Felix Gbee

September 11, 2001, was one of the darkest days in the history of the United States. Felix Gbee saw it as a call to service. 

“It was something that moved me at a time knowing that a country was attacked and needed people to defend it,” said Gbee, 49. “I thought what better way to thank the country that accepted my father and my family, and I owe them to go serve for a period of time to defend it.”

Gbee knew something about sacrifice, having come to the States from war-torn Liberia with his family at the age of 23. He enlisted in the Army in 2002 as an infantry man, despite having the qualifications and background to become an officer. He then served several tours in Iraq as a platoon sergeant. Gbee subsequently transitioned into the Reserves until injuries led him to leave in 2019.

Service in senior care

Unsure of his next path after the Army, Gbee, who has a bachelors degree in economics from the University of St. Thomas, was looking for a new direction. He found it after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“As COVID emerged itself, my wife and I started looking at other ways to serve,” Gbee said. “It became apparent that senior care was the most urgent need. It brought us closer to our community, meaning that we can get a franchise within the community we live and serve seniors within our community.”

Gbee’s new mission was finding a senior care organization to run. He found SYNERGY HomeCare, a personal care franchise company, the same way most people find a good bite to eat: via Google. Soon after, he was a franchisee running SYNERGY’s Leesburg, VA. location. Gbee was particularly drawn to SYNERGY’s affinity for veterans. 

“The more I read about SYNERGY, that dedication to quality, that dedication to help veterans, that’s what moved me,” Gbee said. “I think the differentiating factor was the fact that SYNERGY was dedicated to serve veterans and that they had a franchise within my community. I didn’t want a franchise 200 miles away from me; that defeated my sole purpose of wanting to be in this business.”

Gbee’s military background is an asset when it comes to running his business today. It helped shape his belief that it is about much more than making money. 

“My entire franchise is built on the core values that I learned from the Army,” Gbee said. “Going above and beyond to help seniors, to help my clients, it ties in directly to a core value of the Army. I train my staff to always do the right thing, even when no one is looking. That is something that is commonly said in the Army. Knowing that sometimes may not always be for profit, sometimes you just have to help the person in need. And not for the glorification or name of it, but just to help.”

A client connection

Gbee’s favorite part of the job is being able to connect with clients. Many of them are veterans like himself, and he relishes the chance to exchange stories about their respective experiences. As a result, he’s been able to forge close bonds with aging veterans like 90-year-old Chester.

In Liberia, senior care is usually structured around family, Gbee noted. Younger generations will eventually bear the responsibility for caring for their elders when they are old. Through his SYNERGY franchise, Gbee wants to cultivate that familial environment for everyone in his care. 

“Most times when families come through our doors, they’re stressed; they’re either just been discharged from the hospital, or they’re at a low point in their lives when they need help,” Gbee said. “They tried to push it off for a long time and they need help.”

Veterans are dealing with a special set of challenges such as navigating VA benefits, he added. “Midway through [their care with us] to see that things have settled and they can have somewhat of a normal day, you get that call to say ‘Hey, Felix, thanks. I really appreciate you or your caregivers are great,’ or they leave a review. Those are the things that are most rewarding.”

Editor’s notes: Home Sweet Home is a feature appearing Mondays in McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. The story focuses on a heartwarming, entertaining or quirky happening affecting the world of home care. If you have a topic that might be worthy of the spotlight in Home Sweet Home, please email Liza Berger at [email protected]