Board Presidents Corner

Since 1916, reflecting the faith tradition of the United Church of Christ, United Church Homes’ volunteer Board of Directors sets policy, oversees operations, and plans for the continuation of distinguished service to seniors. Varied backgrounds, interests, and expertise are reflected in the board membership, and the chairman of the board is responsible for leading the group ultimately to carry out UCH’s mission. Current and former board chairs, as well as close family and friends, were asked to reflect on their tenures and what they remember most during their leadership years.

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Rev. Paul E. Deppen, 1986-1987

Rev. Paul E. Deppen served on the Board of Directors for 17 years before serving as the first chairman of the board for five years. As a pastor of a United Church of Christ church, he says “it was a joy to nurture the extension of ministry for the aged through United Church Homes.” Rev. Deppen was inspired by the sacrifices board members made to volunteer their leadership talents. Members of the board would visit with residents to review their care as standing committees emphasized holistically adding life to years. “Just as today,” Rev. Deppen explains, “our mission was to transform aging by building a culture of community, wholeness and peace.”

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Rev. Glenn J. Royer, 1988-1991 (in memoriam)

Mr. Paul Royer, son of the late Rev. Glenn J. Royer, refers to his father’s work as a “machinery of peace” as he reflects on his time as a pastor; building and rebuilding lives and in retirement; building and rebuilding homes for Habitat for Humanity and United Church Homes. Rev. Royer served as chair of the board when issues of peace and justice were at the forefront. He had a strong vision to provide quality living places for seniors, which would later come to fruition with the addition of Kroft Commons at Chapel Hill Community and the partnership between UCH and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), just to name a few. Rev. Dr. Kevan Franklin, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Wooster, Ohio, and close friend of Rev. Royer refers to Rev. Royer as “UCH’s greatest apostle”.

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Mr. Robert Hart, 1992-1994

Mr. Robert Hart always sought ways to live out his faith with the heart of a servant. “Long involved in his local church,” Rev. David Long-Higgins, senior pastor of David’s United Church of Christ in Canal Winchester, Ohio, describes, “Mr. Hart found ways in retirement to extend that servant spirit through the ministry and work of United Church Homes.” Together, with the late Rev. Glenn J. Royer, Mr. Hart shared a vision for affordable housing for seniors in Canal Winchester, long before others noticed the need. Committed to the betterment of others, he worked tirelessly so that affordable housing, Canal Village, could become a reality. The resulting partnership between United Church Homes and HUD launched a ministry for United Church Homes that now extends to 57 housing communities in different settings in 13 different states.

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Rev. Dr. Paul Kiewit, 1995-1998

Growth and expansion were the primary focus during Rev. Dr. Paul Kiewit’s board presidency. The board often reaffirmed the ministry of providing care and security for all as they sought life enrichment funds from an ever-expanding base. Expansion on existing campuses was supported through special fund-raising efforts, and Rev. Dr. Kiewit and the board sought ways to enhance the opportunity to provide for seniors with limited income by enlarging both staff and geographic scope. Rev. Dr. Kiewit explains, “Board members gave generously of their time and expertise as God used each one to help fulfill our mission.”

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Rev. John Bertsch, 1999-2001

Growth and progress continued during Rev. John Bertsch’s leadership. Management opportunities expanded and UCH gained two new long-term care communities — Four Winds in Jackson, Ohio, and Trinity Community at Fairborn (formerly Patriot Ridge) in Fairborn. Also, the development of Biimaadiiziiwiin in Ogema, Minnesota, and Omahacare in Macy, Nebraska, helped express the United Church of Christ’s historic ministry with Native Americans. Rev. Bertsch reflects, “My years with the board allowed me to become acquainted with so many wonderful people. It was a privilege to serve.”

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Mrs. Jan Baumer, 2002

Mrs. Jan Baumer served one year as board chair, and she and the board continued to focus on providing quality care to both residents and staff. According to Mrs. Baumer, “the professional staff was, and still is, what sets UCH apart from many other retirement and healthcare organizations.” The seamless transition from the management staff to on-site care staff who directly serve the residents continues today thanks to the leadership of Mrs. Baumer and current and former board chairs and members.

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Mr. Roger Cooley, 2003-2004 (in memoriam)

The late Roger Cooley took esteemed pride in his role as board president. It meant a great deal to him to be part of such a significant and diverse group of board members for United Church Homes. Mr. Cooley enjoyed sharing his experiences with his local church and community and spreading the word about UCH and its mission. When traveling to southern regions for housing needs and research, his experiences left him feeling like he was giving residents hope and a new start. Mrs. Lollie Cooley, the widow of Mr. Cooley, recalls her husband having a strong sense of community and unity, carrying UCH’s mission close to his heart: “He was always striving to make a difference and to be that true example for something he believed in.”

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Rev. Virginia Duffy, 2005-2008

Adding life to years was an important piece of Rev. Virginia Duffy’s leadership. Over the years of her tenure, Rev. Duffy had opportunities to visit both long-term care and housing communities, where she experienced the residents to be happy and appreciative of a place they called home; “A place that was safe,” she recalls, “and a place for new friends.” Rev. Duffy also remembers a pleasant staff that cared for and treated residents with the utmost respect and dignity. Board members, along with staff, were committed and excited about United Church Homes’ vision.

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Rev. John Krueger, 2009

Rev. John Krueger served as chair during a time, as he states, “when the very solvency of United Church Homes hung in the balance.” Representatives of the board and key members of the executive staff provided outstanding leadership in righting the ship and overcoming the fiscal hardships during this time. The leadership of Rev. Krueger and the serving board provided a strategy that allowed UCH to emerge from those threats and gain a firm financial footing, heading with confidence into an inviting future. In a crucial time of need, God was there to provide.

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Mr. Robert Kutschbach, 2010-2014

“Integrity” is the word that comes to mind when United Church Homes’ former board chair, Mr. Robert Kutschbach, recalls his tenure. The Board of Directors worked hard to improve the culture of UCH both internally and externally and ensure a bright future for the organization. With everyone committed to the mission of delivering superb care and quality of life to all of UCH’s residents, the true ministry of God is realized. Mr. Kutschbach, reflecting on his tenure, states, “I take great pride in knowing the organization continues to grow in strength and commitment to its mission.”

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Mr. James Henry, 2014-present

Current board chair, Mr. James Henry, credits the outstanding progress of United Church Homes over the years to the incredible people who are a part of its ministry. Staff, volunteers, donors, residents, and board members are all called, led, and inspired by the Spirit and work tirelessly together to fulfill UCH’s mission. When looking to the future, Mr. Henry envisions the following: “I see a future filled with hope and promise for United Church Homes. We are a dynamic organization prepared to meet the challenges of providing innovative, quality care to a growing number of communities in an ever-changing environment. I envision us becoming a recognized and trusted resource and authority on the aging experience. Also, I foresee us sharing our knowledge and partnering with others so that someday all may live in a place where the Spirit creates abundant life in community.”