Long-time Pilgrim Manor Supporter Challenges Others to Give

Max Doering knows the history of United Church Homes’ Pilgrim Manor better than most. Being a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a board member for decades and having the experience of both his mother and aunt as residents there, give him a broad perspective.

In the early 1960’s, Doering became a board member of the senior living community in Grand Rapids and remained on the board for more than 20 years. He was only supposed to stay for two, according to the rules. When no one came forward to replace him, Max, who was unaware of the term limit, continued to serve.

“It came up at a meeting one day. There were two of us. So we [had to go],” said Max, 92, of Grand Rapids.

While Max is no longer a member of the board, his commitment to the community remains strong. He has been one of Pilgrim Manor’s major donors since 1999. For each of the last four years, he has offered a $50,000 matching gift challenge to the Pilgrim Manor Foundation. His donation and his challenge helped Pilgrim Manor, which was founded by local United Church of Christ churches in West Michigan, meet its fundraising goals and provide benevolent care to its residents who needed support.

Max is also a World War II veteran who was stationed in Japan with the Marines. After the war, Max married his wife, Lois, and raised two daughters. Today, his daughters are grown, and it’s been 12 years since Lois’ passing. Max enjoys spending his time traveling, spending his winters in Florida and going on riverboat cruises throughout Europe. He also plays tuba in a local band.

With good health and fortune, Max said he prefers to remain living at his 7-acre home, but knows seniors who have struggled to pay for housing after they have retired. Max said he hopes his donations inspire others to give to Pilgrim Manor.

“It’s a good place to donate money. I thought they needed help financially. I hope it shakes some of them loose,” Max said.

Max has seen the campus through multiple expansions and remembers when the community provided housing to just 10 to 15 residents in assisted living. Now Pilgrim Manor provides housing for 55 residents in the health center for skilled care and 80 in assisted living.

“I could see the thing ballooning,” Max said.

He said other senior living communities are growing “like crazy” and he expects the number of people who need senior housing to grow as baby boomers age and need additional services.

“[Pilgrim Manor] started out as a nice church-related retirement home. It has gone through some ups and downs, as have other homes. But there is an increasing need for that sort of care,” Max said.

 

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