The Campaign for Abundant Life is increasing in momentum as more individuals, churches and community partners respond with support. 2019 marks year three of the five-year comprehensive campaign. The goal is to raise funds for charitable care, pastoral care, the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging, updated campuses for long-term care communities and supportive services for affordable housing. To date, United Church Homes has raised over $13.2 million*. Below is a breakdown of funding raised:
Sue joined the Board in February 2007 as UCH faced an uncertain future, due to the recession that took a financial toll on the organization. The Board needed to make tough decisions to guide the organization through those difficult times and prepare for a stronger future, she said.
Sue’s relationship with United Church Homes started with her United Church of Christ roots and experiences at Fairhaven Community in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Her grandfather, George Schoedinger, gave to Fairhaven for years, and her father, Robert Schoedinger, continued the tradition, helping to fund an expansion at Fairhaven that included the Gathering Place. Sue has extended her family’s legacy of giving with her generous donations over many years.
Sue is a strategic donor who challenges Board members to contribute to UCH each year to reach their goal of 100 percent participation by sponsoring an incentive for a matching gift to increase their total giving. She was a lead donor in 2011 to support Fairhaven’s Capital Campaign and in 2016 signed on to be a founding funder of United Church Homes’ innovative Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging. Most recently, she led the charge of an aggressive Board goal for United Church Homes’ $20 million comprehensive Campaign for Abundant Life by making another generous gift.
In 2017, Sue was recognized with the exclusive President’s Award of Distinction for her generosity, leadership and vision for the organization. In 2013, Sue was recognized as the honoree for the Ben M. Herbster Award for Fairhaven Community, again following in her father’s footsteps. He was recognized with the distinguished honor in 1999.
A lifelong educator who taught every grade from pre-kindergarten through college, Sue brought her passion to the Board with a special interest in benevolent care. Her late father was a former president of the Ohio Masonic Home, and her family has a long history of helping older adults.
Sue enjoyed her time on United Church Homes’ former Resident Services Committee, which combined Housing and Healthcare Services. She was Board vice chair from 2010-13 and served on the housing, advancement, governance, staff relations and advancement performance committees throughout her tenure.
In addition to her service to United Church Homes, Sue is on the Board of Directors for Andrews Osborne Academy, Willoughby, Ohio; Lake Erie College, Painesville, Ohio; and the National Alumni Board of Lake Erie College.
Sue said she will miss the comradery of the UCH Board.
“It’s so cliché. I think every person who’s ever retired has said the same thing,” Sue said, “but you hear it so much because it’s true. I admire and have great respect for everyone on the Board. There is tremendous respect and pride in our organization as a whole.
“The upside is I’ll get to sleep in.” Sue joked. “I think I’ve gained more from the organization than I’ve given to it. Coming from education, I didn’t know much about how a corporation worked. I’ve learned a lot about areas that I probably wouldn’t have gotten to learn about otherwise, and I can apply what I’ve learned to the other boards that I’m serving on now.”
In August, the Board voted to amend the bylaws, reducing its size through attrition as members retire. That works well for United Church Homes, as Sue is an irreplaceable asset.
UCH Welcomes David Brainin
David Brainin, a central Ohio affordable housing consultant, has joined the United Church Homes Board of Directors.
David graduated from New York University in 1974 with a degree in sociology and completed graduate work at The Ohio State University. But his passion for working with older adults, which started at a young age, led him to work in development, rehabilitation and management operations for affordable housing communities. He also assists nonprofits in the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing properties.
David was introduced to United Church Homes 25 years ago when he first met Vice President of Housing Services Cheryl Wickersham through LeadingAge Ohio, an advocate for nonprofit organizations serving older adults.
“I’m really excited to be involved as United Church Homes looks to expand its affordable housing services,” David said. “I believe everyone needs housing. With my background in long-term care and the continuum of care, I’m really interested in all facets of the organization.”
David grew up in Detroit, where his mother ran a nursing home, sparking a lifelong interest in David to serve older adults. He followed in her footsteps to become a nursing home administrator before moving into affordable housing.
He brings to the Board a wealth of experience and expertise in senior living services, affordable housing and strategic planning. He also brings a nonprofit perspective, having worked for nonprofits throughout his career.
“I tried retiring, but after six months, it wasn’t working out.” He laughed. “I need to be involved in my field.”
David lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife, Jackie.
2017 Board of Directors:
- Rev. Kathryn Anadein
- Dr. Trevor Bates
- Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
- Rev. Daniel L. Busch
- Rev. John Cramton
- Mrs. Suzanne S. Ellis
- Rev. John Gantt
- Ms. Cathy Green
- Mr. James L. Henry
- Mr. Robert P. Lee*
- Ms. Sandy Lindahl
- Mr. Philip E. Mallott
- Dr. Alan B. Mikesell
- Mr. Phil Moots
- Ms. Diane Moreno Zerby
- Mrs. Susan Sheidler
- Rev. David V. Schwab
- Mrs. Jean Szilagyi
- Rev. Robert Tussing
- Mr. Karl Ulrich
Last year was one full of opportunities and challenges for United Church Homes. In 2017, we expanded our capacity to serve older adults in 14 states and two Native American nations, extending our mission to new territory. We also are committed to seeking out and creating ways to enrich the lives of people living in our communities. We continue to expand memory care life enrichment programs like Comfort Matters, Opening Minds through Art and Music & Memory while identifying new ways to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve.
Providing quality care is a focus for UCH. One measure that we use is the 5-Star Quality Measure from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). I’m pleased to report that UCH has demonstrated excellence as a leader in quality in the state of Ohio and beyond. All 12 United Church Homes owned and managed communities that offer nursing care have earned five stars on quality! That is a remarkable example of the hard work and dedication of our team members who serve older adults every day.
Professional development is essential to fulfill the mission and vision of United Church Homes, so we continue to invest in our greatest resource — our people. Certified and highly trained staff members provide the best in services and supports for the people we serve.
In 2017, United Church Homes also invested in other ways: an expansion of Parkvue Community in Sandusky, Ohio, where 10 state-of-the-art cottages are being constructed; a renovation and expansion of the assisted living center at Pilgrim Manor in Grand Rapids, Michigan; and major renovations at two managed communities, SEM Haven in Milford, Ohio, and Friendship Village Columbus. Additionally, we welcomed Harmony Apartments in Pleasant Hill, Minnesota, into the family of affordable housing properties in 14 states across the U.S.
The year also saw the completion of a three-year renovation at United Church Homes’ flagship campus, Fairhaven Community in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. We rededicated the campus while simultaneously kicking off the comprehensive Campaign for Abundant Life, a historic five-year effort to raise $20 million so United Church Homes can continue providing abundant life in community well into the future.
The UCH Board regularly evaluates itself and looks for ways to improve. During 2017, we completed a self-assessment and approved bylaw changes for a more compact board of 12-15 members. We also implemented a new committee structure, which we believe will enhance governance.
We look forward to continuing our work to be servant leaders throughout United Church Homes communities and outside of our doors in 2018!
Residents of Chapel Hill, Fairhaven, Parkvue and Trinity communities collectively gave more than $20,300 to local, national and international charities in 2017 through worship service collections. This practice has deep meaning for many people who choose to live at United Church Homes.
“The residents love to give,” said Rev. Dr. Becky King, chaplain at Fairhaven Community in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, and dean of chaplains at UCH. “One hundred percent of their gifts are given to charities of their choice. Some people bring coins; some people bring bills. Some are able to offer prayers as their gift.”
Many residents of Trinity Community of Beavercreek, Ohio, have a long history in the United Church of Christ, of which UCH is an affiliate. Rev. Dale Brown, chaplain at Trinity Community, said residents often advocate for contributions to the United Church of Christ’s Global Ministries to spread the word and cause of Christ to the world.
Other times, residents elect to give their contributions to local charities or nonprofit organizations, such as food banks, homeless and domestic violence ministries and organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association.
The faithful also help their peers by giving to the community’s Life Enrichment Fund. This fund provides resources for life enrichment, group outings and other resident needs.
“People will bring their bingo money. Even if they only can give four quarters, it’s extremely important to them,” said Rev. Cathy Lawrence, chaplain of Parkvue Community in Sandusky, Ohio.
Recently, at Chapel Hill Community in Canal Fulton, Ohio, residents made their gifts go further with a donor match for the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, said Rev. Erin McCreight, chaplain at Chapel Hill. Each year, they also sponsor a child for $500 through Family Village Farm in India’s child-elders sponsorship program.
Many of the chaplains share details about the giving from the organizations receiving the funding during mission moments in worship services.
Emily Howard, a chaplain intern at Fairhaven, said she was touched by the energy that giving sparks in residents.
“We’re each called as people living in a faith community to share what we have and give of ourselves, and we’re connected in that way. It’s part of our faith,” she said.
What does it mean to “transform aging?” This question was asked in a recent conversation about the Vision/Mission/Values statements of United Church Homes. This phrase keeps stumbling into the conversation and people point out that we can’t really alter the fact that we all age. Truth! However, it helps to insert a few words: Our mission is to transform the way we think about aging.
This goal helps UCH take seriously our role to educate ourselves and others about aging. As an organization with 100 years of experience, we see the call to teach what it means to age in the 21st century. Likewise, given the changes in the area of aging services, we must provide the resources for our staff to remain informed of best practices as we build a culture of community, wholeness, and peace.
UCH partners with educational institutions to assist with this ongoing process of transformation. We seek to train and transform a new generation of professionals in the field of senior services through internships and programs for students, nurses, physician assistants, social workers, and dieticians and sponsor seminars about health-related careers and nonprofit organizations.
We also provide staff opportunities to participate in a leadership skills certification program. Together, they work to create and implement programs and practices to provide abundant life to our residents, staff, families, and communities.
Nursing students from Tri-Rivers Center for Adult Education and Marion Technical College receive hands-on clinical training with residents at Fairhaven Community as part of a more than 20-year-old internship program. The program allows students to learn how to communicate and build relationships with residents. “By having varying levels of care at Fairhaven, this allows these future nurses to be able to perfect skills they will need to perform no matter where their nursing careers take them,” said Christy Biller, staff development coordinator and unit coordinator for rehab at Wetzel and Stubbs units.
In addition, students studying social work at The Ohio State University participate in care planning at Fairhaven. Each year, an intern works with older adults and gains experience with end-of-life care.
The 2016-17 school year marks a first for UCH. Working together with First United Church of Christ in Marion, UCH is sponsoring Emily Howard, a student at Methodist Theological School of Ohio. Traditionally, congregations offer seminary students opportunities to work with youth. This field placement setting allows her to work in a local congregation, with UCH and the residents of Brownstone Terrace and St. Michael’s Communities, two of our affordable housing communities. Emily will learn about the spiritual and pastoral needs of older adults, as well as the role of a local church pastor, and will gain insight to our church-related institutional life.
“In 2017, UCH will include staff from Fairhaven and Central Office to participate in a new Elder Care Certificate that the (Alber Center) is launching. This program is the result of a grant and UCH is pleased to be able to have staff participate,” said Scott Slutz, VP of Human Resources.
In 2016, executives in Housing Services and Human Resources identified a need within UCH to provide opportunities for employees to build leadership skills. Last July, 12 UCH employees from Housing Services, Healthcare, and Central Office participated in the first of three sessions at The Ohio State University’s Alber Enterprise Center in Marion. The center, which works with organizations seeking to innovate and make an impact in their business sector, provided most of the training. UCH staff focused on bringing the ideas in focus with the Vision/Mission/Values of the organization.
Chapel Hill Community is involved in transforming aging through programs at Kent State University, Kent State University/Stark Campus, Akron University, and Stark State University. Clinical experiences are provided for nursing, social worker, and STNA students. Chapel Hill was honored at the Ohio Association of Gerontology and Education in 2016 for their commitment to providing opportunities for students working on long-term care administration as paid administrators in training (AIT).
Heidelberg University (HU) and UCH have similar roots: both were founded by the German Reformed Church. When you look at the histories of both institutions, you see common names between donors and leaders, alum, staff, students, and residents through the years. In 2014, both institutions sought ways to partner. Since 2014, UCH has provided six paying internships for HU students. Parkvue Community and Friendship Village Columbus have hosted summer HU interns, introducing them to career paths in dietary sciences and working with residents with dementia. Amy Kotterman, director of hospitality, has been a regular guest lecturer in the senior seminar for the health science majors. “Amy’s annual lecture is a great example of the value of the relationship between our two institutions. Through supervising interns, Amy helps students understand the importance of holistic decisions about care that are in the best interests of those served,” said Dr. Trevor Bates, associate dean of health science. UCH looks forward to Trevor joining the Board of Directors in 2017. Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, executive director for UCH’s new Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging, has served on the board of trustees for HU since 2009.
The work experience 17-year-old Savannah Studavaker is getting at Parkvue Community is priceless. She works in the kitchen at Parkvue where she and others, such as Faith Chicotel, 16, learn skills that will help them get jobs. “They help me learn how to follow directions and keep on task,” Savannah said. Savannah is one of 24 students who participate in Job Connections, a job training program run by EHOVE Career Center in Milan, Ohio. EHOVE is an acronym for Erie Huron Ottawa Vocational Education. Students with disabilities in the program learn to fill out job applications, write resumes, and other skills. “The skills they learn here are so transformational. They can take these skills and can move on somewhere else and be successful,” Job Connections Coordinator Lisa York said. Parkvue has partnered with EHOVE for nearly 10 years, said Robin O’Brien, director of dining services. “(The students) do a lot of the extra things that we have a hard time getting done,” Robin said. The program exposes students to real world experiences that cannot be duplicated in the classroom. “Those are the experiences that lead to the students being able to problem-solve,” Lisa said. Without the program, many of the EHOVE students would struggle to compete in the workforce. Annee Smith, 25, was trained at EHOVE and now volunteers at Parkvue. “I feel like I’m doing God’s work. There are good people here,” Annee said.
Trinity Community offers educational programs for students. It’s a clinical site for dieticians from The Ohio State University and a clinical site for nurses and social workers from Wright State University. Also, first-year physician assistant students from Kettering College of Medical Arts and nursing students from Sinclair Community College participate in clinical rotations there. In addition, Sinclair offers adult education classes for Trinity residents and the community.
National Honor Society students Grace Barton and Emily Mclean from Beavercreek High School volunteer with the Music & Memory and Opening Minds through Art programs with Trinity residents. Their classmate, Nathan Nevels, is learning job skills in the laundry department.
Patriot Ridge Community offers several educational and volunteer opportunities for residents, staff, and southwestern Ohio residents.
Staff members volunteer with the YMCA’s Mentors Matter program. The program aligns inner city youth in the Dayton area with a professional for several days of golf lessons, games, lunch, and discussion about leadership and tools for success.
Nursing students from Cedarville University complete clinical rotations at Patriot Ridge. Students from Cedarville University, Fortris, and Hondros Colleges work as nurses at Patriot Ridge.
Members of the Phi Mu Alpha Fraternity Sinfonia Mills Music Mission complete volunteer service hours at Patriot Ridge to personally interact with and lift the spirits of the residents.
Lindsay Williams, human resources manager at Patriot Ridge, sits on the advisory board of both the Greene County and the Miami Valley Career Centers. The boards meet on a quarterly basis with members of the faculty to discuss the curriculum, preparing students for the workforce and other programs.
Students from the RN programs complete their clinical training at SEM Haven Community in Milford, Ohio.
A Milford High School special needs student enjoys working in the laundry department at SEM Haven while developing work and social skills.
“SEM Haven has always opened our arms and hearts to others in our community. Supporting students fits in with our vision to be a home where caring relationships thrive. Our staff members and the students both get a lot of good experience and we also get great future staff members,” SEM Haven Administrator Barb Wolf said.
Cecilia McGee, registered nurse staff development, is on the advisory board for Live Oaks Vocational Diversified Health Program.
Harmar Place (HP) Rehabilitation and Extended Care in Marietta, Ohio, serves as a clinical site for Washington State Community College nursing students. In addition, HP nurses serve as instructors for licensed practical nursing (LPN) students. The Washington County Career Center brings STNA students for their clinical practice. The clinical education nurse at HP sits on the advisory panels for both institutions and on the panel with the Wood County Practical Nursing program. The director of nursing also serves on the advisory panel for the high school STNA program. Bridging the Ohio River, nursing students from West Virginia University-Parkersburg campus come to HP, usually during flu immunization season, giving injections and receiving lots of practice on the HP staff. “We love to have the students. It’s a win-win for all involved: educational institution and their students, our community and employees, as well as the residents,” said Charlene McGrath, director of nursing for HP.
Pilgrim Manor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a clinical site for nurse training and education and has hired some of the students upon graduation and license testing.
For more than 10 years, students pursuing social work degrees at Cornerstone University have spent an academic year working with a Pilgrim Manor resident on the resident’s life story and developing a relationship based on the class criteria. When finished, the students present their projects to classmates, residents, and families. “One year, a Pilgrim Manor resident participating in the project communicated to the student that they had a horrible childhood and adult life but still managed to find joy in everything. They didn’t have any pictures from their childhood of all the fun things they enjoyed. After learning that, the student drew pictures of each of the fun events and bound them in a book and presented the book to the resident at the end-of-year celebration,” said Karen Messick, former administrator at Pilgrim Manor. “During this presentation, there was not a dry eye in the room.”
The 2016 Annual Symposium took place Friday, November 11, 2016. Thank you to everyone in attendance for making this inaugural symposium a success.
To view highlights from the symposium, including a video chronicling the life and impact of Mrs. Parker, click here.
The idea for a Center for Abundant Aging was generated around the time United Church Homes was working on its Vision/Mission/Values statements over two years ago. This Center is not made of bricks and mortar, rather it provides opportunity for the cross fertilization of ideas and innovation for United Church Homes and its partners in the senior service sector, higher education, research, and advocacy.
The name of the Center became clear in February 2015 as United Church Homes celebrated the life of Ruth Frost Parker with her family and friends following her death at the age of 92. Ruth served on the UCH Board of Directors almost 30 years ago, crystallizing for her the need for a new retirement center in Sandusky, her hometown. The names of Parkvue Place and, several years later, Parkvue Healthcare Center, were a nod to her commitment to help create this community. She was a woman of insight and resolve. She could see the needs around her and acted to ensure that ideas became reality. People’s lives continue to be enriched thanks to her transformative philanthropic spirit. It was only fitting to name this Center for Abundant Aging to honor the woman whose vision and generosity helped to inspire and impact so many.
“We’re excited about how the Center for Abundant Aging has developed in a very short period of time. We envision the Center as a forum in which experts in the fields of gerontology, spirituality, parish ministry, caregiving, aging, and healthcare will meet and discuss how to transform the way we age.”
Rev. Kenneth Daniel
President and CEO
United Church Homes
The first annual Symposium of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging will take place on November 11, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Columbus Marriot Northwest in Dublin, Ohio. Registration for the Symposium is $15 and includes lunch.
The topic of this year’s Symposium is A Generation Ahead: Transforming the Way We Age. Joan Lunden will be the keynote speaker. Joan is an award-winning journalist and former host of Good Morning America who actively speaks on the topic of the changing landscape of aging. Following the keynote, there will be opportunity to continue the conversation with Lunden and with the panel of experts from our partners in Ohio.
The 2016 Symposium is approved for CEU credits for nursing home administrators, nurses, chaplains, and social workers.
Founding Funders for
the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging
This year’s Symposium has been made possible by the generous financial support of many individuals and organizations that support the principles upon which the Center for Abundant Aging was founded:
- Linda Brewer
- Rev. John Cramton
- Rev. Kenneth Daniel
- Dr. E. Anne Eddowes
- Adelle Elshoff
- Suzanne Schoedinger Ellis
- The Frost-Parker Foundation
- Plante Moran
- Thomas & Marker Construction
- United Church Homes Board of Directors
- The Family of Ruth Frost Parker
With shopping season upon us once again, United Church Homes announces a new way to donate, simply by doing what you already do. When shopping online, try AmazonSmile instead of purchasing from Amazon. Here are the details:
AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon that lets customers enjoy the same wide selection of products as on Amazon.com. The difference is that when customers shop on AmazonSmile, the foundation will donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to United Church Homes when selected by customers.
Here’s what to do:
- Log onto Amazonsmile.com
(In order to pick United Church Homes as your Charity of Choice, you must go to Amazonsmile.com, not just Amazon.com)
- If you already have an Amazon account, go ahead and log in.
If you do not have an Amazon Account, under the log in area, click on “Create an Account” and follow the prompts
- Click on “Your Account”
- Click on “Charity of Choice” or “Change Charity”
A prompt will come up to Choose one of our spotlight charities OR pick your own charitable organization. Click on “Pick your own charitable organization.”
- In the Search window, type in: United Church Homes
United Church Homes will come up and will have Marion, Ohio listed beside it as well.
- Click “Select”.
The following window will appear. Dismiss and go shopping!
George and Martha were married 52 years in 2006 when they moved to Trinity Community in Beavercreek, Ohio. When Martha passed away a few months later, George found himself living alone.
Having grown up on a farm, George had learned early and often the value of hard work. And he took that notion with him at every step in his life—when he served in the Navy, or when working on the railroad. It was direct, straightforward and productive.
At age 54, George sustained serious injuries after being hit head-on by an impaired driver. The accident literally stopped him in his tracks. After years of leveraging his work hard ethic into a satisfying career and lifestyle, George now had to learn how to be “disabled.” It really didn’t suit him. He knew how to work hard but didn’t know how to be disabled. It took multiple surgeries and gallant medical efforts to save his foot.
To keep himself busy, George began to volunteer. He started out at his church, and then moved on to other organizations in his community where people could benefit from his hard work. In 1993, he received the Miami County Outstanding Senior Citizens Award. He continued to work in the community for several years until Martha’s health began to decline. The couple had four children, all of whom became healthcare professionals.
His daughter, who is a professional pharmacist, recognized her parents needed more care and knew Trinity Community in Beavercreek, Ohio, offered quality care and compassionate services in an attractive retirement community setting. George visited and immediately liked what he saw, saying of Trinity’s 40-acre campus, “This reminds me of the farm.”
Today, no volunteer at Trinity works harder than George. He waters plants, counts the Sunday offerings, scrubs potatoes, polishes silver, leads games, and sets up and tears down for events. He always gets the job done with a smile, sprinkled with the witty banter that has become his trademark.
Adelle grew up in Florida where she married an Air Force pilot. They were stationed in Dayton at Wright-Patterson AFB. For 20 years, she worked as a technical liaison/editor and marketing representative for Systems Research Laboratories, where she was recognized in 1981 as an Outstanding Performer for her leadership roles.
Beavercreek is where they raised their four children. After retiring to Punta Gorda, Florida, Adelle suffered through a time when her husband, two brothers, her mother and her oldest son all passed away within a few months of one another. She was riddled with sadness. When hurricane Charley decimated Adelle’s town in 2004, her children convinced her to move back to Ohio. Adelle visited Trinity and “it was love at first sight.”
Adelle’s philanthropic spirit is what motivates her to donate to Trinity. As one of Trinity’s most generous donors, she recently funded two golf carts for the Housekeeping staff who tend to the outlying cottages around campus, equipped with weatherproof liners. Adelle says, “My heart just went out to the staff when they were battling the elements, and I wanted to help make their jobs a little easier.”
George & Adelle
It didn’t take long for George to notice his attractive new neighbor, Adelle.
Hoping to spark her interest, he asked her to take a walk. Time and time again she told him, “No.” George’s pursuit eventually won her over. They started walking every day and grew to know each other while picking up leaves and sticks along the walkway. This volunteer activity forged a strong bond and deep friendship where they learned how much they enjoyed each other’s company.
Adelle shares, “Soon, we were spending all of our time together.” One day George said, “We sure could save a bunch of money if we moved in together.” Adelle agreed. After discussing the matter with their children, they received overwhelming encouragement and moved in together to a large, lovely apartment.
Now, George and Adelle work hard together volunteering. They are valued Trinity ambassadors and easily express their appreciation for the quality services and compassionate care they enjoy while having an abundant life in their retirement.
George always knew hard work pays off. His perseverance with Adelle resulted in them sharing a “room with a view” with their very best friend.
“We cherish the genuine love we have for each other,” said George. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”
The Bible tells us that hearing the angel’s news of great joy, the shepherds were inspired to leave their fields and go to Bethlehem to see the joy of the Christ-child firsthand. People of faith have been inspired to bear witness in the midst of their day-to-day lives, sharing that joy with others ever since.
Every day United Church Homes shares such joy with over 3,500 aging adults. Gene, a faithful supporter of our mission, experienced this when he entrusted “the most precious person in his life,” his mother Helen, to the care of Fairhaven Community in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. What makes Gene’s story unique is that it begins with an ad many years ago that read “a boy child, small for his age.” Helen saw the article and knew: “We have to go find him.”
Orphaned at the age of three, Gene had moved in temporarily with a foster family. He remembers bringing only his Mackinaw coat, six toy blocks and a rubber truck. Gene slept in the dark attic alone. He ate in the basement, sharing his dish with the family’s dog. The only time he recalls drinking milk, having clean clothes, or eating at the table was when the “orphan lady,” the local child services social worker, came to visit.
Two years passed and the social worker started bringing a woman named Helen along on her visits. Gene would sit on her lap and remembers her motherly affection for him. This experience of love changed his life.
Soon, Helen and her husband Happy adopted Gene. Upon seeing the cellar door in his new home, Gene asked if that is where he had to eat. “When mom told me, no, that I would eat at the table with them,” he remembers, “It was like stepping into heaven. I had a lamp, clean clothes and all the milk I wanted.”
He attended Sunday school where he learned about Jesus. He had parents and siblings who were very religious, honest and hardworking. “I am so blessed that I had a mom and dad who loved me and gave me a home,” says Gene, now 82. “Light has been shining on me ever since.”
After going overseas to serve in the Korean War, Gene returned home to Upper Sandusky to his mother and soon married his sweetheart, Dorothy. Together, they raised their family in their home town, where they continued to be involved with Fairhaven Community as they visited family and friends who stayed there.
Just as Gene experienced “heaven” in a loving home with good food, shared love, clean clothes and a safe place to sleep, so did Helen, as she lived out her later years at Fairhaven Community. “God made this good life for me, I didn’t make it,” says Gene emphatically. This is why he and Dorothy prayerfully support Fairhaven Community and United Church Homes.
The Christmas story inspires us to see the Good News at work around us. We are thankful for God’s grace and the blessings of life and home and family, as well as for opportunities to express joy and provide hope—a little bit of heaven here on earth. The Christmas appeal is a tradition where we invite friends to partner with United Church Homes in our ministry.
In Christ’s Service,
Rev. Kenneth V. Daniel
President and CEO
To make an online donation, please click here.
Please join us by responding with a mailed gift by downloading the donation form, selecting your designation preference, and making your check payable to United Church Homes. Please mail your form and check to: United Church Homes Advancement Office, 170 East Center Street, PO BOX 1806, Marion, OH 43301-1806.
Long before moving to Trinity Community of Beavercreek, Gene Williams was an avid supporter of its mission and vision. After all, she’d served as a volunteer at Trinity for more than 30 years, finding caring ways to live out her Christian faith.
“I’ve always appreciated the work they do here,” she says. “As a faith-based community, they will never turn anyone away because of an inability to pay -– and that’s important. Everyone should have a have a place to call home.”
Since moving to the campus nearly three years ago, Williams’ volunteer activities have only increased. A member of the Trinity Auxiliary, she says she came to “sew and dough!”
“I love to bake, and I love to sew so I’ve put those two talents together to help raise funds for Trinity,” she says. “It’s not only fun, but it’s for a good cause.”
The auxiliary, made up of about 25 women from local churches, hosts several events throughout the year, including a Christmas party, a quilt raffle, birthday parties and an annual strawberry shortcake dessert party.
Williams says she has read the Bible cover to cover and puts its words into action in practical ways. A member of Mt. Zion Church since moving to the Dayton, Ohio, area in 1962, her Christian faith is an important part of her life.
“I believe in loving people,” she says. “Not just for what they do, but for who they are. I love attending chapel service here and serving those around me.”
Her tireless dedication to serving others has earned Williams a Ben M. Herbster Award. Named for the late Rev. Dr. Ben M. Herbster, founding president of the United Church of Christ, the award goes to individuals who best exhibit leadership and a philanthropic spirit. She is also a member of the Society of Stephen, a membership organization of annual donors to United Church Homes. All that and she continues to be active in civic organizations such as the P.E.O Sisterhood, a philanthropic organization dedicated to women’s educational opportunities and advancement.
“Even though I was a stay-at-home mother, I received my degree in interior design and fine arts from Ohio State,” she says. “I feel that every woman should have the opportunity to get a college education.”
Williams believes that everyone should give, whether it’s time, money or talents.
“When I still had young children at home there were lots of people helping me,” she says. “I told my mother that I was concerned that so many people were doing for me, and I wasn’t able to give anything back. She said, ‘Your time will come,’ and it has. I love helping others, not just because it makes me feel good, but because I love people.”
Every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday you’ll find Janet McDaniel delivering mail at Fairhaven Community.
But it’s not her job—it’s her passion. As a community volunteer for more than 15 years, Janet enjoys helping others.
“I love working with the residents,” she says. “They’re always so gracious and appreciative; it’s very rewarding.”
In addition to delivering the mail, Janet also works in the gift shop and helps the residents in other ways when she has the time.
“When I retired, I needed something to do. I had volunteered a little bit for Fairhaven in the past and found it to be a really caring place. I decided to volunteer more often. I always said if I ever needed a retirement community, this is where I want to live. The people are wonderful,” she says.
Volunteers such as Janet help make Fairhaven special. By offering your talents or time, you can be a part of a rewarding ministry. Come once a day, once a week or once a month. Work in the office, in the kitchen or in the activities center. Contact us today to find the volunteer opportunity that’s right for you.