Exploring Uplands Village

So, when potential new residents come to visit, they are offered the full guest treatment — three days and two nights in a guest apartment with a full schedule to see what life is like at Uplands.

Uplands Village is the latest community to enter a full-service management contract with United Church Homes Management. Both organizations have roots in today’s United Church of Christ, leading to similar cultures of healing, teaching and caring for the least of these. Administrator and Director of Health Services Lou Buckner, a registered nurse, is working closely with David Zack, United Church Homes’ director of operations in the Senior Living Services division, who is serving as interim executive director at Uplands.

“I am thrilled to be working with United Church Homes at Uplands due to the wealth of resources that they offer,” Lou said. “This collaboration has helped Uplands immensely as we navigate the evolving nature of senior living and continue our mission of providing homes and quality healthcare services to older adults.”

Uplands has a long and storied history, which is captured in Doctor Woman of the Cumberlands, the autobiography of May Cravath Wharton, M.D. The book, first published in 1953, tells the story of Dr. Wharton, who arrived in Pleasant Hill in 1917.

A trailblazer in her own right,
Dr. Wharton joined her husband in the small Tennessee town when he became principal of Pleasant Hill Academy, a “school for mountain youth” run for more than 60 years by the American Missionary Association of the Board of Home Missions of the Congregational Church.

According to the book’s synopsis, “Her work with the mountain people of the surrounding area began during the flu epidemic of 1918 when she was 45 years old. At that time doctors’ visits in the homes of highlanders were practically unknown and the nearest hospital was 85 miles from Pleasant Hill.”

When her husband died in 1920, the people of Pleasant Hill convinced “Dr. May,” as she was known on the Cumberland Plateau, to stay and be their “Doctor Woman.” Dr. May was especially committed to helping the aging population in the Pleasant Hill area.

Uplands Village residents Ann and Frank Meisamer know the story intimately. Ann was delivered by Dr. May, a distinction that earned her and the other newborns who came into this world under Dr. May’s watch the title of “Dr. May’s babies.” Growing up, they wore yellow ribbons at the annual celebration of National Hospital Day, the social event of the season, to signify that status.

Uplands Ann and Dr. May copy

The Meisamers have lived in a variety of cities throughout the U.S., but they came back home in retirement. Frank was a hospital administrator who worked for the state health department, as regional director for the American Hospital Association, president for the Tennessee Hospital Association and a board member of the American Hospital Association. The couple recall Dr. May’s sense of humor and giving nature. Her presence and influence are felt 100 years later.

“Dr. May planted the seed and was responsible for the hospital (Cumberland Medical Center) in (the nearby city of) Crossville,” Ann said. “She loved to take care of people. Dr. May was very generous.”

Today, a home health service is offered for those aging in place. Residents hold the deeds to the more than 150 independent living homes on campus, in a unique structure compared to other independent living communities which provide homes on lease. The Uplands Village life plan community also has assisted living, long-term nursing care and a wellness center for skilled rehabilitation. Visitors will find community members are uniquely committed to social justice advocacy and environmental sustainability.

Uplands Village has a robust volunteer program for its independent living residents. These Wharton Association members are lead by Coordinator Mary Ruth, who retired as alumni director at Elon University and moved to Uplands with her husband, Bill, in 2010. She knows every person who lives at Uplands. When a new resident moves here, Mary brings them homemade mustard and invites them to dine at her home.

At the Wharton Association monthly gatherings, Uplanders trickle in for refreshments and a program. Visitors may notice there is an empty seat at each table.

“We always leave an empty space,” Mary said. “That way, if there are latecomers, they don’t feel there’s no space for them.”

Uplanders take on their own pet projects, as well. Gail Ford is interested in setting up community solar meetings to look into how alternative forms of energy can be used at Uplands.

“I want something for the community, not just for myself,” Gail said. “We’ve really created an old-fashioned neighborhood here. We’re more than neighbors; we’re family.”

Gail moved to Uplands from North Carolina after getting a tip about the community from a friend.

“I was looking for an intentional community, one that cares about sustainability and neighbors helping one another,” she said. “I wasn’t having any luck and was getting discouraged when a friend encouraged me to go see her mother at Uplands. Within two months, I had moved here.”

That was in 2009. Today, Gail is an active member of the volunteer group with a special interest in arts and music.

“You just reach out, figure out what you’re interested in and do something,” she said. “I feel very inspired by my neighbors.”

For more information on the history of Uplands or for a copy of the book, visit uplandsvillage.com or call 931.277.3127.