PRN Home Care is the third business venture of the entrepreneurial, husband and wife team of Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Cherry. Kearn was raised in Biloxi and graduated from Biloxi High. While attending college, she worked as a part time medical clerk at KAFB Medical Center. She has always been drawn to business and specifically the medical field. Kearn’s husband was in the military and was first stationed in Germany. During their time overseas she continued her education in nursing.”I always expected to finish my nursing degree over there but that didn’t happen,” she said. When Dennis received orders to transfer to Arizona, the young couple moved again. Kearn was anxious to pursue her studies but getting into nursing school was next to impossible because there were so few slots and hundreds of applicants. “My husband and I both tried for years to get into school, but in order to make a living as we waited for a slot, we sought employment in a nursing home and started out as nurses aids,” she said.
There was quite a buzz about Occupational Therapy and the many opportunities in the field. The school was in Tucson which was an hour and a half away from their home base of Sierra Vista. The couple took the trip to investigate, with their three little children in tow. They were accepted and made the decision to commute to Tucson each day. During this time, Kearn left the nursing home and began working with a Staffing Agency. To alleviate the stress of the constant commuting, Dennis carpooled with 2 other students while Kearn stayed over night to work.
Dennis continued to work in Sierra Vista while Kearn worked in Tucson. It was quite a rat race but somehow they did everything they needed to do. “We were totally by ourselves in Arizona, no family close by which made things even harder but my parents helped out. We went from going to school to full time internships and trying to hold down full time jobs,” Kearn said. The couple finished the day after Christmas in 1995. They immediately packed up their little family, put everything they owned in storage, and drove straight through to Mississippi! “We had gotten our Associates in OT and planned a stop over in Biloxi, not intending to stay. Our plan was to go to Florida…but we ended up taking jobs here and settling down on the Coast,” Kearn said.
Dennis and Kearn worked at several nursing homes in South Mississippi. They were contracted through Rehab One from 1995 to 1997. They served as Occupational Therapist Assistants and helped rehabilitate patients in order to restore their previous abilities. It was often relearning the most basic of things such as dressing, grooming, and being able to go from a chair to a bed and visa versa. From 1998 to 2000 Kearn worked for Nova Care in the same capacity. Dennis opted to take employment elsewhere during that time but they soon would be working side by side once again.PRN Quality Staffing was developed to cater to the staffing needs of health care professionals, specifically Occupational Therapists (OT’s), Physical Therapists (PT’s), and Speech Therapists in 1997. PRN means “As Needed” which is the stamp you will find on many prescription bottles! Dennis and Kearn were trying to build their new business and secure contracts which was very difficult while working their regular jobs. In 1999, their was a terrible collapse in these fields throughout America. It was due to the major changes put into place through Medicare for their new billing systems. Kearn was well aware of what lied ahead because she made it a point to attend national conferences and the warning was given repeatedly that the system would be very different once Medicare began making these cuts. “It was so bad that many people quit their jobs and went to work in the casinos. They had no intent to return to health care,” Kearn said.
In response to the budget cuts, Kearn and Dennis decided that they would formulate a company that would allow home care for ailing seniors. They worked for very low wages in the beginning but they saw a desperate need for this kind of care and felt it was their calling to help the aged. The need is so great for rehabilitation and rebuilding lives that there is no denying the importance of this highly specialized branch of health care. “The goal is always to get these patients to be able to function as they did before an illness, accident or surgery. The goal is to give them their independence back so they can live productive, full and happy lives again,” Kearn said. PRN offers a service that allows seniors to stay in their homes if at all possible, as well as assist with care in a private facility. “We offer families a choice. We want them to know that nursing homes are not the only answer…there are other options,” she added. Nursing homes were created for people to have a place to die, not to live.
Kearn urges people to think in steps: Start at home and do as much as you can in the home setting. Then if it is not possible for your loved one to remain at home, perhaps Assisted Living would be the answer and work well. After all these options have been exhausted, then it would be time to go to the last resort of a nursing home. “It is very sad but most people have no idea what is available to them and how they can get the help they need to care for an elderly parent or family member. They don’t have the knowledge and have no idea where to begin. Kearn Cherry knows everything you need to know about senior care and is delighted to share this information with you. “We cater to the caregivers, so the adult children can get assistance with this awesome responsibility and get the resources they need. All they have to do is call me and I will assist in any way I can,” Kearn said.
Kearn and Dennis have been in business for over fourteen years. They serve the Gulf Coast in Mississippi as well as through Mobile, Alabama and Louisiana. PRN is a family company. Eldest son, Dannan, left home at the age of 19 to make it on his own but has returned. One year ago he began working with his parents at PRN. He is now 27 and newly married. Dannan has the same entrepreneurial mind set as Kearn and Dennis. He has developed an “in house” moving company to assist clients with moving and relocating their elderly loved ones. PRN Home Care provides this additional service for families to make things less stressful. “The Handy Dandy Moving Service” can handle a move from start to finish throughout the U.S. and abroad.
Both of Kearn’s daughters attend Alabama A & M University in Huntsville. They are very involved parents and wouldn’t have it any other way. Jasmine and Denise, are both pro tennis players and enjoy full scholarships to college. They got a late start in the world of tennis, as most kids begin serious training at the tender ages of 3 to 6. These young ladies started at around 10 to 12 years. They began an interest in the sport at the Hiller Park Tennis Complex in Biloxi. Kearn encouraged the girls to develop their talent and insisted they work hard to perfect their skills.
They began private lessons with Steve Garman who is the Tennis Director at Diamondhead Tennis World and is a USPTA 1 Professional. “We all learned the game and before we knew it, we were on the road three or four weeks out of every month so the girls could compete in national and international tournaments,” Kearn said. Quite often Dennis and Denise would travel by themselves and Kearn would travel separately with Jasmine so that no one would miss an opportunity to play in larger tournaments. It proved to be a wonderful way to have special ”alone time” with each of their daughters. The whole family would also make the tournament trips which was extra special for everyone.
Since they got a late start, it was imperative for them to play at every opportunity,” Kearn said. The family traveled all over the country and both girls were in high demand. They got calls from coaches, the very best coaches…the phone never stopped ringing. “Girls need to be in a sport, particularly tennis, golf, etc. because these sports are wide open and scholarships are readily available. Push your kids, you won’t regret it, she added.
Jasmine and Denise are as different as night and day, and have also have very different styles on the court. They are both honor roll students and the youngest, Denise, plays the number one spot on the Alabama A& M Tennis Team. Richard Williams, father to tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, has been very supportive of Jasmine and Denise and was instrumental in the development of their stroke. He worked with them at his private residence and offered to do so again in the future. “Being entrepreneurs has allowed my husband and I to have time to enjoy these very special and extraordinary moments. It allowed her to be involved in many charitable organizations and side projects,” Kearn said.
Kearn Cherry thoroughly enjoys working with the American Heart Association. She is on the Board of Directors of “Go Red” for Women, and has been taking part in the event for years. Kearn threw her hat into the ring from day one. She was given the responsibility of chairing the auction items and has been involved ever since. She is also on the Board and assists with the Heart Ball and the Heart Walk. “I am very impressed with the Heart Association and I really love what they do,” Kearn said. In 2009, Kearn started to feel unwell. She was putting in very full days which was not unusual but she felt extremely tired and fatigued. Her legs also felt strange and heavy, as well as having shortness of breath. “As women we tend to ignore stuff and just go on with our busy schedules but something was definitely wrong. My husband said he thought I should go to the hospital but I didn’t think it was necessary. I did decide to check my symptoms on the Go Red website and discovered I was textbook for heart problems,” Kearn said. She went to the hospital and by the time she arrived she was very dizzy and could hardly breathe at all, her lips were blue and she was in great distress. After testing, it was determined that Kearn had blood clots, not just one or two but several located in her lungs. One clot was causing most of the severe problems which was located between her heart and the lungs in a main artery. Kearn was referred to specialists at UAB and was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension. Open heart surgery was indicated after a very strict regimen of medications. As Kearn prepared for the surgery, she was admitted early for more testing. It was discovered that her lungs had changed a great deal and surgery was no longer the best option, that it would probably do more harm than good. Dennis and Kearn chose not to risk it and felt that the best choice was to continue with the prescribed meds and leave everything else alone. “I must give credit to Ocean Springs Singing River hospital for recently opening a Pulmonary Hypertension clinic – they are the ONLY one on the Coast. This clinic will save many lives. My advise would be to always get a second opinion when faced with a catastrophic diagnosis, don’t hesitate to get a referral to another doctor,” Kearn said.This very busy lady is also the Vice President for the Mental Health Association Board of Directors. She has chaired the Bachelor/Bachelorette auction since 2008 and it is always a tremendous success and great fun for all. Kearn is also a past president of Lighthouse Business and Professional Women (BPW) and is very involved in the Women of Achievement event since 2006. She was the Vice President of Membership for the Biloxi Bay Chamber. “The people with the Bay Chamber are so friendly and so welcoming. It is such a pleasure to be a part of this fine organization,” Kearn said. She is also on the Senior Advisory Committee for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and is one of the creators and founding member of RIPE which is Resource, Information and Planning for the Elderly. Kearn believes that everyone should volunteer to be of assistance to your church and also within the community. She loves to do volunteer work and makes it a point to do everything she can to make a difference. In December, the BPW raised over $9,100.00. Thirty gift baskets were raffled off and over 100 people attended the event to make it one of the most successful BPW events ever. In addition, Kearn is one of the creators of the Gulf Coast Senior Prom. It is a wonderful, highly anticipated, romantic and fun evening for seniors only, at the IP Casino Resort Spa. In 2005, Kearn partnered with her dear friend and business associate, Vicky Hensley of the Loyalton in Biloxi to form The Senior Healthcare Group. They were also joined by Alisha Plummer with TLC Home Health of Amedysis. These women came together to network their services and it benefits all concerned. They have developed educational seminars, conferences, networking events and workshops for senior citizens and healthcare professionals. Kearn Cherry has been the recipient of numerous awards over the years. She was honored as a featured business owner in the international magazine, ”Essence” in 2001 as one of the “Comeback Queens.” Essence later featured her again in a hard cover book that presented female business owners to celebrate their successes. The article was titled, “Making it Happen – Creating Success and Abundance.” Kearn Cherry is indeed an asset to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and GTP is very proud to honor her accomplishments as our Mover and Shaker for the month of January.