Dorothy Eckert Makes Lasting Impact

Dorothy has served more than 30 years on the Fairhaven Community Volunteer Service Group

Dorothy has served more than 30 years on the Fairhaven Community Volunteer Service Group and, at one time, as volunteer coordinator.

Dorothy remembers her grandparents and parents canning fruits and vegetables for Fairhaven when she was a little girl. Her parents, John and Mary Rinnert, and her grandparents, Harry and Emma Cieg, were longtime supporters of Fairhaven Community through their church, First United Church of Christ in Marion.

Dorothy was a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher. When Dorothy accepted the 2018 Housing Services Spirit Award this summer, she gave everyone in attendance homework — give to United Church Homes in some capacity and visit at least one UCH housing community.

Dorothy served on the United Church Homes Board of Directors for about 10 years and continued on the Housing Board for nearly 10 more years until she moved to Colorado. Throughout her years on the Board, Dorothy made it a priority to visit each of United Church Homes’ housing communities, where she learned of the great need for affordable housing for older adults and of UCH’s commitment to this ministry. In total, she has visited 49 housing properties.

Dorothy has served more than 30 years on the Fairhaven Community Volunteer Service GroupA Board trip to Mississippi in the 1990s opened Dorothy’s eyes to the need for low-income, subsidized housing for older adults throughout the U.S. While in Mississippi, Dorothy met residents at multiple housing communities who shared their stories with her.

“One man was very tall and thin. We asked the residents what they liked most about living in this community,” Dorothy said. “He responded, ‘I like that I don’t have to carry my water.’ I approached him after the meeting and asked what he meant. He previously lived outside of town, and would carry 4-gallon jugs to the city pump and back home. It was over a mile each way.”

Another resident told Dorothy she was glad she no longer had to live near drive-by shootings. Still others informed Dorothy that before living in a UCH community, they did not have indoor plumbing or electric stoves. The housing managers found they had to educate residents about a new way of living that included modern conveniences that most people take for granted.

“Dorothy has made a lifelong impact on United Church Homes through decades of support and volunteerism,” said Cheryl Wickersham, vice president of housing services at United Church Homes. “There are few people who give so much to an organization over 30 years in so many ways, and Dorothy has gone a step further and challenged others to give, as well. Her influence on United Church Homes will be felt for years to come.”