Jen says, “We do what we do for the residents. It is really a blessing that we are able to do this.”

The McCays are together to support each other, to be there for Grace, and to do their part for the rest of the JAA family.

Their creative solution, being apart, has actually brought them even closer together.

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