Tara Nelson worked as a security officer in the Emergency Room at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, part of the Mayo Clinic, where she was affectionately known as “Ma.” Night after night, as “Ma” was called to help people showing up in crisis, she found herself thinking, “If only someone had helped them sooner.” Many people had specific needs, such as housing, access to food or medications, or simply someone to talk to, that if addressed earlier would have prevented an ER visit. She spoke about this at home, leading her daughter to tell her about the new CHW program. Tara earned her CHW Certificate and started working as a CHW at IMAA just after her own house was lost in a fire. “I had just been through something similar to what many of our clients faced – so between school and personal experience, I was fully equipped to help them.” Now, Tara is the Healthcare Education and Access Manager, working with a team of CHWs who serve clients from both IMAA and the Mayo Clinic throughout southeast Minnesota. Under Tara’s leadership, the program has grown from one CHW to a team of 14, serving over 1,500 clients annually. Additionally, Tara has educated and mentored many CHWs who now work in public health, public schools, and other locations, further spreading CHW services to individuals and families who need them. Tara said CHW work is important to her because everyone needs a helping hand at some point in their life and should be treated with dignity and respect. What Tara would like people to know about CHWs is that people feel cared for when you meet with them in person and help them connect to services so that they do not just receive phone numbers to call. “This is one of the affirmations I receive from patients often, that they truly appreciate it,” Tara said.