An adorable charcoal-colored puggle named Raven welcomes me with excited yips to the Rancho Santa Fe home of Lauren Reynolds and Brian Connelly. The couple soon follows, offering refreshments and a tour of the comfortable two-story, three-bedroom townhome they share with their two sons, Jake, a sophomore at the University of Arizona, and Aiden, a Torrey Pines High School senior. Reynolds is the founder of At Home Nursing Care and a former award-winning investigative reporter for ABC 10News. Connelly, previously an executive with Ken Blanchard, is now a top-selling realtor with Compass Real Estate in Rancho Santa Fe. While building a new home in Leucadia, the couple is enjoying life in the village with its proximity to restaurants, retail, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, and the nearby Del Mar Country Club, where the whole family plays golf with puppy in tow.
The couple met at Mimmo’s Italian Village in Little Italy when both were on their lunch breaks. One look was all it took. “I’m going to marry that man,” she remembers telling her 10News photographer. “It was like a lightning bolt.” Connelly was also smitten. “I told my buddy, ‘Don’t let her walk out without me talking to her. I‘m going to marry her.’” She gave Connelly her business card before leaving and invited him to call. By the time she returned to the newsroom, a big bouquet of roses was waiting for her with a card that read: “I just want to brighten your day the way you brightened mine. Love, Brian.” They married 15 months later.
But soon after their wedding, Reynolds’ mom, MaryKay, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at just 50 years old. Although treated successfully with chemotherapy, the cancer returned six years later. This time her mother decided not to undergo chemo, preferring to live out her remaining days at home in Los Angeles with live-in care, surrounded by her dogs, children, and grandchildren. Reynolds went part-time at work, driving to L.A. to help while she and Connelly also raised two young boys. “My mother had limited time left with us,” she recalls, “but that time was spent exactly where she wanted to be, at home.” Working with inspiring caregivers changed Reynolds’ life. “The experience made me want to change my career to deliver the kind of professional, compassionate care my mom received,” she says. She left television, founding At Home Nursing Care in Encinitas and Los Angeles to help other families find high quality in-home care for their loved ones.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created monumental difficulties for the elderly and caregivers, both in nursing homes and in patients’ own homes. Reynolds says her staff rose to the challenges. “I’m tremendously proud that my staff continued to work,” she reflects. “No one abandoned their client. Plus, only a few of our clients and caregivers contracted COVID-19 last December when community spread was rampant.” One of the caregivers spent two weeks in quarantine with a client in her 90s who had contracted the virus. The client recovered; the caregiver never got the disease. Reynolds says she and most of her staff and clients have now been vaccinated. “The science shows they work, and after 100 million people have been vaccinated in the U.S., fear about vaccines is decreasing,” she notes. At Home Nursing Care practices infection control, mask wearing, and safe distancing when practical.
Connelly, meanwhile, has faced other challenges over the last year when the real estate market ground to a halt in March 2020. It has since become red hot. “When companies started allowing people to work from home, it changed the entire landscape,” he says. “People now had the option to live anywhere, and they wanted more space, the natural social-distancing of the suburbs. This prompted people to move from more densely populated cities for homes with larger spaces, both inside and out.”
Because open houses are banned, there aren’t “lookie-loos” trying to find homes. “So only serious buyers are out looking,” he says. “Everyone must sign COVID-19 release forms before each showing, and more often than not, proof of funds is required before gaining access to the house.” The result is increased competition, higher home prices, and a dwindling inventory.
The couple has been involved with local philanthropies including The Rancho Santa Fe Rotary Club, where Reynolds chaired the annual Taste of Rancho Santa Fe, and The Country Friends, where she co-chaired the Giving Hearts Gala. The San Diego North Chamber of Commerce named Reynolds “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2013. The couple has since launched the At Home Nursing Care Foundation to provide scholarships for those who want to become certified nursing assistants and home health aides. Reynolds serves on the board of directors of the California Association for Health Services at Home (CAHSAH).
As Mother’s Day approaches, the couple looks back lovingly on the mothers they both lost to cancer. Connelly’s mother, Marge, died at the age of 70, just four months before MaryKay. “When she died, I was heartbroken for a year,” Reynolds says of her mother. “But she told me, ‘Don’t be sad for too long. Get on with your life because life is for the living.’ I know she’s looking down on me and she’s proud of the service that I try to provide for others. I want people to experience the comfort and care my mom experienced. And that’s what drives me every day.”