Even though it was a lot of hard work, it has never really felt like work,” is how the founder of Sentry Living Solutions, Carlos D. Cienfuegos, described the time he spends working with people with developmental disabilities. It’s a quote that perfectly captures not only Cienfuegos’ driven nature and deep-seated desire to help others but also the cliché of doing something that you love so you don’t work a day in your life might yet be confirmed.
It wasn’t a coincidence that Cienfuegos decided to start Sentry Living Solutions and dedicate all of his energy to helping people. Since he was young, he had a purpose guiding him. Cienfuegos credits his Christian background and missionary work for introducing him to the concept of doing something meaningful, something that allows him to bring a positive change to those who need it.
Still, it took some time for him to create an environment where he’d be able to do the work that he wanted and still do it on his own terms. Cienfuegos wasn’t a big fan of bosses, and he wanted to go into business for himself. The experiences he had on his first job after graduating from college only solidified his determination to strike out on his own.
“It was the desire to have my own business and the thought that I have to help people; the two came together, and I saw that there were so many things that could be improved in the previous organization, like streamlining things and being more modern,” Cienfuegos explains.
What he set on was creating his own organization that would provide crucial services to people with developmental disabilities and their families. In his capacity as the founder of the organization, however, his work changed — he wasn’t on the front lines anymore. That didn’t stop him, however, from working on weekends.
“We have a director for each program, then you have supervisors and more people involved, and that’s the reason that I’m not as involved directly with clients,” he says on his changing role. “I still am aware of the cases and the clients, especially when they’re more challenging, but I’m not hands-on working. I’m more in the background.”
Even when people are doing meaningful work, there are times when the joy of it gets severely dimmed. For Sentry Living Solutions, as with many other services that rely on one-to-one, in-person work with their clients, the pandemic presented a severe blow. It was challenging and uncertain for a while, even though the state stepped in and made some decisions that helped people stay on and continue the services.
“No one really understood what’s going to happen because, for instance, for Independent Living Services, it’s one-on-one,” Cienfuegos explains. “So if you don’t see the client, then you don’t get the bill. They modified it to be remote. And that meant phone or internet services, so then we were able to continue. It was an incredibly challenging situation because it felt like a waiting game.”
With the pandemic over and his organization back on track, Cienfuegos got to return to doing the work he finds fulfilling. “My role has grown to be different things. I still connect with people, although not as much as I used to. But I still serve,” he says. “And I’m not counting the days for it to be Friday so that I can have the weekend.