Advertisement
Click here for General Assembly coverage

Mission-driven leadership in service to older adults

Why does someone serve as a board chair of a faith-based senior housing and services organization, making the necessary time commitment to help the organization thrive? What makes board chairs tick? In other words, what motivates them to give so willingly of their time and talents to member communities and services of the Presbyterian Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (PAHSA)? We posed some questions to the following board chairs, who have served with distinction around the country:

  • Henry Johnson, trustee and former board chair, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan; vice president emeritus, University of Michigan

  • Philip E. Miller, board chair, Presbyterian Senior Living, Dillsburg, Pa.

  • Robert Dunbar, board chair, Presbyterian Homes & Services, St. Paul, Minnesota

  • Harry Pettit, board chair, Florida Presbyterian Homes, Lakeland Fla.

195-02-cover.jpgHere’s what we learned:

Describe the mission and ministry of your organization?


Johnson:

Our mission is to serve seniors of all faiths and create new possibilities for quality living. Presbyterian Villages of Michigan spans hundreds of miles: from the beautiful shores of Harbor Springs to the elegant skyline of Detroit. More than 3,500 seniors living in 25 villages enjoy a wide variety of residential living options and services. Since 1945, we’ve been creating opportunities for senior citizens of all faiths to embrace the full possibilities of their lives.


Miller:

The mission of Presbyterian Senior Living is to offer Christian understanding, compassion and a sense of belonging to promote wholeness of body, mind and spirit. PSL provides affordable housing, independent living, personal care, and nursing care to more than 5,000 residents at 24 campuses in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio. Care for at-risk seniors living in their own homes is also provided through Everyday LIFE (known also as a PACE program) in a designated service area in eastern Pennsylvania.


Dunbar:

The mission of Presbyterian Homes & Services is to enrich the lives of older adults through services and communities that reflect the love of God.


Pettit:

Our mission statement says: “Florida Presbyterian Homes provides compassionate, personalized continuing care and service of the highest quality, consistent with our Christian heritage.” At its founding in 1955, FPH was dedicated as a place where seniors can live in Christian community, and that principle carries through to today. At the recent dedication of our new assisted living facility, we were reminded that “we are a community called by God to live and work together in Christian fellowship.”

How did you become involved in this work?


Johnson:

I was nominated by a member of the PVM board and further encouraged to seriously consider membership by my wife. She directs the Area Office on Aging for Northwest Ohio.


Miller:

In the late 1980s, the pastor of the church to which I belonged resigned to become the chief executive of Presbyterian Homes in the Presbytery of Huntingdon (PHPH). PHPH, at the time, provided independent living, personal care and nursing care from three locations in central Pennsylvania (a fourth PHPH campus was developed in the 1990s). I was subsequently offered an opportunity to serve on the board of PHPH. I served on this board, on and off, until 2004 when the decision was made to affiliate with PHI (or PSL as we are now known). In 2006, I was invited to serve on the PSL board and became board chair in 2012.

 

Dunbar:

I was serving on the board at Northwestern College, (Roseville, Minn.) when it purchased the property adjacent to the campus and built two senior residences. Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) provided the management services. Over time it became obvious to the college board to transfer ownership to PHS. Through this I got to know the leadership of PHS. When my term on the college board was finished in 2003, I was asked to join PHS board. Altogether I’ve had 20 years invested in the work of PHS.


Pettit:

A friend that I know from his time as interim pastor at our church was on the board of FPH and he asked me to consider serving. Many friends and acquaintances from our church congregation live at FPH, and the time seemed right to get involved in this ministry.


Why do you invest your time in these ministries?


Johnson:

It is one way I give back my time and talents to a worthy cause. It is also a visible and tangible witness of God’s grace and gifts through me to the recipients of our services and housing


Miller:

Initially, I viewed my service on the PHPH board as a way I could contribute to the community and to my church. However, it became more personal when, in 2000, my mother required nursing care and was admitted to a faith-based organization that provided care in the way it was provided by PHPH. She spent the last seven months of her life being cared for by persons who tried, each day, to make her life better. I saw first-hand the difference this made in her life and I knew that I was in a position to make sure others would receive similar care.


Dunbar:

PHS leadership looks at its business, not just as a housing organization, but as mission. I find this is the perspective of most of the people who work for PHS. They are doing this because they want to work in mission. They view seniors as a group of people to serve. I felt a calling by the Lord to be a part of that mission.


Pettit:

I believe that God calls each of us to be involved in ministry, and finds ways of using the talents we have been given and the life experiences we have had. Once introduced to the people, the mission, the goals, the aspirations and the unfailing dedication to excellence in service to both the current and future generations of seniors, there can be no resistance. This has been some of the most rewarding work I have ever done.

How have you been blessed by your service to this organization?


Johnson:

Each day I wake up knowing that because of our efforts, seniors are safe, secure and served by staff and volunteers who are also committed to our mission. I know also that doing what I do is a part of God’s plan for me. Such knowledge helps to sustain me in faith and purpose.


Miller:

I feel especially blessed when I have seen or heard directly that what we say in our mission statement has been achieved. This has occurred on many occasions during visits to our campuses when residents have commented on how grateful they are for the opportunity they have to reside where they do, or for the care they are receiving. Secondly, I have seen it first-hand. Through an outreach program of First Presbyterian Church, I also have a “Fellowship Friend” who is a resident of the PSL campus in Hollidaysburg, Pa., where I reside. I have been visiting this gentleman for a year and a half, have gotten to know him and have been able to see how he benefits from the care he receives. Additionally, the men and women with whom I serve on the PSL board are all wonderful and caring individuals from diverse backgrounds but who share a commitment to PSL and to serving seniors.


Dunbar:

I’m a senior myself, so I look at it somewhat selfishly. What I find most rewarding is that most of my friends and others will tell me they have a parent who lives in a PHS community. They are so impressed with PHS [and] are so pleased that their loved one is living in a community that has this level of care. I feel most blessed by the comments I hear from people most special to me.


Pettit:

The list of blessings is long. I think the greatest blessing is in the relationships with residents, our executive director and staff and other board members. Anyone who is familiar with FPH will tell you it is a very special place, filled with amazing people. Residents and staff let us know that they appreciate what the board does. In the words of the gospel hymn, “there’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place.” My service on the board has spanned the latter stages of my active business life and the early years of my retirement.

Conferences sponsored by PAHSA, and Leading Age Florida and the national Leading Age Conferences have been educational and inspiring. Experienced leaders and counterparts in other organizations are generous with advice and are willing to share their successes and failures, which has been very encouraging.

 

How have others been blessed by this organization?


Johnson:

I firmly believe in the adage, “you shall know them by their works.” It is through our works that we find validation for our existence. Such blessings validate our stewardship and encourage us to be servant leaders in all of our undertakings.

 

Miller:

PSL becomes a part of each community we serve. In addition to the meaningful employment opportunities that are provided, we work within the community to contribute in material ways. Many who are served by PSL have exhausted their financial resources and their care is subsidized with PSL benevolent care funds. These persons are able to live the last years of their lives without worry in a safe and loving environment. We benefit from thousands of hours of volunteer service each year. These efforts not only benefit our residents, but the volunteers themselves derive great satisfaction from their service.


Dunbar:

I think of two groups:

  • Those who are residents: the way they are treated. Older adults can be non-appreciative and sometimes demanding. My own mother (who lived in another senior living community) was this way. Her experience gave me sensitivity to how PHS operates. I think we do a better job than most. The individuals living in PHS are blessed to receive care, concern, love and commitment other than from their family.

  • Those who have responsibility to care for their parents or loved ones know that they are in good hands and being cared for by compassionate and skilled people. It’s an opportunity to express their appreciation.

We in the Twin Cities area are very fortunate to have PHS. It sets the bar high and has grown significantly. PHS has opened some of the finest senior housing communities in our region. It’s a good thing for not only those who live with us, but also for other older adults because PHS has set the standard.


Pettit:

In addition to the obvious blessings to residents, who live in a safe, nurturing, loving community, their families enjoy peace of mind, knowing the quality of personalized care FPH offers. Many employees and staff find a sense of purpose and fulfillment (beyond the obviously important paycheck) working in this special environment.



LYNN ALEXANDER is vice president of public affairs, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan.


While we upgrade our site, you may experience difficulty posting a comment.  If you are unable to submit on a comment via the online form, please e-mail it to letters@pres-outlook.org” target=”_blank”>letters@pres-outlook.org




LATEST STORIES

Advertisement