Stories of Impact

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Giving Is In Her Blood


By Kaitlyn Nuebel

When the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, Jaline Cunningham, a single mom, brainstormed ways she could provide a stable future for her five kids.

“All my thoughts come from that … I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, I got to really help my kids because if something like this happens again in the future, what is going to happen?”

Cunningham was working at a daycare and assisting a friend with a cleaning company when she learned about the high demand for cleaning services. She decided to start her own cleaning business during the pandemic to create a stable source of income her kids could carry on one day.

Like most of the jobs Cunningham has held to provide for her family, cleaning offices and living rooms was never part of her initial plan. In 2003, a job she took as a health unit coordinator confirmed her desire to pursue nursing. She took a couple of college classes in between her two part time jobs and caring for her children.

“When you have kids, you’re running off adrenaline,” she said.

But with only three semesters left in the program, Cunningham hit a roadblock – she could not find someone to watch her kids during a required lab she had on Fridays.

“I felt like ‘I can do this’ … if I just have help with the kids,” she said.

Cunningham put her studies on hold and watched her enthusiasm morph into frustration. Little did she know that her cleaning business would reopen the door to her longed-for healthcare career eight years prior. She was servicing the Brother’s Brother Foundation office when she heard about an opportunity to learn phlebotomy. BBF had provided a grant to Allied Community Health and Laboratory Services for a program that would train three students to become certified phlebotomists and they were looking for candidates.

Cunningham applied to the program and was accepted. She began attending five-hour classes twice a week and, by the end of the five-week program, had the skills and knowledge to take the certification test. Once she does, Cunningham will not only have a more flexible schedule to resume nursing classes, but a helpful and marketable skill not always included in the nursing curriculum.

Nearly 20 years have passed since Cunningham’s job as a health unit coordinator, but her vision has remained the same. She imagines herself as the nurse who inspires a patient to invest in their long -term health – even though it may mean undergoing unpleasant treatments temporarily. In many ways, nursing is a second outlet for the same overflowing compassion that makes her a great mother.

“I enjoy being a mother even more than anything. Being a mother is so hard but it’s at home with you,” Cunningham said. “As a nurse, people come to you and then they leave you, but you know that you’ve helped them, and you know that you’ve done something good for them.”

Cunningham plans on handing her cleaning business to her kids — one of whom already works with her – so they can reap the benefits of owning a business without starting from scratch. In her family, this kind of giving is a ritual.

“I have a family of very generous people. My grandfather, he worked on the [Panama] canal, and in his village, he was like the richest person and he always helped everybody. He paid off people’s tabs when he got his check,” Cunningham said. “I think it’s in the blood.”