Messages and Memories

Image of Rev. Dr. Robert G. Diller

From 1945-1954, he served on the Board of Trustees, six years as board president. After nine years as superintendent of the Home for the Aged, he transitioned to executive director in 1963. When Rev. Diller retired in 1976, he was recognized in perpetuity as executive director emeritus.

Rev. Diller took on many roles: administrator, chaplain, public relations officer, editor, admissions counselor, and friend. Eleanor is fondly remembered as a loyal volunteer who served as a dietitian, matron, and housemother.

An explosion of growth occurred under Rev. Diller’s leadership, including Chapel Hill in 1964, Riverview in 1966, new programs and enhancements at Fairhaven in 1960 and 1969, and new programs at Chapel Hill in 1972. Additionally, there was the merger of Altenheim into UCH in 1972, and the building campaigns for Trinity Community and Altenheim in 1974.

Support from United Church of Christ congregations grew under Rev. Diller’s leadership. It was critical to him that United Church Homes adopt the benevolent promise to provide care regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. That commitment was expensive then as it is today, but Rev. Diller was unceasing in his efforts to maintain this vital part of the ministry of UCH.

Rev. Dr. Robert G. Diller faithfully served United Church Homes for over 30 years. When he retired in December 1976, there were five homes instead of one, 800 beds compared to 125, and several new buildings with many new programs developed to care for the elderly.

Rev. Dr. Robert G. Diller passed away January 24, 1999.


Spirit Messages and Memories Rev.C.Philip Laucks

A Message from Rev. C. Philip Laucks,
President and CEO,
1977-1986

The day I accepted Board Chair Dr. Bill Fellers’ call to become the executive director of United Church Homes did not come without thoughtful prayer. My pastor said to me, “Phil, you are never called from, you are always called to.”

During my tenure, it was imperative to tell people in the church of our promise to benevolent care. Because of that consistent message, they were very supportive of our work. I saw my role develop from being the administrator of a single facility, to working in the renovation and expansion of several facilities. The decision to include HUD housing as part of our ministry was an endeavor I was passionate about because I knew this would serve those with great need. Leadership team members who helped to develop our new mission and vision statement that focused on “Wholeness of Mind, Body, and Spirit,” were instrumental in this growth.

In 1979, strategies by our leadership team of Rev. Hal Schoup, Mary Baxter, David Roesch, Rev. Grant McMichael, and Marilyn Shafer resulted in UCH receiving a significant payment of over $255,000 from the Ohio Department of Public Welfare (Medicaid) for a long overdue account receivable. Ron Beach, CPA/MBA; Bruce Pontious; Tom Howard; Tim Hackett; Mark McChesney; and Patricia Polchuk joined our team and helped UCH make significant progress toward our mission of adding life to the years of our residents.

“Always, at the heart of all of the planning were our residents.”

– Rev. C. Philip Laucks

I rallied for significant investments to upgrade accounting systems, employ legal counsel, and hire a national CPA firm to audit our books. Paul Perry of the Arthur Young CPA firm and Forrest Bacon of the Bacon & Bacon Law Firm provided valuable guidance. Their expertise paid significant dividends in the positive growth of UCH.

Always, at the heart of all of the planning were our residents. The work and expansion experienced during the decade of my leadership was the work of a great team. I appreciated Board Chairman Dr. William Feller, Rev. Paul Rohrbaugh, and Rev. Paul Deppen. They were very supportive, open to new ideas, and were fellow clergy that I could go to with any challenges or concerns. Board members including Rev. Dr. Ben Herbster, Dr. Bruce Graham, Rev. John Rainey, Al Wilhelm, Jerry Steiner, Charles Schelle, and Don Hipsher took their responsibilities seriously, asked tough questions, and taught me much about being president.

In the decade of my work, I maintained the determination of my predecessor, Rev. Dr. Robert Diller, to build UCH. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary, I hope we honor the marvelous foundation Bob and his various boards laid, and upon which all of us who followed him have built.

Phil and his wife Barbara reside in South Daytona, Florida. Their three daughters and families live in Key Largo, Florida, and Knoxville, North Carolina. They are blessed with seven beautiful grandchildren.


In Honor and Memory of Alfred A. Wilhelm,
Acting President,
January 1987-July 1987

Alfred A. Wilhelm, a long-time trustee for United Church Homes, served as acting president after Rev. C. Philip Laucks resigned.

As acting president, Al brought over 40 years of experience in financial operations to United Church Homes. He retired from Austin Company in Cleveland, an international construction firm where he served 21 years as vice president of finance and secretary. He was a graduate of Heidelberg College and scored the second highest Certified Public Accountant examination grade in Ohio in 1950.

He served as trustee of United Church Homes and a member of the finance committee beginning in 1966. In 1984, he chaired a successful effort to restructure and revise the charter and code of operations for UCH. He was a trustee for Firelands Retirement Centers, which oversaw the operations of two retirement centers managed by UCH.

Al was a native of Rocky River, Ohio, and he and his wife Frances had six children, nine grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. He was an active community volunteer and a long-time member of West Side United Church of Christ in Cleveland.

Alfred A. Wilhelm passed away on November 13, 2013.


Spirit Messages and Memories Brian S Allen

A Message from Brian S. Allen,
President and CEO,
1987-2011

United Church Homes recruited me in 1987. I felt UCH and I were a good fit, and I looked forward to serving the organization.

There were many financial challenges when I came on board. The UCH community rallied together as we successfully worked through the challenges. I’ve often thought the board hired someone from the “for profit” world to solve the problems. After that, they expected I would move on, or they would replace me with someone from a nonprofit. As it turned out, the match was a good one, and I stayed for 24 years.

I was a member of Christ Episcopal Church in Ironton, Ohio, and the first lay person hired to lead UCH. I respected that fact and made it a priority to become familiar with the United Church of Christ. Consequently, I immersed myself in understanding the United Church of Christ (UCC) and became very involved with Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM), the Ohio Conference, the various UCC associations, and the Benevolent Institutions. I also participated in CHHSM’s Transformational Leadership Program and became recognized as a Diaconal minister.

One of my leadership styles was to hire the right people with the skill sets to solve problems and then allow them the freedom to do their work. I had extreme confidence in my team and relied on them to make smart decisions. One of those experts was Craig Flickinger, recommended to me by a local UCC pastor. Craig became proficient in reimbursement methodology and helped our communities maximize the reimbursements UCH received from Medicare and Medicaid. I also hired Pam White, who was the first female officer at UCH. Cheryl Wickersham was the first woman to head our housing efforts.

As I began my career at UCH, we had no layoffs, implemented a new wage plan, and instituted performance bonuses as we invested in our people. It wasn’t long before we “turned the ship around.” In fact, United Church Homes was the first nonprofit in the country to get Investment Grade bond ratings.

During my 24-year tenure, UCH’s HUD affordable housing grew exponentially, adding 57 communities to this part of our ministry spanning 13 states. We also increased our number of healthcare communities to seven as we acquired Four Winds in Jackson, Ohio, and Patriot Ridge in Fairborn, Ohio. I was always very focused on the people in the communities and knew they were the reason I had a job. It wasn’t about me. It was always about those we served.

I remember philanthropist Ruth Parker, who was a very unassuming lady and unpretentious, but focused on what she wanted. We certainly appreciated Ruth’s partnership with UCH, her hard work, financial commitment, and dedication to bring her dream to fruition.

Several initiatives formed under my leadership, including the annual residents’ art calendar competition, the employee scholarships, becoming a member of the National Association of Geriatrics Association (NAGA), and sending staff to the Disney Institute. Other initiatives included implementing both Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for the benefit of our workforce. I also was very involved with LeadingAge Ohio and served as the chair, as well as on many committees. Our communities became Joint Commission accredited. We received many excellent surveys, partnered with Access Advantage, and became a member of Ohio Health Care Association.

I was most proud of the people we promoted internally including Laura Farrell, Ken Young, Cheryl Wickersham, Ken Keller, Craig Flickinger, and Erin Foos. We didn’t have a formal leadership program; we just stayed involved with our employees.

I remember great board leaders like John Bertsch and Virginia Duffy, who supported my endeavors over the years. As I reflect on my experience at United Church Homes, I believe I was the custodian of the journey and that my job was to be a good steward, take care of things, and leave them better than I found them.

My wish for United Church Homes is that the second century is as successful as the first!

Brian and his wife Judy of 45 years live in Delaware, Ohio, and have two daughters who live in Columbus, Ohio. They are blessed with two grandchildren and enjoy annual family vacations in St. Simon Island, Georgia.