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Couple lives American dream taking care of elderly

Mirela and Constantin Gavojdea overcome hardships to run adult-care home


by: BARBARA SHERMAN - OUTDOOR SANCTUARY - Mirela Gavojdea's back yard becomes a second living room during nice weather, and her residents enjoy helping take care of the vegetable garden.Mirela Gavojdea came to the United States in 1990 after leaving Romania with her daughter and living in Greece for a year while she applied to the U.S. Embassy for political refugee status.

"Coming to this country with an 8-year-old daughter, one piece of luggage and a mechanical engineering degree in my pocket, I had to work very hard, which was one thing the communist regime taught us how to do very well in the 40 years after WWII," she said.

In the U.S., she met and married her husband Constantin (called Costa) who ironically lived only 10 blocks from her in Romania, although they never met there.

"My husband escaped from Romania by walking during the night and sleeping during the day," Mirela said. "He got captured and beat up but escaped on his second attempt."

They had a son together, and after going to school, Mirela got a job as a manufacturing engineer but after 9/11, orders dropped off, and she got laid off.

Costa, who was working as a real estate agent, had a listing for a house for sale across the street from St. Anthony's Catholic Church that had been operated as an adult-care home.

"It was a huge career change, but we have never regretted it," Mirela said of opening Grant Home Care Inc. in 2002 that can accommodate five residents. "I took care of my dad in Romania and learned that you must have a heart to do this.”

Along with providing care that includes behavioral and cognitive management, Mirela now specializes in clients with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease).

"And once I get a resident, I don't just take them but take the whole family," she said. "We celebrate birthdays and invite the extended family for dinner. The last Saturday in June, we invite the families of everyone who has lived here for a picnic - we stay in touch with the families."

Also, every Friday, Mirela extends an open invitation to a coffee klatch to anyone who has had a connection with her home.

"I'm flexible with meals," said Mirela, who cooks all the meals and bakes bread every other day.

For more information, call 503-620-8425.