“For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee,” notes the Book of Proverbs. For an Ohio-based provider of senior housing and care services, the attention to duty is not so much an aspect of corporate functions, but an alignment to a spiritual foundation that unites a community in long life, peace and added comforts of care.
United Church Homes is a nonprofit Christian senior housing and health care provider based in Marion, Ohio. United Church Homes is an innovator in personalized care, and serves more than 3,500 residents in 66 communities – making it one of the largest providers of senior living in the country. As a faith-based outreach of the United Church of Christ, the organization’s heritage is one of inclusion, innovation and continued spiritual growth.
United Church Homes was founded in 1916, after Matthew and Jane Smith passed on 168 acres of farmland in Holland, Ohio, to the Toledo Classis of the German Reformed Church. Their aim was to create a “fair haven” for older adults, where their spirits would be celebrated. As the years have passed, the organisation has evolved and adapted to the changes and challenges of the industry, but one thing that hasn’t changed is that celebration of spirit.
“It was almost like it was a broad consensus that United Church Homes is different because of the spirit of our community. Our mission is to address the problems of loneliness, spiritual despair and isolation among the elderly,” says President and CEO Rev. Kenneth Daniel. “We do that by providing communities that are warm and welcoming and full of caring and accepting people.”
Daniel joined the organization in June 2011, having spent the previous 20 years in a variety of positions of responsibility in senior health care and housing services. As a licensed nursing home administrator, Daniel has experience in organizational repositioning, financial stabilization and strategic planning. Prior to joining United Church Homes, Daniel was interim president of Lancaster Theological Seminary. He had also served in senior living facilities in Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
United Church Homes owns and manages eight long-term care and retirement communities throughout Ohio. As one of the largest providers of affordable senior housing in the nation, United Church Homes also provides high-quality, safe and supportive homes for low-income seniors in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia.
Celebrating the spirit
When Daniel first joined United Church Homes, he had a discussion with staff, residents and their family members about rebranding the company. The theme from such discussions, “Celebrating the Spirit,” helped re-focus their efforts as a provider that evokes the spirit of community and friendly atmosphere. It is that “community environment and atmosphere that makes us stand out in the crowd,” Daniel explains.
“Our roots are in the United Church of Christ denomination, which has a long history of being a proponent of civil rights and social justice. We were one of the first to ordain women to the ministry and we have long been on the frontlines of marriage equality for same-gendered relationships,” he says.
Every United Church Homes community is brimming with the hallmarks of home — care, comfort, convenience and choice. Each community features appealing amenities, great food, engaging activities and a genuine spirit of community.
“Our communities can meet a range of lifestyle and health needs,” Daniel says. “These are campuses that have inspired journeys of the spirit for residents and team members alike for nearly a century.”
Also included in each retirement community are chaplaincy programs, which pair the communities’ religious life with spiritual and pastoral care for residents and their families. Last year United Church Homes initiated a program on one of their campuses called Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).
“This is a national program that trains people for professional work as institutional chaplains in health care settings,” Daniel says.
“We hope to be welcoming our first class of students into this program in the summer of 2013. We’re committed to providing training for people in the chaplaincy field so that we can participate in theological education to build up people’s pastoral care, knowledge and skills,” he says.
What also makes United Church Homes a unique care provider is the quality and commitment of their staff and chaplains. Everyone at the organisation is completely focused on the residents and their well-being, says Terry Quinn, director of Quality Improvement. “The chaplains are very involved in the communities and provide spiritual care for any resident in need. It’s really quite exciting when you go in and you can feel it.”
At United Church Homes, Quinn adds, the staff is focused on establishing relationships through their care and dedication. They want people to embrace what they do, and understand that their values and community spirit help change the lives of residents every day. At a recent family meeting, for example, they heard first-hand how their rehab services helped a family recover from a horrific car accident.
“They had this terrible accident and the husband broke his neck in two places. Never did they expect for him to ever walk again, let alone leave the community,” explains Daniel. “She gave this glowing story about how she loves our community. She called her recovery a ‘miracle.’
“Those are the stories for me that potential volunteers and potential donors want to hear about. We have those happening around our system every day,” he says.
An ongoing celebration
At the moment, United Church Homes is looking at diversifying its portfolio in key geographic regions. The company (organization?) sees opportunities to expand its services, particularly in memory care, and is currently looking at a $5 million expansion of its dementia care unit at the Fairhaven Community in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
“As we expand our services in the residential and health care profession, we’re building on a rich commitment to personal and spiritual growth,” Daniel says.
Looking ahead to the longer term, Daniel says that United Church Homes will take advantage of other opportunities to expand its management services to other owners, particularly to free-standing communities and nonprofit organizations in Ohio. UCH is also planning to grow through the acquisition of retirement communities that are looking for the backing of a larger company to provide more resources.
“For nearly 100 years, we’ve been celebrating the spirit of older adults, of our team members and of our communities. In the decades to come, the celebration will continue,” he says.