The ministry that would one day evolve into United Church Homes traces its origin to 1916 when congregations in Toledo established a house with five elders needing a place to live. Church members and siblings Matthew and Jane Smith, recognizing a need for a more lasting response, decided to help the church build a “fair haven” to provide care for seniors. The Smiths donated 168 acres of farmland in Holland, Ohio, to the Toledo Classis of the Reformed Church.
The Smiths’ gift would eventually provide the seed money to establish United Church Homes’ first senior community, known today as Fairhaven Community, in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
With this humble beginning in mind, United Church Homes is now preparing to observe its first century of service with a celebration that will be held in Columbus, Ohio, on July 22-23, 2016.
Preliminary work is now being done to enable the organization not only to celebrate its first 100 years, but also to articulate a new vision. “Save the Date” postcards were mailed recently, inviting individuals who share an abiding interest in our ministry to plan on joining us next July.
There is a wide variety of activities taking place now, including research, writing, editing and image generating, as well as planning special events. Several nationally-known speakers have been invited to present workshops on issues involving aging and senior living.
In addition, DVDs documenting the rich history of UCH are being developed.
The first of these DVDs, featuring the life and legacy of Dr. Rev. Ben Mohr Herbster, debuted at the recent United Church of Christ General Synod, held in Cleveland, Ohio, from June 26-30. Rev. Herbster, who was the first president of the United Church of Christ and later served on the UCH Board of Directors during his retirement, is the inspiration for the highest honor bestowed by United Church Homes over the past 30 years.
Free copies of the Herbster DVD are available at unitedchurchhomes.org/herbsterDVD.
Other DVDs in production will focus on UCH’s major benefactor, the late Ruth Frost Parker, and all past UCH presidents and the major accomplishments achieved during their administrations.
Another DVD entitled United Church Homes: The Formative Years, 1916-1920, will provide a sense of what was occurring during the time when UCH was first exploring the viability of raising funds to build a home to provide care for seniors.
The centennial celebration will also promote the organization’s recently approved new vision, mission and core values statements, which were first revealed in the Spring 2015 issue of Spirit magazine. As the Spirit creates abundant life for the 4,000 residents we serve every day, we are also committed to transforming aging by building a culture of community, wholeness and peace.
If you, or someone you know, has information, photos, stories or other artifacts that could further illuminate the history of United Church Homes, please contact George Schaefer at 740.382.4885 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
These are truly exciting times for our ministry, and we invite you to join us in what will be a memorable celebration.