AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– Joanne Freeman-Blake is an Augusta native, grandmother, children’s book author, and Wednesday, she became the Visiting Angels Caregiver of the year.

Freeman-Blake dedicated 6,569 hours to in-home senior care during the pandemic, which is about 274 full days. But her passion for caregiving began long before the pandemic.

“Growing up, my mom needed care. And I was like ‘I can do this. This is passionate for me,'” Freeman-Blake said. “And from that time on, growing up, I knew this is what I needed to do. I can do this, I have the care and compassion for it.”

Her coworkers say what sticks out most about Joanne’s care is the way she bonds with patients and personalizes care. One woman who loves to craft particularly sticks out.

“She’s at the point where she can’t do it anymore, but I can take a table over to her, and she can guide me on how to do it so that’s been a pleasure to have her show me what to do, even though she can’t do it anymore,” Freeman-Blake said.

When it came time to nominate someone for the award, the owners of Visiting Angels say she was the clear choice.

“It’s a God-given talent,” co-owner Beth Bandi said. “You could tell it just oozed into her, and so she was the number one choice to go forward.”

Her daughter and grandson say they couldn’t be more proud.

“That’s who she’s always been. She loves taking care of people,” daughter Portia Freeman said. “Yeah, it’s more than just a job for her. And I’m so proud of her.”

“…I am too,” grandson E’Moree Thompson said. “And I’m proud of myself for being the Bully Proof Kid.”

“The Bully Proof Kid” is a children’s poetry book Joanne wrote after her grandson told her about a school bully. E’moree is the main character in the book, and the two spend time sharing it with children across the CSRA.

“We are just all over the place teaching kids about bullying, letting them know it’s not okay. We want them to speak up and tell somebody. And we want our adults to listen, let’s listen to our kids.”