Helping Others is Her Way of Life

Including Saint John’s in her estate plan ensures Grace Cherry’s legacy will endure.

Written by Nancy Sokoler Steiner

When Grace Cherry, RN, was only 3 years old, she would take her grandfather’s pills to him. “I was a nurse at a very young age,” she says with a laugh. Her drive to help others has remained with her ever since.

A registered nurse by training, Cherry recently created a living trust that includes Providence Saint John’s Health Center as a beneficiary. “I think Saint John’s is the best hospital in Southern California,” she says.

Raised in the Philippines, Cherry came to this country at age 18. She grew up without much financial security and witnessed the necessity of hard work to succeed in life. However, despite the early experience with her grandfather, she didn’t yet realize how fulfilling she’d find the profession of nursing. She decided to go to nursing school when she discovered that nurses earned $20 per hour—an impressive wage at the time.

Cherry soon discovered that she loved the profession. After working at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for several years, she joined a nurse’s registry and found herself regularly assigned to the orthopedic floor at Saint John’s. There, she met the late Leonard Marmor, MD, a renowned orthopedic surgeon who pioneered the technique of unicompartmental knee surgery (partial knee replacement).

Impressed with Cherry’s nursing skills, he began referring private patients to her for at-home care following surgery. “Dr. Marmor told me, ‘You’re such a good nurse. You should start your own agency,” recalls Cherry.

She took his advice and in 2001 founded Allwest Nursing Services, Inc., a licensed home care agency serving patients with a range of care needs and specializing in recovery after orthopedic surgery. The agency’s reputation grew, and new clients poured in.

Cherry’s responsibilities as CEO keeps her busy. And she takes pride that she has a reputation for strictness among current and potential employees. But the Glendale resident finds time for many philanthropic endeavors. In addition to Saint John’s, she supports the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Los Angeles Mission, Midnight Mission, Valley of Hope and other organizations. She also donates to seminaries in the Philippines, sponsors nursing scholarships and supports programs to feed the poor.

“Success in business is indeed a blessing,” she says. “I so wanted to give back to the community. I wanted to make a difference in our world. Though I have no children, I feel I have many children through the many charities I help.”

Giving is a value she embraces every day. While shopping, Cherry says, she sometimes asks herself: Do I really need this? My charity projects need it more.

“When I see the thousands of cars lining up for groceries at the LA Regional Food Bank, one of my favorite charities, my heart hurts,” she says. “I thank the Lord every day to gift me the privilege to help the less fortunate. What good is success if you won’t share with others? There’s a satisfaction in knowing that my hard work will pay off in helping others even beyond my lifetime.”

As the owner of a home, investments and a successful business, Cherry recently decided to complete a living trust. She is single, so she wanted to make sure her assets would go to worthy causes and individuals when the time came. That meant including Saint John’s in her estate plans.

“I wanted to leave my estate to people who helped me, respected me and were good to me,” she says. “If not for Saint John’s, I don’t know what the trajectory of my company would have been.”

But more than business motivated Cherry’s bequest to the health center. “I have been to almost every hospital in Greater Los Angeles,” she says. “Saint John’s is the only one I’d go to if the need arose. They have great doctors, great nurses—great everything!”