Satisfied and Engaged!

I can remember from my earliest school years the trepidation that report card time would bring. Many of us can relate to having others grade our efforts, our mastery of complex ideas or processes or our artistic and musical performances. At United Church Homes, we have improved and expanded the way we solicit feedback on our performance from our residents, clients and patients. It’s crucial for us to learn where folks are feeling satisfied, so we can continue doing our good work even better. Likewise, we want to learn where there are gaps creating points of dissatisfaction. Because transparency is one of our core values, we believe in facing the facts and being totally honest with ourselves, especially.

A pleasant surprise came in 2018 when the Holleran organization, a national company that assesses resident satisfaction, determined that our Glenwood Community in Marietta, Ohio, had been recognized for its top-level performance for resident satisfaction and engagement in the country. Satisfaction focuses on the basics of dining services, housekeeping and other concerns of comfort and quality. Engagement, however, measures the degree to which people feel involved in their community and the world. Are there opportunities to give voice and share concerns as management contemplates changes? Are there avenues to pursue new interests, learn new things and develop new intellectual, artistic or spiritual dimensions? Nationally, these have become more significant markers of distinction and quality in senior living, and at Glenwood Community, our residents overwhelmingly feel engaged!

As a result of their findings, Holleran invited Glenwood residents and key staff to participate in an educational presentation at the national convention of LeadingAge last October. Executive Director Linda Dailey, along with several residents, spoke to participants on why the quality of life and engagement is so rich and vibrant at Glenwood. While it’s a smaller community with fewer than 200 residents, Glenwood has a very active resident association, an arts program, a greenhouse and a series of educational programs and volunteer opportunities that many residents enjoy. The community provides the foundation that undergirds involvement and enrichment — in short, engagement. Read more about it in our lead story on page 2.

This issue spotlights a number of examples of how United Church Homes, our staff and residents are taking engagement to even higher levels. We strive to provide support for our residents to engage in life fully in as many ways as is possible. The human spirit doesn’t diminish with time. It seeks ever deeper sources of meaning and satisfaction, bringing abundance to the experience of aging.

Technology Unites UCH Services

As we rolled it out and provided training for staff members, we expanded the use of the information captured in just about every space within United Church Homes. Technology such as PointClickCare transforms the services we provide while increasing operational efficiencies.

Today, technology continues to be an integral part of United Church Homes’ mission and vision. Information systems are the neural networks that connect us, direct the flow of information and allow departments to collaborate remotely. We can no longer imagine a day that isn’t tied to an information technology system.

On a practical level, technology aligns with our core value of stewardship. Information helps us better understand our residents and their medical, clinical and social needs, which, in turn, helps us to coordinate our resources to meet those needs.

An example of how data impacts our care delivery is the reduction in use of antipsychotic medications in our communities. Since the start of a federal initiative to improve dementia care in 2012, United Church Homes has greatly reduced the administration of antipsychotic medication. The national average for antipsychotic drug use is currently at 19.3 percent, compared to United Church Homes’ average of 11.5 percent. Nearly all UCH communities have seen major reductions in the use of antipsychotic medication.

We’ve also increased our quality ratings directly as a result of our work in managing information. Every UCH community has been rated four or five stars for quality, and Four Winds and Fairhaven will receive the Silver Quality Award from the American Health Care Association later this year.

Data collection is imperative to gather and evaluate medical information to decrease the time it takes to stabilize a patient, begin rehabilitative treatments and then within two weeks or so, move them on to home-based care. United Church Homes uses this data analysis to participate in innovative reimbursement programs like the bundled payments for care improvement (BPCI).

Technology helps us fine-tune our operating expenses, evaluate where we’re deploying resources and where we may need to make adjustments to increase efficiencies. It also allows us to communicate efficiently (especially in a nationwide care delivery system that’s deployed in 14 states and two Native American nations) by building culture and providing training opportunities across the miles when it would be too costly to bring people together in person.

Our information systems are not ancillary anymore; they are the backbone of the organization. Technology aligns with the core value of integrity to support our goal to provide the best care environments and the best treatment approaches for each individual we serve.

Like a Tree Planted By Water:

We are into March Madness as I write these words, and a unique story caught my eye. The Loyola men’s basketball team has a “chaplain” for their team. She is a 98-year-old retired nun who has a long association with the university and the team. Her job is to provide spiritual support and scout opponents. Talk about the mix of spiritual and secular purpose! Her role is to pray before games, support the players and cull through the stats of each opponent, analyzing their strengths and vulnerabilities. She is loving life and court sidelines!

Our vision at United Church Homes is to create experiences of abundant life in community. We celebrate the spirit of so many who stay vital and engaged well into their later years. A 98-year-old nun who has been mentor, coach and colleague over so many years surely has made a tremendous and continuing impact on all the people she meets. We honor people such as this who experience an abundance of purpose, community and meaning.

We also celebrate the progress toward achieving our vision through the accomplishments of 2017. United Church Homes’ Board, staff and residents have been busy moving forward and navigating many challenges but keeping sight on our vision and mission. Like a tree planted by a stream, UCH’s roots tap deeper sources of sustaining energy that enable us to grow the impact of our mission.

In 2017 we celebrated the following accomplishments:

  • Raised our quality performance with our skilled communities achieving 4-star quality or better through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services;
  • Harmar Place and Patriot Ridge Community earned the national Silver Quality Award from the American Health Care Association, joining Chapel Hill Community and SEM Haven in this elite circle. In addition, Four Winds Community earned state recognition for its effort to improve certain clinical quality benchmarks;
  • Expanded affordable housing portfolio with acquisitions of three communities in Minnesota and Mississippi;
  • Broke ground on new independent living cottages at Parkvue Community and completed major capital projects at Parkvue Health Care Center, Friendship Village Columbus and SEM Haven Health Care Center;
  • Began the repositioning of Pilgrim Manor with renovation and expansion of its assisted living apartments;
  • Completed the three-year, $7.2 million remodeling of our oldest campus, Fairhaven Community; and
  • Launched a new management affiliation with UCC-related Uplands Village in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee.

A 98-year-old nun cheering on her team to victory is the spirit we celebrate with all of our residents and staff. Our successes of 2017 reflect the passionate coordination of resources and support among our teams, executives and Board members. There is no age limit to pursue our vision of creating abundant life for those we serve.

Not by Accident: Our Intentionality in Mission

It was not by accident that we serve older adults in regions with high concentrations of low-income individuals especially across the South or sensitive populations such as our Native American communities in Minnesota and Nebraska. We seek to provide services to the underserved and be an inclusive organization where each individual is valued and loved. In various ways, United Church Homes has taken a courageous stand toward diversity, from developing its outreach and expanding its programs to focusing on recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce.

In 2012, the Board of Directors voted for United Church Homes to become Open and Affirming, a designation within the United Church of Christ that encourages the welcoming of members of the LGBTQ community. The statement came from our theological understanding of caring for the whole person, but the Board also saw this as a justice issue. The LGBTQ community often is not afforded the same rights to equal treatment to access healthcare, housing or employment. United Church Homes is intentional in its actions to combat this and other forms of discrimination.

In late 2017, United Church Homes continued this commitment by becoming the first multisite senior living provider in Ohio to obtain the Platinum-level credential for SAGECare (see page 21).

But, as the late Ruth Frost Parker, a former Board member and United Church Homes’ most generous benefactor, often was quoted as saying, “there is more work to be done.” As we work to transform aging, the SAGECare certification serves as a tangible step that staff members can use to align the philosophical concepts within our mission with the practical steps the organization is taking to be inclusive of people who have experienced discrimination.

In fact, these tangible steps are our way of bending the curve of history toward justice while we shoulder the mandate of Christ to go out and serve the least of these. At United Church Homes, we continue to foster community, wholeness and peace within all those we serve, thereby creating the conditions that lead to a more just society.

We are in a period of time in our culture where our long-standing concern for the poor is being tested. While this is done in the name of fiscal restraint, the result is a shredding of the social safety net for vulnerable groups of people. That is our challenge. When programs and resources to fund those programs are being diminished, it falls harder on charitable organizations like United Church Homes to continue the momentum we have created to expand these programs and serve more people.

Yet within these challenges, we see opportunity. United Church Homes sees technology as an innovative platform for providing support and services and, yes, even community. We are exploring new ways in which we can learn how technology can be part of our strategy today and in the future. As we explore these options, our mission commands us to fight the causes of elder poverty and systemic injustices in our society through our work as a senior living provider. It is no accident, but our continuing response to a higher calling to serve.

Transforming Aging Through Education, Innovation

The Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging was launched in 2016 to recognize United Church Homes’ most generous benefactor and to create a learning and teaching center where professionals, caregivers, ministers and others can work together to improve the quality of life for older adults.

The late Ruth Frost Parker, a business and church leader from Sandusky, Ohio, gave generously to United Church Homes over the years. Her generosity supported educational scholarships, leadership development and capital improvements, especially to Parkvue Community in Sandusky.

At the center’s second annual Symposium that was held Oct. 20 in Columbus, United Church Homes leaders and experts in the fields of gerontology, healthcare and geriatrics discussed Abundant Aging in the 21st Century.

Keynote speaker Dr. Laura Carstensen, a longevity and aging expert, professor of psychology at Stanford University and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in Stanford, California, enlightened the crowd by debunking myths and misconceptions about aging.

For example, she discussed the ideas that growing older is associated with loneliness and unhappiness, and that only the genetically blessed live well and long. Instead, Dr. Carstensen said seniors today are living longer, healthier and more productive lives than previous generations. She also said there are psychological and emotional benefits to growing older. She helped us see how this phenomenon is changing the way we view older adults, support them and continue to integrate their wisdom and needs into our society.

The mission of United Church Homes — to transform Aging by building a culture of community, wholeness and peace — demands we must change the way we think about aging.

Given the changes in the area of aging services and the rising number of older adults, United Church Homes’ Parker Center seeks to educate the public and provide intellectual dialogue about older adults, the opportunities available to them, the challenges they face as they age and the impact longevity has on their lives.

By gathering thought leaders like Dr. Carstensen and others whose work impacts various aspects of elder living — physical, social and spiritual — we can provide a safe place for interprofessional dialogue and plan future efforts that create age-affirming communities and supportive services.

Blessed be the tie that binds

Dozens of people including Pilgrim Manor staff, former board members and others attended the service. The covenant service is a new tradition that welcomes new communities into the UCH family.

Leaders from Pilgrim Manor’s supporting congregations, the Michigan Conference and Grand Valley Association of the United Church of Christ, UCH staff and Board Members thanked God for growing United Church Homes’ mission and helping the expanding organization serve more people.

Denise Rabidoux, president and CEO of Evangelical Homes of Michigan (EHM) Senior Solutions, a sister UCC-related senior care ministry, also participated in the ceremony. EHM Senior Solutions and United Church Homes are members of the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries of the United Church of Christ, an organization for which I began serving as board chair this year.

The covenant service celebrates our family of communities and reflects that Pilgrim Manor is not being absorbed into United Church Homes. It’s becoming one of our communities with its own history and legacy in Grand Rapids.

During the service, colorful ribbons were added to a cloth weaving that symbolized the unique history and culture of both organizations as well as the new relationship and covenant between Pilgrim Manor and United Church Homes.

United Church Homes’ mission is to transform Aging by building a culture of community, wholeness and peace. The weaving of the fabric symbolized the growth of our organization, our fellowship and the larger community of United Church Homes.

With the addition of Pilgrim Manor in Michigan and Harmony Apartments in Minnesota, United Church Homes now serves more than 4,500 residents in 70 communities and two Native American tribal nations. Michigan expands UCH’s operations to 14 states.

This issue of Spirit is about community, which is an essential component of United Church Homes. Individuals can live together, but if they don’t care for one another, about one another or support one another, then it’s not a true community, according to Christian values.

United Church Homes works to create living environments that advocate for justice, are inclusive, respectful of diversity and embody the love of God.

Just as Jesus referred to the church as the “blessed community,” United Church Homes follows the mandate of Christ to bring together people who share love and a common life. By doing this, our goal is to bring dignity, respect, care and compassion to each person in all UCH communities.

Woven together by Christ’s abiding love, United Church Homes reflects this expanding tapestry of color and hearts bound together in blessed ties that never can be broken.

Affordable housing: Our mission, our ministry

These stories from our residents and others included in our cover story about the potential devastating cuts to communities funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) illustrate the challenges seniors face when they try to find housing they can afford as their incomes decline and their need for services increases. Our organization was born 100 years ago when we answered the call to provide a safe haven for five elders. We were established with that purpose and we expanded our mission more than 30 years ago when we added HUD housing as part of our ministry. We now offer safe, affordable housing to 2,700 residents in 60 communities. As the number of people 65 and older increases nationwide and the need for affordable housing for older adults rises, United Church Homes, a national nonprofit, faith-based senior living provider, will be ready to answer the call again.

UCH staff, two board members, and I went to Washington, D.C., recently and made our case before about a dozen congressional offices, asking leaders for additional funding for HUD senior housing programs, particularly for new construction. These visits on Capitol Hill are critical because Congress is considering steep cuts to domestic programs, including a proposed 14 percent reduction to HUD. Housing managers in our communities in 14 states and two Native American nations have been asked to do the same. We don’t want older adults and people with disabilities living in substandard housing or in cars because they can’t afford a safe place to stay. The private sector alone won’t attempt to meet that need. Only the government can provide the funding and other resources necessary to ensure older adults have housing they can afford and the safety nets they need as their health and incomes decline. United Church Homes’ housing program is an antipoverty program and we do it out of a sense of mission. With the help of our donors, we have some charitable resources to renovate our communities as they age and provide financial support to our residents who cannot afford housing, but not enough to meet the growing demand.

Housing seniors, the homeless, and people in need is our ministry. As the Bible says in Matthew 25:36: I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me. We take this as our mandate to minister to communities and to impoverished communities. Homelessness and unsafe and unsanitary housing threaten the lives of people who are disproportionately affected by our economy. We address social inequality by doing our part to create communities and community living for people who otherwise would be at risk if left on their own.

A Thought Leader on Aging

Our intent was to initiate a discussion to change the perception of aging in America. Award-winning journalist and former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden served as our keynote presenter.

What began as a way for UCH to recognize and honor the memory of Ruth Frost Parker, the visionary leader who holds the distinction of being the single most generous benefactor in our 100 years of service, came to fruition that day. Joan’s prepared comments captured the essence of what we’re striving to accomplish with our ministry: to transform the idea of what it means to age, and to celebrate growing old as a time of abundance, personal achievement, meaning, and importance. I do not think we could have selected a more compelling speaker.

Joan’s personal journey as a daughter, sister, mother, and grandmother and, perhaps most poignantly, as a caregiver for her mother and brother as their health declined, captured the attendees’ attention and imagination in ways we could have only dreamed of. With a narrative that balanced humor with sincere reflection, Joan so thoroughly engaged those in attendance that we were all laughing, smiling, and nodding in agreement at dozens of fresh insights and novel ideas. Joan’s remarks were both evocative and provocative, and demonstrated a keen grasp of the issues regarding aging that we face as a society, and that we seek to change as an organization.

Her presentation was only one part of the day’s story. United Church Homes also assembled a panel of professionals that featured some of the most renowned and informed experts on aging in Ohio. We facilitated a panel discussion by Dr. Robert Applebaum, director of the long-term care project for Miami (Ohio) University’s Scripps Center for Gerontology; Kathryn Brod, CEO of LeadingAge Ohio, the state’s largest trade association for nonprofit senior care providers; and Dr. Holly Ione Dabelko-Schoeny, associate professor of social work at The Ohio State University. With Joan, we further explored issues raised during her presentation as well as questions from the audience.

The title for the Symposium, A Generation Ahead: Transforming the Way We Age, spoke volumes, as it positioned United Church Homes at the forefront of what it means to age in Ohio. We created a forum for the exchange of ideas and innovation in the fields of senior service, higher education, research, and advocacy. The observations and points made by those in attendance — both in discussions among themselves, and in the questions they raised with our distinguished panelists — demonstrated impressive levels of engagement and energy.

The Symposium also afforded United Church Homes with an opportunity to serve as a thought leader on the subject of aging abundantly. For years, we’ve been steadfastly creating a culture that emphasizes education and learning, advancement, and improvement. We invite you to discover that culture in greater detail in this issue of Spirit magazine.

A Multicolored Mission

To me this seems a fitting symbol of United Church Homes in its centennial year, new and old elements blending together, revealing the bold spirit of this enduring ministry. The colors, the structure, and the flow of light evoke the spirit of what United Church Homes has become and where we are headed.

The bold colors remind us of the Toledo-area congregations that met in June 1916 to appoint the first Board of Trustees for “The Home for the Aged” of the German Reformed Church. They chartered this new ministry to fulfill a “Golden Purpose.” Their vision enacted the gospel mandate to follow Jesus Christ in serving others in need. This “Golden Purpose” of 1916 still undergirds our new colorful Vision of 2016 — United Church Homes: Where the Spirit creates Abundant Life in Community.

The founders used the lively heritage of diaconal mission houses in Germany to shape their new ministry. We read of this colorful spirit in a flurry of letters from congregations near and far. Remarkably, many sent gifts knowing full well that their own members would likely not benefit directly due to their distance from Ohio. Joined by their faith tradition, they underwrote the fledgling ministry.

Then in an explosion of grace, siblings Matthew and Jane Smith bequeathed their farmland to the cause, responding to a story of the project in their local newspaper. Their gift led to the development of Fairhaven in Upper Sandusky, an early prototype of an integrated campus of care with independent, assisted living, and skilled nursing services under one roof.

The structure of the Fairhaven window also evokes our interconnected system of facilities. From the small Toledo home on Collingwood Avenue with five residents, today United Church Homes’ ministries touch over 4,000 people in 68 locations in 13 states and two Native American reservations. Our growing family consists of communities with a full array of services; innovative dementia, rehabilitation, and pastoral care programs; and affordable housing with support services, serving a diverse population around the country.

Finally, the dynamic colors flowing upward in the Fairhaven window beckon us to imagine our future. Our staff provide the same loving care that has been a constant for 100 years. However, creative work is underway throughout the organization to meet the ever-changing needs of our seniors. Skilled rehab therapies help an increasing number of patients to move from hospital to home. We also employ a new complement of technologies and innovative clinical practices as our nursing centers take on new importance in post-acute care. Our Clinical Pastoral Education program has quickly become a new partner with theological education shaping spiritual and pastoral leaders for the future. We also look ahead to growing our affordable housing program, expanding our retirement communities, and adding our voice to advocate against ageism and discrimination against LGBT, Native Americans, and other minority seniors in our society.

I hope you enjoy this special edition of Spirit that — in bold colors — celebrates our past, present, and future in the transformational work we continue to do. This issue commemorates our faith-based heritage, our dynamic leaders, our caring staff, our loyal volunteers, our generous donors, and most of all, our treasured residents who represent the sole purpose for which we exist. Thanks for being part of our colorful story.

A Mission and a Movement

I think of the social pressures on an immigrant denomination of German lineage during a time of international turmoil and war with Germany in Europe. I think of the rapid industrialization of American towns and cities as mills and factories followed technological innovations in transportation, steel, and other manufacturing.

I think of the disruption that impacted families drawing young people to cities from farms and small towns in search of new jobs. Then I think of how parents and grandparents may have been isolated, removed from family supports in a time when few social support services were available.

Our records tell the story of a church whose German heritage also included a rich tradition of founding diaconal service institutions to help orphans, hospitals, social ministries, and colleges. We have direct descendants of each right here in Ohio, founded by our predecessor congregations in today’s United Church of Christ.

So it began as a mission to serve people in need. This, of course, is noble and tied to a deeply held conviction about the gospel teaching and the example of Jesus Christ. But is there more to learn about this history than a mission come to life?

I have come to understand that beyond the mission, this work of the church also was part of a movement. Providing care and support to the vulnerable has also been a proclamation against the prejudices and injustices of a society tilted toward the powerful and rich. Diaconal ministries were also the leading edge of what we would today call advocacy for transforming society. Ageism and its manifestations of discrimination and prejudice are deeply rooted in our culture and reinforced by social policy and practice. We believe we need to be an advocate for elder justice because we honor those we serve.

So the mission continues for the family of communities of United Church Homes. From Fairhaven in Upper Sandusky to our newest members, Glenwood Community and Harmar Place in Marietta, Ohio, we proclaim what our forebears and we believe. We provide living environments for quality of life and care. Moreover, our ministry is a witness to a society that continues to discriminate against the sick, the disabled, the aged, and the disadvantaged.

Our centennial celebrates not only the rich mission of service, it also marks the continuing witness of the church to transform aging. United Church Homes is proud of this heritage of service and witness. For one hundred years, we have worked at transforming the experience of aging by building a culture of community, wholeness, and peace. May God continue to inspire, guide, and bless us into the next century of our sacred mission and this powerful justice movement.

A Second Century of Service

The simple act of turning the calendar page to 2016 is a significant step for United Church Homes. It means we’ve officially crossed the threshold into a second century of service.

What began with siblings Matthew and Jane Smith generously gifting their family farm in Holland, Ohio, to the Toledo Classis of the Reformed Church of America has evolved into the vibrant organization we know today as United Church Homes. Our impact, which began with only six residents in a small house in Toledo, has expanded to include more than 4,000 residents living at 68 communities located in 13 states and on two Native American reservations.

While some might describe our progress as “we’ve come a long way,” I prefer to believe that “we’ve only just begun.”

United Church Homes was incubated in an America far different than what we know today — more rural, more connected by rails than by roads, more apt to see healthcare as art rather than science. It was a far simpler time, yet also a time teeming with optimism. It was a time of industrialization, of migration to cities. People looked to their local institutions, especially the church, to address social issues.

Matthew and Jane Smith were people of faith, mindful of the call to serve. They knew first-hand the hardships of old age. In 1916 the life expectancy of Americans was barely 50 years. An ‘aged’ person was anyone beyond 60 years. That’s why the Smiths’ founding gift had a specific intent: to establish “a home for the aged.”

This occasion of our 100th year of service is a great time to look back, to celebrate our accomplishments, and to envision what our second century of service may look like. We’re planning a two-day observance, on July 22 and 23, to measure our progress and to define our historical path. We’ve secured four major presenters, representing our major national constituencies, and are planning to stage 13 workshops to focus on an array of issues associated with aging and access to affordable housing. For more about our centennial celebration plans, click here.

There are many leaders whose personal contributions to our first century shaped United Church Homes today. Each represents key elements of the history and future of United Church Homes. We memorialize Rev. Glenn Royer, the founding father of affordable housing at UCH, who passed away in December. It was Rev. Royer who 30 years ago so eloquently persuaded others that affordable housing should be an essential part of the UCH ministry. His impact lives on for more than 2,600 residents who today benefit from his vision and passion.

Rev. Royer is just one of thousands of individuals to whom United Church Homes owes so much. May we continue to be blessed to be “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”

Diligence & Decisions

With just two months remaining in 2015, I am very excited by what United Church Homes has accomplished in a very short period of time.

Since January, the organization has secured a major management contract with Friendship Village of Columbus, adopted a fresh set of Vision-Mission-Core Value statements, completed three strategic acquisitions in the Marietta and Dayton markets to augment our existing business plan and expand our ministry, and launched a new and transformative intervention program — Music & Memory — for use with our residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s been a busy and productive year.

What’s more, these accomplishments have occurred while we continue to improve upon our track record of providing quality care, as evidenced by having two communities earn Silver Quality Awards, an honor reserved for about one percent of the nation’s long-term care centers. We’re also engaged in a wide range of capital expenditure projects, looking to improve, update and modernize our physical plants for the benefit of our residents.

In every community, there is change and transformation, initiative and growth. These have become the hallmarks of United Church Homes as an organization, and will continue into the foreseeable future. The list of achievements is long and grows with each passing day.

Amid this flurry of visible activity there is a myriad of behind-the-scenes meetings, debates, analyses — the lifeblood of activities associated with an expanding ministry. We’ve become adept at the art of conducting the diligence needed to make these strategic decisions, conscious of the unifying principle that all decisions are based on embracing our mission to create community, wholeness and peace. We’re able to consider these opportunities for the future because we’ve been prudent with our resources in the past. Our journey has led us here.

This issue of Spirit magazine covers many of these achievements — the acquisition of a new community in Dayton, the progress of our ongoing capital improvement projects, and the impact of the Music & Memory program on one family. This coupling of diligence with decisions is also a recurring theme in the life stories of residents who are featured in these pages — John Rainey and Gene Finnegan of Parkvue, Fran Gottfried of Fairhaven, Miriam Buss of Oakhaven, Bob Perdue of Patriot Ridge, Carol Guinn of Biimaadiiziiwiin, and the Armed Forces veterans of Chapel Hill. Each of these residents conducted some of their own diligence before proceeding with a life-changing decision.

United Church Homes is a vibrant and expansive organization, providing healthcare and housing services for over 4,000 residents who are equally vibrant, with equally expansive stories to share. We invite you to join us on our individual and collective journeys to become one in community. And may you find wholeness on your journey, and peace at its conclusion!

A New Vision for a New Day

The year 2014 has been one preparing for significant transformation for United Church Homes. This all converged over the span of two days this past February when three significant events took place illustrating the vibrancy of our ministry at United Church Homes.

First, the Board of Directors approved a new vision, mission and core values statement for the organization — the first substantive change to these elements in 15 years. The Vision-Mission-Values process has taken almost a year to finish and involved board, staff and residents. This document articulates the reasons why United Church Homes exists, what we look to accomplish, and what we consider as the essential spiritual and ethical concepts that shape our thoughts and actions. The details of this initiative can be found on pages 2–5.

Second, the Board of Directors authorized the strategic acquisition of three communities, all located within Ohio, which will transform United Church Homes and expand our senior living and healthcare mission and ministry by nearly 20 percent when the transactions are completed near the end of May. This is a sizeable undertaking that will add about 250 residents and employees to our family. It expands our impact on people and communities that will be new members of the UCH family. That we are ready, willing and able to pursue such a venture is an ambitious step in our history because it signals the dawn of a new era at United Church Homes, and positions us to consider further growth options in the future.

Just a few years ago, UCH was primarily concerned with surviving during a difficult time that the recession of 2008 triggered. That we are today in a position to expand our ministry once again speaks to the progress that has been made in a short period of time to rebuild our internal strength, employee engagement and organizational capacity. While it’s still somewhat premature to share details of these impending acquisitions, we are excited about our prospects for additional growth. We are exploring new opportunities and alliances with other like-minded organizations that are interested in aligning themselves with United Church Homes. Details will no doubt be forthcoming in subsequent issues of Spirit.

Finally, Ruth Frost Parker, the foremost donor in UCH history and the driving force behind the development of Parkvue Community and Parkvue Place in Sandusky, Ohio, passed away in February at the age of 92. We featured Mrs. Parker’s story a year ago in the Spring 2014 issue of Spirit magazine. Her generosity, vision and spirit will live on for years to come. She was a remarkable individual supporting many charitable causes beyond United Church Homes. We celebrate her life and her many contributions that have made UCH who we are today and where we will be going in the future. Please be sure to read our tribute to her on page 28.

This issue of Spirit also contains our 2014 Annual Report, a year in which the organization made significant progress to continue our legacy of care, excellence and compassion. We also want to acknowledge and recognize the more than 1,500 individuals whose willingness to contribute to our cause helps sustain our renewed vision and mission in our day-to-day efforts. We touch almost 5,000 lives each year in all of our settings across the country. And with your support and God’s abiding presence, we will touch even more in the year ahead. These are indeed exciting times for United Church Homes. We invite you to join us on our journey.

Discovering the Story of United Church Homes

I hope you will share my excitement at the stories about the diversity of people who are connected with United Church Homes. Our challenge continues to be to discover the unique individuals who are part of the tapestry of UCH. It truly is a journey of discovery.

This issue of Spirit continues to explore that diversity. Our cover story features Brenda Gould, a resident of Pickfair Square in Ohio, whose faith not only inspired her to serve as a missionary in far-off lands, but to do so for more than 12 years! Imagine being moved by the spirit to donate 4,500 days of your life to aid others. Just incredible! Many are called to mission work. Few answer. Fewer are so thoroughly committed.

You’ll also meet Linda Robinson of Macy, Nebraska, who faced difficult circumstances when she was very young, only to overcome them and lead a life of distinction. Then there’s Charlie Dale of Canal Fulton, Ohio, whose personal values and experience led him to write a book about being a gay man in Nazi Germany. Finally, we encounter Rev. Lou and Mary Anna Speller of Indiana, supporters of United Church Homes whose contributions to the growth of UCH span nearly 50 years. The Spellers are representative of those whose ardent belief in our mission and vision sustain and perpetuate our ministry.

This final point is important because we are about to unveil a new vision, mission and core values for the organization. What’s been developed is the result of a process involving many key constituencies: the Board of Directors, donors, senior management, community staff, campus leaders and current residents. We’ve invested a great deal of intellectual and spiritual capital in this effort to redefine our vision, mission and core values for the future. The process has been one of discovery, and a celebration of the diversity and community that is essential to our ministry.

At this point, we’re testing the ideas that have been developed to gauge how well they resonate within the organization. We anticipate being ready to introduce the new vision, mission and core values soon. As we move forward toward our Centennial Celebration in 2016, we believe this initiative will set the stage for a new century for United Church Homes in which we honor our past, build on our tradition of excellence, and grow our ministry of service.

We invite you to join us on that journey!

Hope & Mission

I am continually reminded that United Church Homes is a sacred ministry which defies conventional thinking and often borders on the miraculous. Usually, these reminders crop up in a day’s work in places where they’re least expected. Yet there they are—in plain sight, inspiring awe and wonder, and causing the ordinary to appear extraordinary. They remind me of our mission, and to more thoroughly appreciate why our work is so essential.

Two recent reminders are featured prominently in this issue of Spirit magazine.

The first occurred as the result of a site visit to Nebraska by some members of our leadership team. They traveled to Macy to meet with members of the Omaha tribal council to learn about how we could provide additional assistance to those served by our OmahaCare senior housing community. What they discovered on their fact-finding tour was both sad and shocking: pervasive poverty on the Omaha reservation, coupled with the dislocation of and within families. Such despair and disrepair should not exist in modern-day America, yet there it was.

The OmahaCare story evoked images of the Biblical tale of the road to Emmaus. You may recall that a few days after the crucifixion two disciples, fearing for their safety, left Jerusalem for the peace and quiet of Emmaus. Along the way they met a stranger who joined them on the journey. The disciples did not recognize the stranger in their midst until they ate together and He broke bread with them. Upon recognizing the risen Jesus, the disciples immediately ran off, back to Jerusalem, toward the very situation they were fleeing from earlier.

So it is with United Church Homes and OmahaCare—whereas many organizations would flee from such a situation, we are running headlong toward it, searching for additional ways to fulfill our mission.

The second reminder involved perhaps a more widespread miracle. A few months ago, the board of directors and our executive leadership team were exposed to a six-minute clip of a soon-to-be-released documentary film, Alive Inside, which chronicles the therapeutic effect of music on those afflicted with Alzheimer’s and dementia. We all were blown away by what we witnessed.

So when we learned we could arrange a private screening of the film, we leapt at the opportunity, doing so at our Leadership Summit in October. We also enjoyed a private 40-minute Skype session with Dan Cohen, executive director of Music & Memory, the organization featured in Alive Inside. Amid many tears and cheers, I believe we walked away with a more inspired point of view about what we can do to bring more hope—indeed, abundance—to our residents’ lives. At the very least, we must keep trying.

In short, perhaps we learned that hope is an essential element of the mission of United Church Homes. Let’s hope so!

Of Gifts and Giving

The Bible is full of lessons regarding gifts and giving, providing us with a rich 360-degree perspective of the importance of gifts in the teachings of Christ and their value to the essence of human existence.

The Bible also tells us there is a season for everything under heaven. I was reminded of these two notions recently when United Church Homes sponsored a series of Appreciation Dinners to recognize the impact that donors, volunteers and church congregations are having on our ministry to serve seniors in the areas of healthcare and affordable housing. Over a short span of time, we were blessed with the opportunity to meet, share fellowship with, and learn more about 700 of our most passionate and engaged stakeholders. It was an awesome and deeply personal experience.

As I listened to the tributes that were presented at each dinner, I walked away with a far greater appreciation for how fortunate United Church Homes is to be the beneficiary of so many gifts—time, treasure and talent—from so many people who are interested in how they can help support our work. What also struck me was how cheerful our donors, volunteers and congregants are to be part of the fabric of UCH. It was humbling for me to witness the nature, duration and genuineness of their generosity.

I invite you to see their generosity for yourself by accessing our newly revised and freshened website——and viewing the complete roster of our 2014 award winners. I’m certain you’ll be impressed.

The topic of gifts also touches much of content of this issue of Spirit, in ways both grand and modest. Our cover story takes a reflective view of three men who currently reside at Kroft Commons at Chapel Hill—Ralph Quellhorst, Paul Kiewit and Glenn Royer. While each of these gentlemen share many significant common threads with one another, it is their unique and different experiences that make them distinctive, fascinating and memorable. You can learn more about the gifts of these wise men on page 2.

All of us at United Church Homes consider it a great gift from God that we are now in a position to expand and improve our ministry of serving seniors. We currently have three major construction projects underway—Parkvue, Fairhaven and Chapel Hill—with the potential for others to follow in the months and years ahead. Learn more beginning on page 10, and stay tuned for future updates.

And finally, gifts may take on a different perspective once you meet Kathryn Sanders Rieder (page 12) and Graciella Quesada (page 18). Their points of view are (literally) a world apart, yet they’re also so very similar. Remarkably, both are welcome under the same umbrella and vibrant texture of individuals whose lives are being touched on a daily basis by United Church Homes.

Please join me in “Celebrating the Spirit” of United Church Homes, and thanks for your gift of being engaged and interested in what we do.

See Your Good Works

People know good works when they see them—a warm embrace, an inspiring story, an act of kindness, a generous gift. Good works make us both human and humane. Good works also empower us, sometimes unexpectedly, in situations we’re interested in improving. We all want to do good works, to contribute to a noble cause, to make a difference.

That’s why United Church Homes selected “See Your Good Works” as the theme for our 2013 Annual Report, which begins on page 7. As an organization that impacts the lives of tens of thousands across the nation, we often hear about people who truly want to do something good. They’re witnesses to a never-ending list of human needs to be addressed, and they recognize they’re in a position to do something meaningful, to be part of a broader initiative, to do what’s right, to act by principles of their faith. These intentions illustrate why people choose to become engaged with an organization like United Church Homes.

UCH provides healthcare and affordable housing services for individuals who are often overlooked and under-represented—seniors who do not have a strong voice advocating for them in the later years of life. In the day-to-day fulfillment of our mission, we see many opportunities where good works can immediately improve an individual’s quality of life, or help enliven a community’s spirit. And our board members have embraced the role of adding their voices to issues in public policy that will benefit the people we serve.

Our 2013 Annual Report focuses on these good works. Learn about the impact Ruth Parker has in Sandusky, Ohio—the home of Parkvue Community—where her generosity has uplifted the community for decades. Discover the gifts Linda Ellis gives through every day living at Sterling Place in Lakeland, Florida. Marvel at the loving nature of Llavona Jolly, manager of a UCH senior housing community in Orlando, where she’s thus far welcomed 27 foster children into her home. Meet Tina, whose giving heart looked past a situation most would find insurmountable. How inspiring!

These stories exemplify the spirit of United Church Homes, and speak to what we hope to achieve. We are a faith-based ministry focused on supporting the poor and disenfranchised. Our mission involves leveraging the good works of many individuals, providing quality person-centered holistic services in a community setting. Using Christ as a model, we aim to enrich and dignify all the diversity of human existence within our sphere of influence.

It is stories such as these, coupled with the contributions of more than 1,600 donors whose personal philanthropy marks them as friends who support the essential good work we’re doing, that herald a bright future for United Church Homes and our ability to positively impact the lives of seniors. We invite you to see for yourself these good works, and in the process, join with us in some way to give greater glory to God.