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
The 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’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.