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.