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.”