A century ago, Matthew and Jane Smith donated 168 acres in Holland, Ohio, which were sold to fund a retirement home launched by German Reformed congregations in Toledo. The churches had purchased one small home, but knew many more people needed care.
Over the decades, that one home with seven residents has expanded to the present day United Church Homes, which has 68 communities throughout the United States. The organization provides affordable housing and other services to more than 4,000 people, including Haitian immigrants in Florida and Native Americans in Minnesota and Nebraska.
“That is the kind of robust, multi-colored, multi-variable approach that this organization has adopted over the past 100 years that makes it a very vibrant and special ministry,” says the Rev. Kenneth Daniel, president and CEO. “We look forward to building on that heritage.”
More than 250 people are expected to attend the United Church Homes celebration in Columbus July 22-23, which will combine speeches, educational workshops and a worship service.
The organization is one of several CHHSM ministries celebrating major anniversaries this year, including United Caring Services, which began providing transitional housing, pastoral care and job training to the homeless in Evansville, Indiana, 25 years ago.
Champ Homes in Hyannis, Massachusetts, was also launched 25 years ago and today provides homes and other support for formerly homeless youth and adults. Celebrating its 50-year anniversary is Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay, a continuing care retirement community in Florida.
The celebrations are a chance to reflect on both the past and future, says CHHSM President and CEO Michael Readinger.
“It’s not just to celebrate the last 25 years or 50 years or 100 years, but to then turn it around and talk about the promise of the next 25 years, 50 or 100 years,” Readinger says.
He hopes the anniversary celebrations remind member ministries that they are not operating in a vacuum.
“All CHHSM members are part of the passion-driven movement of the health and human services ministries of the United Church of Christ,” he says.
Together, that network employs nearly 60,000 people nationwide.
“The statistic that I am proudest of is that our member ministries provide charitable, uncompensated care each year in the amount of around $700 million,” Readinger says.
The future promises more great work, possibly in areas that we can’t now predict, he adds.
“Our work is never done. We don’t know what the next social justice issue is that may emerge that would direct some new ministries to form.”
Readinger’s July 23 speech for the United Church Homes anniversary ceremony is titled, “What’s Faith Got to Do With It?”
The answer is everything, since it took faith for Matthew and Jane Smith to donate the land for the retirement home a century ago, Readinger says.
“But without really good stewardship, planning, innovative thinking, transparency and trust you would not have the ability to sustain yourself for 100 years,” he adds. “It’s not just faith alone. It’s more than faith.”