A Local Church is Reborn in Spirit through its Donation to Embrace Living Communities

Embrace Living residents take advantage of the walking challenge.

When the Congregational UCC of Deerfield, a northern suburb of Chicago, closed its doors in 2016, church members wanted their leftover funds to go to good use. Teaming up with United Church Funds (UCF), they decided to give back to local, UCC-affiliated nonprofit organizations, including those focused on affordable housing and senior health and wellness. This included a $12,000 donation to CHHSM member Embrace Living Communities, based in Oak Brooke, Ill., for its “Let’s Get Moving Together” Initiative.

The “Let’s Get Moving Together” program is designed to increase older adult health and wellness in Embrace Living residents. Through the 12-week campaign, older adult participants engage in educational presentations about healthy cooking and eating, nutrition, and the benefits of physical activity. They also participate in a walking challenge. The gift from Congregational UCC of Deerfield was crucial for the walking challenge, as the church’s gift — along with gifts from other donors — made the event possible. Monies donated are used to provide participants with wearable fitness devices. These devices enable wearers to monitor and measure their physical activity, providing them with a greater sense of control over their health.

After UCF representatives listened to Deerfield members express their vision for the money, they introduced church members to Ralph Gaines, Embrace Living’s CEO. Gaines shared details about the newly formed health and wellness initiative at Embrace Living with the church members. “Embrace Living’s proposal was unique and innovative, and the idea that [Deerfield] would help [older adults] be more connected and healthy, especially during these exceptionally challenging last two years, was important,” said Matt Wagner, UCF’s vice president of institutional relationships.

The Deerfield congregants liked the idea, too. “Embrace Living was a good fit for our support because we were interested in helping nonprofits that provide housing for people in need,” said Harriet Dart, then-associate pastor of the congregation. “Embrace Living’s mission also aligned with our church’s purposes, which includes serving the welfare of our community.”

With the help of donors like Congregational UCC of Deerfield, Embrace Living residents are receiving comprehensive, beneficial older adult health and wellness programming that promotes independence and overall well-being.

Gaines said he is grateful for the generous support of the Deerfield congregation and United Church Funds. “I would like to thank the Congregational Church of Deerfield and United Church Funds for their generous support,” he said. “We believe health and housing are vitally connected, and the well-being of our residents is paramount to building a community environment that residents can call home.”

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