For 12 years Tuseda Graggs-Borden and Stacey Graggs-Johnson took care of their mother, Willie Mae Johnson, at her Berkeley home as Alzheimer’s disease slowly claimed her independent spirit.
After their mother died in November 2019, the pair, conditioned to more than a decade of unrelenting hard work, tight schedules, and the chaos of raising families of their own, suddenly had some time to think about what to do next.
Born out of a New Year’s Eve brainstorming session to honor their mother and to acknowledge the hard work of family caregivers, the pair started Willie Mae’s Legacy Foundation. When fully funded it will provide a respite for people taking care of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Part of our grieving process was creating the nonprofit, but it was really a moment to reflect on everything our mom had poured into us as her daughters.”
“When we were taking care of our mother, we wished we could have found something like this,” said Graggs-Borden, a national proposal consultant with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland. “So, we would like to bless other people with what we did not have.”
After launching the foundation, the sisters began volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association and recently completed their training to serve as Community Educators about Alzheimer’s disease — targeting the African American community.
Loving Care Grants
Graggs-Borden and Graggs-Johnson plan to give “Loving Care Grants” in the form of licensed and bonded caregivers available for half- and all-day shifts to come in and take the load off. The grants will typically be $500 to $1,000 and available to applicants located in Northern California who meet the foundation’s criteria.
“As a single mom my mother raised us as independent women,” said Stacey Graggs-Johnson, a financial analyst in the University of California Office of the President and a former Kaiser Permanente employee. “She provided a great foundation for us to go forth and do good in the world. Part of our grieving process was creating the nonprofit, but it was really a moment to reflect on everything our mom had poured into us as her daughters.”
Added Graggs-Borden, “When she passed, suddenly all that grief came forward. We were trying to find a constructive way to deal with all that pent-up grief, and we came up with the idea.”
The sisters are currently fundraising for the foundation.
“Family, friends, and children tend to provide care after work, or they work at home, and they get tired,” said Graggs-Johnson. “They may just need time away to reboot or watch a movie and not have to think about the 101 things they have to do to take care of their loved one with Alzheimer’s.”
Willie Mae’s mother also had Alzheimer’s, and Willie Mae and her sisters took care of their mother, which was a “long, grueling, challenging experience for them with little information available and no funding to help,” according to the foundation website.
Tuseda Graggs-Borden and Stacey Graggs-Johnson hope to make that journey a little easier for others.
Learn more about the foundation, including donations.