In Memory: Connie Frater

In memory of Connie FraterConnie Frater, manager of Shawnee Springs in Bellefontaine, Ohio, died Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, following a prolonged hospital stay. She had been the manager of Shawnee Springs since it opened in 1995 and helped train many managers over the years. Connie was always willing to help wherever she was needed. “Each of us grieves not only the passing of a kind and wonderful person but also for her family’s loss,” said Cheryl Wickersham, vice president of Housing Services.

Chapel Hill’s Inaugural Resident Giving Campaign Was a Big Success

Inaugural resident giving campaign a big success - leads to sweet treat

Through the hot summer months, Chapel Hill Community residents dreamed of frozen custard, but the community didn’t have a custard machine. Members of the Chapel Hill Residents Council decided this was an excellent project to tackle. Their plan was to raise the money for the custard machine and also encourage donations toward benevolent care. An anonymous donor offered to match, dollar for dollar, residents’ contributions up to $10,000. In less than two months, residents had contributed the money and more — for a total of $23,000! In a surprising turn of events, most donors chose to give to benevolent care above all else. In the end, residents funded the custard machine and benevolent care as well as pastoral care and a pair of tribute benches for all to enjoy.

Parkvue Community’s Walking Path Project Fully Funded

Walking Path's at Parkvue

Nestled in a quiet, picturesque setting in Sandusky, Ohio, Parkvue Community has beautiful flowers, landscaping and water features for residents to enjoy. One of the highlights for all has been the walking path. However, years of weather and wear have made it difficult to use, with deep cracks across its surface. Discouraged by the state of the path, residents rallied together to raise the $13,000 needed to restore it. One anonymous donor contributed $1,000 to kickstart the campaign. Then, thanks to grants from the Randolph J. and Estelle M. Dorn Foundation, the Randolph J. and Estelle M. Dorn Foundation Charitable Impact Fund at the Erie County Community and the Mylander Foundation, the project was well on its way. But the biggest impact, if not in dollars, came from the heart — donations from residents, staff members and memorial donors. In total, Parkvue raised $14,820, and restoration will begin this spring.

Pilgrim Manor’s Assisted Living Director’s Tireless Efforts Pay Off in Bronze


Pilgrim Manor Assisted Living Director Carol Parsaca

United Church Homes’ Pilgrim Manor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has experienced a lot of growth in the past few years. In 2016, Pilgrim Manor joined UCH. Soon after, it received a $3 million facelift, completed in 2018, and a new executive director, Becky Stacy, this past fall. Throughout all the change, however, Assisted Living Director Carol Parsaca has remained a constant, and her work helped the community earn the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) Bronze — Commitment to Quality Award.

“Carol’s dedication to our residents and staff is unparalleled,” Marketing Director Elizabeth Schmidt said. “She is the very definition of a true servant leader, and we’re so proud that her hard work is being recognized and has led to our first Bronze Award win.”

Carol earned her undergraduate degree in science from Aquinas College, and joined Pilgrim Manor’s staff in 2010 after connecting with the community through her work at the Van Andel Institute, a biomedical research and science education organization in Grand Rapids. Her first position at Pilgrim Manor was as the assisted living sustainability manager, where she focused on green initiatives and waste reduction at the community. A few years later, she became the assisted living director, achieving AL certification from the Michigan Center for Assisted Living. She now serves residents in the more than 100-room AL section of Pilgrim Manor and oversees over 40 employees.

With so many people depending on her, Carol’s job can be challenging. She said trying to meet the wide range of resident and staff needs is the toughest part of her job. “They’re so very different from one end of the spectrum to the other. Finding the ability to serve and care for those people with limited resources is the biggest obstacle in my career.”

Carol Holding Bronze AwardObviously, she’s found a way to do just that. The AHCA/NCAL Quality Award Program honors association members nationwide who demonstrate commitment to improving quality of care for older adults and individuals with disabilities. The Bronze Award is the first of three distinctions, followed by Silver and Gold. The program is rigorous — only 531 communities in 50 states and the District of Columbia achieved the Bronze Award in 2018. In Michigan, only 16 entities qualified, and of those, only one earned the award as an AL community — Pilgrim Manor.

On her quest for the award, Carol and her staff closely examined Pilgrim Manor’s quality of care. “We looked back and determined what we weren’t doing well, what we could improve. Then we began setting goals. Involving staff in the process was helpful.”

One of the pitfalls staff identified was the effect of alarms on residents. “We use alarms as a regular fall intervention, but were (the alarms) helpful or detrimental to the quality of life for residents? We decided they were more of an irritant to residents, so we stopped using them. And we haven’t reinstituted alarms for any reason at Pilgrim Manor.”

What’s Next for Pilgrim Manor’s Assisted Living Program?

“We definitely want to go for the Silver Award,” Carol said. “One of the challenges is that we will have to shift our focus slightly. The average move-in age of our AL residents used to be 90, but now we’re seeing residents entering our care in their late 70s/early 80s. Therefore, some of the qualifiers we met for the 2018 Bronze Award won’t apply to care for this younger population.”

Carol with Family 1But if anyone’s up to scoring the silver, it’s Carol, who is as busy at home as at work. She and her partner, Kevin, are parents to 3-year-old twins, William and Chase. When Carol gets the chance, she loves going out to eat with her family, enjoying some down time when she’s away from Pilgrim Manor.

When asked what her favorite part of being Pilgrim Manor’s AL director is, Carol said, “It’s the ability to learn from residents and coworkers, which keeps life exciting. I’m truly blessed to learn and serve every day.”

Examples of Engagement

Our residents are so engaged, we couldn’t write features on every story. Here are some highlights of other engagement activities by residents and staff of UCH communities from our Community Benefits Program.

Cherry Arbors

Dwight, a resident of Cherry Arbors, retired when he moved in. To fight boredom, Dwight began volunteering at the local hospital. Now, he feels fulfilled as a regular volunteer.

Four Winds Community

Four Winds Community organizes a benefit for St. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Wellston, Ohio, gathering prizes for a hugely popular bingo benefit. The benefit raised more than $1,800 for the school.

Harmar Place

Harmar Place residents make homemade dog treats for the local humane society. Everyone agreed it was a great idea. Every other Tuesday, residents get together to make the treats, the kitchen staff bakes them and a team member drops them off at the humane society. The dogs at the shelter love these special treats!

Trinity Community at Fairborn (formerly Patriot Ridge)

Trinity Community at Fairborn (formerly Patriot Ridge) in Fairborn, Ohio, hosts Camp Ageless annually, inviting children and residents to bond over crafts, games, face painting and more. It is part of several intergenerational programs offered at Trinity Community at Fairborn (formerly Patriot Ridge), connecting residents with younger generations. It’s a win-win when relationships are formed between older adults and youth, who learn from one another.

Parkvue Community

Parkvue Community in Sandusky, Ohio, offers a Patriots’ Day celebration every year, inviting local first responders to enjoy a cookout and socialize with residents.

Mill Run Place

Mill Run Place in Ashland, Ohio, participates in a program called Multi-Generational Mentoring, which links at-risk youth with caring older adults who provide assistance with homework assignments, helping to set the stage for academic success. However, this program is much more. It provides a mutually supportive atmosphere in which students receive encouragement and individualized attention.

Campaign for Abundant Life Winter Update

Campaign for Abundant Life is on pace to reach goal of $20 millionThe 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:

Campaign for Abundant Life breakdown of funding

Residents Establish New Endowment at Glenwood Community

New Endowment at Glenwood Community

The Glenwood Community Resident Association, made up of independent living residents, has planted the seed for a new endowment fund.

Earnings from the endowment fund will help underwrite the costs needed to sustain the operations of Glenwood Community.

This fundraising idea came about partly because of the advocacy of residents Roger and Sally Roberts and their interest to lead an initiative with their peers for a fund that would provide sustainability for operations for Glenwood for generations to come.

An anonymous lead gift of $10,000 started the campaign. One way donors can give toward the endowment is through their IRA required minimum distributions, and the fund has received a gift through that manner. To date, the residents have already received over $18,000, including $1,050 in memorial gifts already held by the Resident Association and voted on to give to the endowment.

“I was looking for a vehicle for residents to be able to give back to Glenwood,” Roger said. “With help from UCH Director of Gifts and Grants Alissa Clouse and President and CEO Rev. (Kenneth) Daniel, we were able to get it underway. I’m glad to say that we’re coming along very well. We’ve raised about a quarter of the funds that we’re going to need to meet UCH’s minimum (for endowments) in the prescribed period of time.”

The Resident Association has a goal to raise $50,000 required to initiate an endowment fund over a five-year period.

Roger sees endowments as an excellent way to encourage people to contribute to a cause they believe in.

Supporting Glenwood Community is a cause close to many residents’ hearts.

“Glenwood Community is not a community in name only,” Glenwood Executive Director Linda Dailey said. “Our generous residents have proven this by establishing an endowment to support one another well beyond the immediate future. Their commitment to our community and its future is evidence of the family that grows with (the addition of) each new resident. Their support will carry on past their personal residence at Glenwood. We are grateful for their philanthropy, support and leadership.”

Board Member Profile: Trevor Bates

Trevor Bates, United Church Homes Board Member

Trevor Bates, a member of the United Church Homes Board of Directors, led a session on emotionally intelligent leadership at the 2018 UCH Leadership, Education, Achievement, Development, Success (LEADS) class. Born and raised on the west side of Chicago, Trevor has a long history in academia and shared his expertise with LEADS participants.

Trevor grew up in an impoverished and high crime area of Chicago. His immediate family relocated to Kansas City, Kansas, when he was about 12 years old, to seek a better life.

“We experienced many years of personal challenges, but we always knew that God was with us and for us,” Trevor said.

After earning a high school diploma from Summer Academy of Arts and Sciences and an International Baccalaureate certificate in biology, mathematics and Spanish, Trevor went to Millikin University in Illinois, majoring in athletic training. Trevor served as a teaching assistant, student worker and manager of the fitness center. He graduated magna cum laude. He later earned a Master of Science in kinesiology with an emphasis in sports medicine from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As a graduate assistant, Trevor taught undergraduate courses, provided clinical athletic training services to the Wheelchair Sports programs and served as a predoctoral fellow, assisting with administrative tasks related to athletic training assessment and accreditation within the College of Community Health and Kinesiology.

Trevor earned a Doctor of Health Sciences with a concentration in leadership and organizational behavior from A.T. Still University of Health Sciences.

Since June 2017, he has served as vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty at Mercy College of Ohio in Toledo. Trevor is also an associate professor of health sciences at the college.

Trevor has a special interest in professional development of all staff. Other interests include pain perception and associated healthcare choices; emotional intelligence assessment in hiring; and leadership decision making and perspectives.

Trevor joined the UCH Board of Directors in February 2017 after learning about the organization from Rev. Kenneth Daniel, president and CEO.

“Rev. Daniel described the mission and vision of UCH and the role of the Board, and I was very intrigued,” Trevor said. “I have visited communities and gotten to know several outstanding staff members through my previous professional academic role at Heidelberg University (in Tiffin, Ohio), preparing students seeking internships as they were pursuing a career in the healthcare field. Rev. Daniel asked me to consider becoming a member of the Board, and I was very honored to be invited to serve. After conversations with my wife and prayer, I enthusiastically accepted.”

United Church Homes is committed to developing new leaders who can advance to roles of greater responsibility and chart new and interesting career paths. This can lead to better employee retention. The first LEADS class completed the program in October 2016.

UCH partners with the Alber Enterprise Center at Ohio State University at Marion to offer the class annually.

At LEADS, Trevor put into practice his interest in developing future leaders to support organizational culture and succession planning. He learned about the opportunity when the first group of LEADS graduates presented to the Board. Trevor provided practical information learned through his research and experiences.

“I may have enjoyed the session as much, if not more, than the participants,” Trevor said. “We had some great conversations and the group was very engaged.

“The most fulfilling part of being on the Board is being a part of an organization where the love for Christ and what he did to serve others is the most important thing on everyone’s mind as we engage in discussions, planning and taking actions on behalf of the organization,” Trevor said.

Trevor’s goal is to find ways to use the gifts God gave him to contribute to a group of very talented and accomplished Board members.

Reflections on Love at the End of Life

Dr. Ira ByockThis blog is the third in a series of reflections from the third annual Symposium with Dr. Ira Byock on Oct. 12, 2018, Abundant Aging Through the End of Life. It was written by Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging intern Emily Howard. To subscribe to the weekly blog, visit

Julia’s husband had been a Presbyterian minister, who she met at seminary. When I met Julia, I was an undergraduate, and she was in her 90s, aging with faith and clarity about her life’s rootedness in community, history and hope.

She spoke often of her relationship with Rev. Wilson, her late husband. I will never forget the memory she treasured, of the “kind providence” that Rev. Wilson felt had brought them together. Their love was evidently a big one — love of the kind that shapes surrounding lives into better ones, just by being near it.

A love like that also shapes others in its last stage. Though I am sure the Wilsons’ relationship was imperfect (which, as Symposium speaker
Dr. Ira Byock noted, all relationships are) — there was much about Julia’s recollections of their marriage that shaped my values as a young person. As Julia shared her story, I saw ways that, even in approaching death, their love created abundant life.

Julia reflected deeply on the time of approaching the loss of her beloved, able to share what had helped her cope. She taught me a favorite prayer — the prayer of St. Francis — and often quoted the Scripture text that sustained her: from Philippians 4:6-7, St. Paul’s wise advice, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I was struck by their family’s facing of death with courage — which, to be sure, is not the absence of fear, but the facing of it. Her husband, in her recollection, was able to say goodbye in his last conscious days to the family that mattered deeply to him. To his daughter, he could say, “I’m proud of you.” To his wife, he could say, “I love you.”

Ira Byock’s description of his work in hospice care includes reflections on, “The Four Things that Matter Most.” His experience has shown that simply to be able to connect around the simple words that we all need to say and to hear can influence our endings in incredible ways — including those words that Rev. Wilson, Julia and their daughter exchanged, “I love you.” At the end of life, we need the words, “I love you,” “I forgive you,” “I’m proud of you,” and “Thank you.” Many Symposium participants were quick to note how much those words mean today, throughout a lifetime, not only at its close.

Fairhaven Ambassadors Provide Companionship to New Residents

Max and Rev. Hoover

The purpose of the Fairhaven Community Friendship Ambassador Program is to provide companionship, comfort, hospitality, service and abundant life to friends and neighbors who have chosen Fairhaven as their home on life’s journey.

Ambassadors spend one hour or more with a new resident during their initial visit; commit to checking in with the new resident during specific times daily and weekly; and be helpful and willing to make the experience of moving to a new home easier. Ambassadors also agree to be respectful in attitude by caring and demonstrating empathy toward the new resident.

Wilma, a resident who serves as the group’s secretary, said the program is much more than just visiting with a fellow resident.

“It’s not just walking into someone’s apartment. It’s really getting to know them,” she said. “It’s not something that ends. It’s an ongoing relationship we maintain throughout somebody’s lifetime. The program keeps growing and evolving.”

The program’s guidebook also lays out how the program could impact residents throughout their time at Fairhaven.

“As friendship ambassadors, you are working toward making the journey and experience at Fairhaven Community warm and inviting,” according to the guidebook. “If new residents know you are there and that you have a sincere concern for them, then we have fulfilled a wonderful mission. Your heart and care are the key.”

Fairhaven Activities Assistant Becky Blocksom leads the program and matches each new resident with a current resident prior to their arrival. Ambassadors are encouraged to visit with new residents regularly. Becky asks residents to develop a plan for ambassadors to walk with new residents to the dining room for their first meal.

“This simple act can make a big difference for new residents, who may be shy or otherwise worried about their new living situation,” Becky said.

Max, another ambassador, said he tries to be his authentic self when introducing himself to new residents.

“If I have a chance to introduce myself as a Christian, I will,” Max said. “Sometimes, they’ll let me pray with them. I don’t know many strangers.”

Each new resident receives a welcome package, which includes gifts such as candy, crocheted crosses and handmade lap blankets, donated by the women of Sycamore UCC.

Pilgrim Manor’s VanRee Fund Provides Residents the Chance to See Grand Rapids


VanRee fund provides Pilgrim Manor Residents the chance to see Grand Rapids

Shirley and James Balk have given so much to the people of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Through the James and Shirley Balk Foundation, they’ve funded education initiatives, healthcare organizations and local arts. They’ve supported the nonprofit healthcare system Spectrum Health. Their foundation has beautified tourist attraction Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. And since 2005, their philanthropy has also extended to United Church Homes’ Pilgrim Manor through the community’s VanRee Fund.

In the early 2000s, Shirley’s mother, Dorothy M. VanRee, lived at Pilgrim Manor, and the Balks had a wonderful experience with the community. After Dorothy passed away in 2004, Shirley and her husband wanted to do something for the residents of Pilgrim Manor, and the VanRee Fund was born.

“Basically, the VanRee Fund is a trip fund,” said Alexandra Wilson, director of annual giving and special events. “Our activities department uses money from that fund to take residents all over the city.”

pilgrim manor VanRee 2Typical outings include baseball games, bowling, ballet, the museum, Ford Museum and Meijer Gardens, to name a few, and local attraction membership costs also come from the fund.

Residents truly benefit from the VanRee Fund, Alex said. “Being able to experience the greater community enhances our residents’ quality of life. Without it, they would not have these opportunities.”

In 2010, the fund enabled Pilgrim Manor to buy a bus, which holds 14 residents, and Keri Kerr, recreation therapist, is licensed to drive it.

The bus not only provides transportation for residents, it connects them with family members, often transporting them together to events. This past year, residents and family members rode the bus in the Grand Rapids’ popular Pulaski Days parade. The annual week-long festival started in 1973, and many of Pilgrim Manor’s residents celebrated in that inaugural year.

“We love that they can continue to attend Pulaski Days and other events around town,” Director of Recreational Therapy and Volunteers Jennifer Raymond said. “Having the Pilgrim Manor bus gives our skilled nursing and assisted living residents a sense of normalcy they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Although 15 years have passed since the Balks made their first contribution to the fund, it’s going strong, and its legacy can be seen on Pilgrim Manor’s residents’ faces as they spend an afternoon at the zoo or take a bus trip through the ball park to see Western Michigan’s biggest drive-through display of Christmas lights.

“Every day, thanks to the VanRee Fund, we’re out there making memories for our residents — some who have so little,” Jennifer said. “The fund is a blessing, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Chapel Hill Community Resident Delores Voltz


Dolores Voltz, Chapel Hill resident

Delores is a resident of United Church Homes’ Chapel Hill Community in Canal Fulton, Ohio. Her connections to the community go back to her early adulthood in 1963, when her family helped prepare the earth for what would become Chapel Hill.

Delores’ father, Leonard Hegnauer, a minister, helped lay part of the foundation. He served as the building chairman. Delores’ brother, Bob Hegnauer, served as administrator of Chapel Hill, leading the community through its early years. Her sister, Naomi, lived there about 10 years ago.

Chapel Hill Marketing Director Jerry Martin recalled, “We were looking at the Memory Wall, and Delores pointed to a photo of herself and her husband, Don, helping to clear the land where Chapel Hill would be built.”

Delores’ daughter, Jan Boylan, and her three siblings have fond memories of family gatherings, including Thanksgiving dinners, held at Chapel Hill’s community spaces.

Delores was a member of Lowell United Church of Christ, one of Chapel Hill’s founding churches. Once per year, church members would visit Chapel Hill for spring cleaning day, when they made improvements to Chapel Hill’s outdoor spaces.

In 1984, Delores and her husband moved to Florida. After his death in June 1992, Delores moved back to the Canal Fulton area to be closer to family. Later, when she began to need support, she decided to move to Chapel Hill.

“As soon as I walked in, everyone was so friendly,” Delores said. “It was so natural to live here.”

Jan said there was no other place for her mother.

“This is just where she wanted to be,” Jan said. “It’s got a pretty setting. I don’t know of anywhere prettier.”

Seeing Delores surrounded by friends and participating in activities here, it’s obvious she’s returned home.

United Church Homes and Ohio’s Hospice Join Forces To Expand Care

United Church Homes and Ohio's Hospice are working together to improve well-being for older adultsUnited Church Homes and Ohio’s Hospice are teaming up to form a new nonprofit joint venture Medicare-certified hospice program.

United Church Homes residents needing hospice and palliative care soon can receive services provided by Ohio’s Hospice at United Church Homes while remaining in the comfort of their community. The new partnership aims to expand service offerings, improve care coordination and provide individuals facing serious illness with improved care.

“Our goal was to form a strategic alliance with Ohio’s leading nonprofit provider of hospice, palliative care and chronic disease management services to improve the scope and quality of care for residents,” said Rev. Kenneth Daniel, president and CEO of United Church Homes. Each organization brings unique strengths, established reputations and networks that create exciting possibilities, such as future expansion into inpatient and home- and community-based hospice services.

UCH is a leading provider of healthcare services and residential housing for nearly 5,000 older adults. It works to transform care and aging through innovative programs and partnerships, and by building a culture of community, wholeness and peace.

Dayton-based Ohio’s Hospice is an affiliation of nine nonprofit hospice organizations in Ohio committed to increasing access and service offerings to reduce suffering, pain, helplessness and unwanted waiting for people in need of hospice, palliative care and chronic disease management services.

“This partnership will improve well-being for older adults who choose hospice and palliative care when they are seriously ill or approaching end of life,” said Chuck Mooney, senior vice president of senior living services and COO of United Church Homes. “It’s more compassionate to keep residents in a comfortable setting, with care teams they know, and provide additional services as needs change.

“This new coordinated care model also creates peace of mind for families who want to support their loved ones who are in declining health,” Chuck added.

“Working together, Ohio’s Hospice and United Church Homes will establish new benchmarks in care for Ohio seniors, ensuring Ohio communities have access to a comprehensive continuum of care and world-class end-of-life, palliative and chronic disease management care,” said Kent Anderson, president and CEO of Ohio’s Hospice. “Each organization brings expertise, resources and a shared commitment to the people we will serve through this dynamic joint venture.”

Services through Ohio’s Hospice at United Church Homes will be available first in the Dayton, Ohio, area at UCH’s Trinity and Fairwood Village communities in Beavercreek and Trinity Community at Fairborn (formerly Patriot Ridge) in Fairborn. Over time, services will be offered at all Ohio UCH senior living communities and in their surrounding areas.

Green Community on Top of the Cumberland Plateau


Living with Purpose at Uplands Village

Uplands Village has a long tradition of health and environmental activism, starting with founder Dr. May Cravath Wharton. Many Uplanders are change agents in the larger Cumberland County community, and some of this volunteer work is guided by the Uplands Board of Directors’ Environmental Quality Committee, nicknamed the Green Team.

Founded in 2015, the Green Team focuses on tangible steps that Uplands can take to support the health of residents, staff members and the environment. Committee members research and present information about best practices to improve the health of the environment and anyone who steps foot on the 500-acre campus.

The committee is cochaired by Dr. Marie Fortune and Dennis Gregg.

Projects that came to fruition in 2017 included the implementation of a robust recycling program to reduce the cost of waste management at Uplands Village; a new policy to prohibit use of pesticides and herbicides by Uplands staff members and vendors; and a buffer policy to protect the wetlands, lakes, pond and streams on the campus. The committee began working to live in harmony with the beaver population that has returned to the region and is working on an initiative to improve storm water management through environmentally friendly or green practices.

Recycling at Uplands Village

The recycling program in rural Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, is a model program for the state. Even though the community is small, with a population of just 500, Uplands provides curbside recycling pickup.

That is unheard of in the state of Tennessee, committee member Dr. Anne Ganley said, particularly given the rural nature of the area.

“That is all because of the longtime environmental activism and volunteerism here,” she said. “Uplanders work, volunteer and give on behalf of a healthy environment.”

The 2017 recycling initiative involved setting up recycling sites campuswide so staff members would have places to recycle as well. It is a cost-saving initiative that also helps the environment and improves the health of residents and staff.

“We’ve had a very high rate of recycling by residents because that’s been a longtime concern for them,” Anne said. “Now, we are working to change practices at Uplands’ organization-owned buildings.”

The recycling project was a multistep initiative launched last year. Planning began in late 2016. The next phase will be to evaluate how the program is working and to adjust as needed.

Protecting Our Waters and Ourselves

The board, armed with research provided by the Green Team, passed a policy in 2017 to prohibit the use of pesticides and herbicides by Uplands’ staff and vendors. They invite residents who own property to attend educational events that encourage the elimination of toxic chemicals because of the health hazards to residents and staff and the potential impact on the waters.

“It’s not about controlling individual residents on their property, although we invite them to participate,” Anne said, adding the committee hopes Uplands Village will lead by example.

Buffer Policy

Related to that initiative was a new board policy to create a buffer around the waters on the Uplands campus, including the pristine Lake Laura and Lake Alice. When the board saw that Lake Laura was beginning to degrade rapidly, due in part to a 2016 drought, it passed a policy to create a natural buffer zone that acts as a filter for the lakes and improves the health of the water. Mowing and applying chemicals around the lakes are prohibited.

Through the water quality effort, the Green Team found that beavers, which had returned to the area in recent years, provide a lot of free maintenance for the lakes. The challenge has been to address flooding and chewing of desirable trees, but the plan to coexist in a productive way with the beavers is underway.

“That’s just part of keeping the environment healthy, which also keeps us, as residents and employees, healthy as well,” Anne said.

In 2018, Uplands began addressing stormwater runoff, a major challenge on campus. The Green Team began with an assessment and shared best practices that increase the ability of the land to absorb the water, rather than damaging Uplands Village or resident properties.

The committee will also continue to look for alternative energy options like solar panels for future construction to increase energy efficiency.

“We are continuing our focus in 2019, through environmental sustainability and stewardship, not only to provide a healthier community but also to save money,” Anne said. “In this day and age, this is true for all communities as we try to be cost effective and manage our resources well.”

To this end, residents and staff members alike are invited to “come build with us a green community on top of the Cumberland Plateau,” Anne said.

UCH Honors Recipients with Awards for Leadership, Dedication and Values

Late fall of 2018 proved a time to lift up those who embody the spirit of United Church Homes, as eight individuals accepted awards for their exemplary service to UCH.

“We have a passion for developing and supporting leadership here,” President and CEO Rev. Kenneth Daniel said. “We’ve been blessed over the years with people giving time and talent, as volunteers, donors and staff, and we value this time to recognize their impactful contributions to our organization.”

Rev. Dr. Robert Diller Legacy Leadership Award – Rev. John Rainey

John Rainey Rev Dr Diller AwardThe Legacy Leadership Award is named after the late Rev. Dr. Robert Diller, who joined the UCH Board of Directors in 1945. Over the next 31 years, he helped move the organization from a single location that served 125 residents to include five communities serving over 800 individuals. Rev. Diller served as the first president and CEO of United Church Homes. The award honors those whose leadership commitment to UCH echoes Rev. Dr. Diller’s high levels of vision, perseverance and faith.

Rev. John Rainey is the second recipient of the award, and like Rev. Dr. Diller, his service to UCH has spanned decades, starting in the mid-1940s when he was a young boy. He and his family supplied canned food from their garden to the Evangelical and Reformed Home for the Aged in Upper Sandusky, Ohio (currently known as UCH’s Fairhaven Community). Fast-forward to 1970 when John decided to run for the UCH Board. He secured the spot and spent the next 24 years as a Board member, once serving as secretary, which he considered one of the most challenging and enjoyable jobs he’s had.

Through the years, John also had the opportunity to forge a relationship with one of UCH’s greatest benefactors, Ruth Frost Parker. Ruth, who was on the UCH Board with John, didn’t drive, so he transported her to and from Board meetings. The time spent together resulted in many enlightening and enjoyable conversations. A few years later, John attended the groundbreaking of UCH’s Parkvue Community in Sandusky, Ohio, where he now resides with his husband, Gene Finnegan. To this day, John’s service to United Church Homes continues. Together with Gene, he volunteers at the front desk and serves as an ambassador to new residents. The two also host Parkvue’s Happy Hour, deliver mail to residents and give campus tours upon request. John is also an accomplished quilter and makes teddy bears as gifts.

On top of all that, Parkvue Director of Resident Services Shannon Graver said, “Gene and John walk the halls or campus (depending on weather) for exercise every day and report anything that should be brought to my attention.

“I genuinely love those two,” she added. “They are wonderful advocates for UCH and also a great support to me!”

President’s Award of Distinction – Rev. Beth Long-Higgins

The President’s Award of Distinction honors people within UCH who significantly advance its mission to transform aging by building a culture of community, wholeness and peace.

“The purpose is to celebrate people who have done something of such merit and impact that it creates transformative change in some way,” Rev. Daniel said.

This is certainly true of Rev. Beth Long-Higgins.

Beth Long Higgins Pres Award of DistinctionBeth’s long history with United Church Homes began in the late 1960s at Chapel Hill Community when her church hosted one month’s birthday celebrations for residents. In 1974, her grandparents moved into Chapel Hill, living there until their deaths in 1981. For many years, Beth and her husband served as copastors at David’s United Church of Christ in Canal Winchester. One reason they were interested in the congregation was because of its involvement with United Church Homes’ leadership. Beth spent six years on the UCH Board, chairing the housing and long-range planning committees. In 2013, she joined the UCH staff as director of church and community relations. Now she’s the executive director of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging.

During Beth’s tenure, she led the reinvigoration of UCH’s relationships with churches that have historically supported and formed UCH communities. Also in the years since Beth joined the staff, the organization developed its mission, vision and core values, which Beth helped write. More recently, she constructed the Community Benefits Program that encourages and records how each UCH community engages with their greater local communities.

Rev. Daniel surprised Beth with the award, saying, “Perhaps no one is more deserving of this award than Beth.”

LUV Awards – United Church Homes Staff Members

The Living UCH Values (LUV) Award honors staff members who every day demonstrate the highest commitment to United Church Homes’ core values of compassion, hospitality, respect, integrity, stewardship and transparency. Nominations for the award come from fellow staff members, supervisors, volunteers, friends or family members.

The 2018 winners include Monica Smiley and Linda Bell, Chapel Hill Community; Sharon Frisch, Fairhaven Community; Barb Mugrage, Harmar Place; Kevin Sanders, Parkvue Community; and Jen Wilson, Trinity Community.

“We are pleased to honor these outstanding staff members for their dedication to their residents and all those they come into contact with,” said Alyson Issler, corporate director of human resources.

LUV Award Winners 2019

Barrington Square Resident Gives to Premature Babies


Mei Lin gives to premature babies

Mei Lin has crocheted hundreds of hats and scarves for various organizations and individuals, children’s hospitals, veterans’ groups, hospices, homeless shelters and cancer centers.

Mei Lin is a 75-year-old resident of Barrington Square in Acworth, Georgia. In 1961, she emigrated from Taiwan to New York, where her husband owned and operated a gift shop. They relocated to Savannah, Georgia, where their daughter was born in 1967, two months early. Having lost their first child as the result of a premature birth, they feared their daughter would not make it. She did survive and has done well in life, but the experience left Mei Lin with a desire to do something for others.

After the death of her first husband, Mei Lin worked as a restaurant manager in Atlanta. She later remarried and moved to New Hampshire, where she and her husband ran their own restaurant for about 20 years. On the way to visit her daughter in Georgia, they were in a terrible car accident that ultimately claimed the life of her husband in 2008. Mei Lin chose to sell her home in New Hampshire and return to Georgia to be close to her daughter. She learned to crochet, then got the idea to crochet hats for premature babies in neonatal intensive care units all over the country.

Mei Lin cannot read English but can crochet any pattern by sight alone and, most recently, by watching YouTube videos. She is incredibly talented and thoughtful. Since moving to Barrington Square three years ago, Mei Lin has crocheted hundreds of hats and scarves, which have been delivered to various organizations and individuals, locally and nationwide, including children’s hospitals, veterans’ groups, hospices, homeless shelters and cancer centers.

Mei Lin always makes sure to keep some hats with her and has been known to give them away randomly to people she encounters, whether at the grocery store, food bank, senior center or within Barrington Square. She is adamant about one thing — the donations she makes to larger organizations must remain anonymous. Why? Because Mei Lin does it out of the kindness of her heart and the joy she feels from doing for others.

For donations, Mei Lin includes a card from her church, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, and uses their return address. The church often helps with shipping the items that Mei Lin creates. Because she doesn’t like being in the spotlight, she was hesitant at first to share her story with United Church Homes. But her giving nature won out, and she agreed, adding that if UCH knows of anyone in need, she will gladly make some hats for them.

From Millie, with Love

Simple acts of kindness from a Parkvue residentNever underestimate the impact a small act of kindness has on the world. Meet Millie Schilman, whose kindness extends to each and every resident of Parkvue Community in Sandusky, Ohio.

For the past couple of years, Millie has dedicated most of her free time to one simple act of kindness — sending greeting cards to the residents of Parkvue. At the beginning of each month, she creates a list of birthdays, making sure not to miss a single resident. When someone is in the hospital or loses a loved one, Millie sends a card to offer comfort. When residents move from assisted living at Parkvue Place to long-term care at Parkvue Healthcare, Millie lets them know they’re still close at heart, even if they’ve moved locations. And when Christmas rolls around, Millie delivers a holiday card to every single resident in both buildings.

The fact that she sends these cards is no surprise to those who know Millie. She grew up just a block from the American Greeting Card Company in Cleveland, Ohio, and she used to walk there to buy discounted cards as a child. When Millie was in second grade, she made her first card — her class was tasked with making the third-graders cards.

“My teacher, Miss Warner, told us, ‘No one should ever go without a valentine,’” Millie said, “so we ended up making two valentines for each student. Then we tiptoed across the hall and slipped the valentines under the (third-grade classroom) door. That’s about all I remember, but Miss Warner saying that has stuck with me.”

Another moment in Millie’s life endeared the art of giving greeting cards to her. Her mother-in-law kept scrapbooks in which she pressed every card she’d ever received.

“Every card meant something to her,” Millie said. “That made me realize that even though we live in a (digital) world, to hold a card in your hand, to say ‘this is my card,’ well, that means something.”

Throughout her school years, Millie and her friends exchanged cards. She said it was an inexpensive way to show people that you care. She also said sometimes the cards they traded weren’t always kind but often funny. She shared the message from a valentine she received as a girl (and remembered after all these years!):

millie cardWhen Millie’s husband asked her father for Millie’s hand in marriage, her father even joked that he better buy stock in the card company if he wanted to marry Millie.

A children’s librarian by trade, Millie has been a joy to all who meet her, and throughout her life, she gave greeting cards — spreading that joy to others. Five years ago, she fell and landed on her shoulder, shattering it. She spent a month recovering, and her daughters suggested she and her husband move to assisted living. Although they were reluctant to move, Millie said living at Parkvue turned out to be “swell.” They lived there a year before her husband suffered a stroke and then continued enjoying each other’s company until he passed away in 2018.

At Parkvue, Millie took over sending cards from another resident, and she began sending those first cards anonymously. She would tuck cards into doorways and mailboxes and then silently walk away. The cards would be waiting for residents when they opened their doors, but they had no idea who sent them. Once a resident opened the door just as Millie turned to leave, and both women screamed.

Parkvue Resident, Millie Schilman“She said, ‘Millie! You!’ and I said yes,” Millie said, chuckling. And that’s how residents found out who had been sending them cards.

Millie doesn’t take credit for the kind gesture. She signs each card with “Blessings from all your fellow residents at Parkvue Place.”

“They are truly from all of us, not just me,” she said.

This past Christmas, Millie sent 294 cards, an incredible amount, especially considering she’s also sending sympathy, get well and birthday cards. When asked where she gets her supply, she said that staff and residents donate them to her.

Once, she received 77 valentines, and she wondered what to do with them. “We have 87 residents here at Parkvue Place,” she said, “but God really does provide. I decided to send the valentines to people in the healthcare building. It turns out they were the ones who really needed them. One woman said that was the only card she ever got.”

Millie already has her cards picked out for 2019, and she has no plans to stop. “It’s a likeable job — a little time consuming, but I sit with a cup of coffee and select cards for different residents,” she said. “Some have great senses of humor, and others don’t. We’re all different.”

Thank you, Millie, for your thoughtfulness!

Glenwood Earns Community Choice Award for Engagement

Residents of United Church Homes’ Glenwood Community in Marietta, Ohio, are an active bunch. The community has a high percentage of residents who are engaged with the local community, from volunteering at the hospital to participating in intergenerational programming at a school.

Glenwood Community has earned a 2018 Community Choice Award from Holleran, a group that focuses on community engagement research and consulting. Holleran has the largest benchmark of senior living engagement scores by which campuses can compare performance relative to their peers.

Backed by 26 years of research and uncompromised measures, Holleran provides campuses with the data they need to increase employee retention and provide a culture of engagement with residents.

Holleran surveyed residents and staff members to gauge their satisfaction with the engagement opportunities at Glenwood. Glenwood’s scores are exceptional in comparison to other communities.

Read more about some active, engaged older adults thriving at Glenwood Community.

John: Hospital Volunteer

John, a hospital volunteerJohn has lived at Glenwood since August, but his involvement in the community goes back decades. Most recently, John volunteered at Marietta Memorial Health System, where volunteers make a huge difference for employees, patients, families and visitors.

John wakes before sunrise, Monday through Friday, to greet visitors of Memorial Health System at the Strecker Cancer Center in Marietta. A scientist, executive and entrepreneur, John recently wrote a report on the effect of saying “good morning” to people as they entered one of the facilities.

During John’s study, he greeted everyone with “good morning” and received many positive responses. The number of people he greeted totaled more than 1,000. The traffic flow from 6 to 8 a.m. averaged 65 people — 80 percent staff and 20 percent patients. From 8 a.m. until noon, that changed, averaging 75 people — 25 percent staff and 75 percent patients.

Saying “good morning” changed attitudes, John said. “I see everybody, and they see me,” he added. “After the first seven days, it really caught on. It changed patients’ mindsets as they went to their appointments. Some are in really bad shape, but simply greeting them with ‘good morning’ brought a smile to many faces.”

It helps that people in Marietta are so friendly, John said.

John’s journey to Glenwood Community, a place he calls “terrific,” included four years working in Europe. When he returned to America, he become president of the board for the local senior center. There, he started a program that led to savings of more than $3 million on prescription medications for local older adults.

John traveled to every continent except Antarctica. He served on numerous boards and committees. But John’s passion is music and theater. He spent most of his life doing charity shows and even wrote a play about Benjamin Franklin.

Today, John continues to serve on the local Eagles board.

Bob and Helen: Intergenerational Heroes

Bob and Helen intergenerational HeroesAt age 83, Bob enjoys attending school. He participates in the Reader’s Theater and the intergenerational program with Phillips School. Once a month, Glenwood residents visit teacher Nicole Maxon’s first-grade classroom.

“You just fall in love with those kids,” Bob said. “It feels so good to spend time with them and makes you realize that there are a lot of good kids in the world who want to learn and need attention. When you give them some care, they light up. Too many kids don’t get enough love.”

Bob also enjoys walking around Glenwood and talking to the many residents who have lived diverse experiences. He is instrumental in the upkeep of Glenwood’s gardens and solarium.

“I just want to be helpful,” Bob said.

Helen is another resident who regulary goes to Phillips School. Her late husband was a pastor, and today Helen serves on First Baptist Church’s board of deacons. Helen traveled the world, participating in international missions. She also helps organize local food drives and clothing collections. Helen heads up four special offerings per year at her church.

A former elementary school teacher, she also advocates for youth throughout the world to attend school. Some countries, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, historically only sent their boys to secondary school.

“We tell them that we won’t take their boys unless they bring their girls, too,” Helen said. “It really humbles you.”

Mary: Dedicated Volunteer

Mary, dedicated volunteerMary and her late husband, Jim, were Christian counselors in Meigs County, Ohio. Now that she’s at Glenwood, she continues her volunteer work with the Marietta community.

Mary volunteers at St. Paul’s Evangelical Church’s Grief Share, a faith-inspired program to help individuals overcoming loss. The program offers a safe space for people to process their grief, and Mary serves as a facilitator for the 13-week course.

Mary also volunteers with Meals on Wheels and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

“Whatever they ask me to do, I do,” she said.

Glenwood Community Earns National Recognition

MARIETTA – Glenwood Community, a United Church Homes community, has been recognized by Holleran, the nation’s leading research firm specializing in senior living and community engagement.

Glenwood was one of only two communities nationwide to receive the Choice Community Award for both their resident and employee engagement efforts. Along with Aldersgate Retirement Community (Methodist Senior Services), Glenwood sits firmly within the top 1 percent of senior living organizations in the country.

“We’re honored to receive this award from Holleran,” said Linda Dailey, executive director of Glenwood Community. “Our residents are active in community service projects and volunteer in many ways. It is rewarding to work with a team of employees and residents that make every day a pleasure.”

Holleran’s new Choice Community Award recognizes organizations with strong cultures of engagement. Awards are granted by exceeding Holleran’s “Engagement Index” benchmark with a mean score of 85 or higher on a 100-point scale.

“For a community to earn the Choice Community Award, it must be a cut above,” said Michele Holleran, CEO. “To become a Choice Community recipient is to earn a distinction that is truly meaningful. It means that the campus is a place where engagement is deeply felt; a place where residents are successfully aging and where employees are passionate.”

Holleran has the largest benchmark of its kind, measuring both resident and employee engagement in the senior living space. Currently, the benchmark comprises more than 160,000 resident and employee surveys, all completed within the past two years. This enables organizations to compare their performance to their peers, whether they are across the road or across the country. Utilizing this extensive body of research, Holleran’s Choice Community Awards recognize the most engaging senior living organizations in the nation.

Glenwood Community offers independent and assisted living residences for older adults on its beautiful 70-acre campus. Its mission is to transform aging by building a culture of community, wholeness and peace.

For more information about Glenwood Community, visit


About United Church Homes: United Church Homes, headquartered in Marion, Ohio, has been “Celebrating the Spirit” of seniors for more than a century. The faith-inspired nonprofit organization is one of the nation’s largest providers of senior living services, with more than 1,800 dedicated staff serving nearly 5,000 residents of all faiths in 74 senior living communities throughout 14 states and two Native American nations. UCH is in covenant with the United Church of Christ and welcomes residents of all faiths.

Media Contact: Alissa Paolella, Communications Coordinator, 740.382.4885 or

Brownstone Terrace to receive funding from 100 Women Who Care Marion

MARION – A grant from 100 Women Who Care Marion will go a long way to providing comfort and a positive dining experience for residents of Brownstone Terrace, a United Church Homes affordable housing community.

Each quarter, the 100 Women Who Care group selects one project to support, and they voted to fund an upgrade to Brownstone at their Feb. 4, 2019, meeting. The 100 Women Who Care group is a national organization with local chapters in various cities, including Marion. Only nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply for grant funding.

Each member nominates an organization to receive funding during the meetings. Those nominations are drawn at random, and three are chosen to present to the group at the next meeting. Members who are present vote for a winner of the grant funding for that quarter.

Brownstone Terrace has 36 residents and was built in 1991. Its residents must be 62 years or older or have a handicap or mobility impairment.

At the meeting, resident Kathy Handley shared her journey to the community. Undergoing surgery two years ago, she was on life support for four days and in the hospital for 21 days and stayed at Heartland of Marion before moving into Brownstone.

“Brownstone has given me a secure place to live and get my strength back,” Handley said.

Brownstone, which still has its original furniture from 1991, will use the funds for new chairs and tables in the community room as well as patio furniture for residents to enjoy the outdoors. “We’d like to make (the community space) look like a dining room because now it looks like a school cafeteria,” Handley added.

In total, the community will receive approximately $5,000 from 100 Women Who Care.

United Church Homes, based in Marion, serves nearly 5,000 residents in 14 states and two Native American nations. Sixty-one of its communities are affordable housing, funded through U.S. Housing and Urban Development. Residents pay only 30 percent of their adjusted monthly income for rent.

For more information about United Church Homes, visit


About United Church Homes: United Church Homes, headquartered in Marion, Ohio, has been “Celebrating the Spirit” of seniors for more than a century. The faith-inspired nonprofit organization is one of the nation’s largest providers of senior living services, with more than 1,800 dedicated staff serving nearly 5,000 residents of all faiths in 74 senior living communities throughout 14 states and two Native American nations. UCH is in covenant with the United Church of Christ and welcomes residents of all faiths.

Contact: Alissa Paolella, United Church Homes Office of Communications 740.382.4885 or