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Learning is the Strength of Our Community

October 8, 2007

by Larry Zook

Grace Wenger’s, 1994 book on Landis Homes, The First Thirty Years, describes the early founders’ interest in learning from the experiences of other retirement/nursing communities. Early planners like Orie Miller, Frank Enck, Sanford High, Mowery Frey and Ira Buckwalter explored, visited and took photographs of innovative, cutting-edge communities in Lancaster, Lebanon and York Counties as well as two communities in Florida.

Forty-five years later Landis Homes continues to preface action with times of research and learning. We are continuously learning through contacts with our present and future residents, volunteers and staff, as well as community leaders. We also partner with businesses and consultants who incorporate learning into their cultures.

We have heard from current and prospective residents how they value the learning opportunities offered here and look forward to new learning adventures. Support groups and seminars offered on campus and in partnership with other organizations provide information on topics such as aging well, Medicare coverage, advance directives and nutrition. The resident-driven Keenagers computer club provides learning opportunities through regular meetings, and we have supported learning by expanding the Wireless Internet Service across campus-a service similar to that provided on many college campuses-which enables residents to tap into the massive amount of learning and communication opportunities that are available online.

We also enjoy strong relationships with a number of institutions of learning in the area including; Lancaster Mennonite Schools, Hinkletown Mennonite School, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisburg Area Community College, Lancaster General College of Nursing and others. We partner with local providers of lifelong learning seminars such as Quest, a six-week program held at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster. It is a joy to participate in early-childhood learning as well through supporting the children, staff and others by partnering with Hildebrandt, the operators of the Children’s Learning Center at Landis Homes.

We realize that an organization like Landis Homes only grows and learns as its individual employees, residents, volunteers and others engaged in our community life grow and learn. We have, therefore, provided learning opportunities in culture-change and person-centered care throughout the past year and plan to continue in coming years. Learning is enhanced in a team setting, so in September we launched what we hope to be a monthly “Lunch & Learn” series. Staff will meet over lunch and learn about topics such as new trends in elder housing, creation care, campus master planning, and other topics.

The Landis Homes Board of Directors consistently values learning. Board members take advantage of opportunities to learn by attending Board Forums sponsored by the Anabaptist Providers Group, of which we are a member, as well as the Mennonite Health Assembly sponsored by Mennonite Health Services Alliance. The Board also recognizes that the local church and broader community seeks support in learning about health, wellness, finances, and social and other issues relating to aging. Therefore, a Speaker’s Resource List of board and staff members willing to speak to congregations, Sunday School classes, and in other settings has been posted on our web site. See www.landishomes.org for a complete list of topics and speakers. We can also recommend books and video resources.

Learning is the Strength of Our Community and is a natural outgrowth of our journey to this point. Learning helps prepare us to be open to God’s leading now and in the future as we seek his direction through prayer. Thank you for joining in this journey!


Serving Others through Teamwork

September 28, 2007

By Larry Zook
In the past nine months of serving as President at Landis Homes, I have deeply appreciated many wonderful opportunities to meet with residents, staff, family members and business partners who all contribute to fulfilling our mission to honor and enrich the lives of older adults and their families in a community of Christ-like love!
In these nine months, several early impressions continue to stand out:

Landis Homes is a praying community.

Many staff share that the thing they value the most about Landis Homes is the caring, Christian community that embodies our Guiding Values and expresses itself through serving one another in following the example of Jesus.

Our Landis Homes Guiding Values of Compassion, Joy, Creativity, Teamwork, Integrity, Stewardship and Excellence are alive and well! At the same time, work continues this year on refreshing these values. At REC Day 2007 I invited and received helpful suggestions for ways to strengthen a few of the values. The next step in this journey will be being taken at a Landis Homes Board Retreat in November. At REC Day 2008, we will share the refreshed values.

The number one way that staff keep in touch with what residents want is by talking with residents and listening carefully.

Person-Centered Care and Aging in Place continue to be two significant areas of learning that are at the forefront of many staff persons’ minds, as well as residents. We continue to make steady progress in our efforts to move away from an institutional feel toward a more home-like environment.

Communication, Communication, Communication! We can continue to improve in our communication, though I’m excited that progress is being made in this area. You make a difference in supporting communication as you ask who else would value being in the know and be able to do a better job at serving others, and then keeping them informed!

While Landis Homes is a very special community, there will always be areas where we can grow and improve. It is incumbent on us that we always seek to learn, to grow, and to improve from one day, month, and year to the next. We are strengthening our emphasis therefore on being a learning community.

I was reminded recently of our emphasis on serving others and serving one another in teamwork at Landis Homes when I flipped the Chinese art calendar in my office. Since my wife Dawn and I spent two years teaching English in China in the early 1990s, we’ve continued to keep in touch with students in China as well as with Chinese culture.

Each page of the Chinese calendar shares a Chinese Character and how it was formed. September’s character was for the word “Serve”. I close with a heart-felt thank you for your service to others, as well as share the description from the calendar of how the Chinese character “Serve” was developed. Thank you for serving so well!


Passionate Community

July 19, 2007

By Larry Zook
Landis Homes is a passionate community! I believe this passion is expressed in a number of special ways:
Passion for sustaining the strong spiritual and Christ-like nature of the current community, as well as building and enhancing the community in new ways as Linford Good described in the Spring 2007 issue of Horizons. A map showing this new residential living expansion, including the currently projected six hybrid homes providing 12 homes in each building along with enclosed parking on the ground floor, is availble here: Residential Living Expansion Plans

Passion for serving one another, which is expressed in one of our guiding values, teamwork. This value is experienced throughout the community as residents and staff persons pray for each other. It is also seen in the many residents and persons from the broader Lancaster community who give over 50,000 hours of volunteer time within Landis Homes each year. In addition, residents give more than 15,000 hours of volunteer service to organizations such as Mennonite Central Committee and others throughout the local community. The Star Comforters program and the golf tournament are two examples among many!

Passion for learning, which is expressed in our active pursuit of person-centered and resident-directed care. This is a journey of learning new ways of working together, un-learning some former ways, and keeping our focus on our guiding values and our mission which seeks to serve aging adults and their families by honoring and enriching lives in a community of Christ-like love.

Passion to pursue new opportunities, which is expressed in our desire to meet the needs of persons who choose to live as long as possible in their current homes through the newly formed Landis at Home ministry launched earlier this year, as well as our desire to serve persons with varying levels of financial resources. The Landis Homes Board is strongly supportive of these initiatives, and we look forward to exploring and implementing new options for senior living in partnership with others who share this vision.

Passion for strengthening our connections with the church and local congregations. These connections have been very strong since we were founded as a ministry of Eastern Mennonite Missions and Lancaster Mennonite Conference in the early 1960s, and which continue to strengthen through our relationship as an agency of .
Lancaster Mennonite Conference and a conference related ministry of Atlantic Coast Conference. Our hope is that future communications with all congregations of our residents may unleash new partnership opportunities as we seek to support the missional movement within the church.

Landis Homes offers a well-maintained campus located in a beautiful part of God’s creation, surrounded by farmland. I believe even this blessing pales in comparison with the beauty found in this passionate community of God’s people!


Building Community: Seeking to Strengthen Stewardship

June 19, 2007

By Larry Zook
As the Landis Homes Board plans for a strong financial future for Landis Homes, one of the key steps being pursued is the expansion of residential living over the next three to five years. This expansion is being pursued in a way consistent with values of simplicity, durability, and moderation that have been expression of our guiding value of stewardship over the years. This approach has placed building and sustaining community as highest priority.

At the June 6 Residents Association meeting in West Bethany Chapel, we noted that growth is an important part of a healthy community, and since 1995 our growth has come through the repositioning of Healthcare and Assisted Living. We have been moving from a medical model to one that is more home-like. With Cedar and Birch Assisted Living renovations taking place in 2007 and 2008, we will be positioned in meeting the needs of those who benefit from the Healthcare and Assisted Living levels of living.

Now as we move into the expansion of Residential Living by adding 143 cottages and hybrid homes across the stream, we benefit from new revenue that we’ve not seen since 1995 when Harvest View was opened. The new residents joining the Landis Homes community will enable a stronger financial future that will allow for enhancements in the existing community, such as adding a new wellness center and an indoor connection between the Westside and Eastside of campus.

It is exciting to see the teamwork going into Building Community at Landis Homes. As I’ve shared before, when we experience change communication becomes more and more important. If you have any questions or suggestions relating to the Residential Living Expansion Plans at Landis Homes and other efforts going into Building Community while strengthening stewardship, please feel free to contact any member of Management Team (Eva Bering, Linford Good, Allen Heinly, Larry Zook). Thank you!


Vision for Our Community

April 9, 2007

By Larry Zook
Over the past year the Landis Homes Board has been leading in developing an exciting vision for the future of Landis Homes that builds on our mission of being a community of Christ-like love. This work has been grounded in prayer and a desire to build on the strong foundation that has been built over the years by those who have served the Landis Homes community.

This future includes building and enhancing the community at Landis Homes through Master Site Planning. If you have interest in seeing updates on this effort, please visit our website again.

This future also includes a growing community of persons served in their homes who do not live on the Landis Homes campus. On February 12 Landis at Home served its first client in the community, and as of this writing has served persons living within a 15 mile radius of Landis Homes ranging from Salunga, East Petersburg, Lititz, Neffsville, Lancaster City, to New Holland. We welcome working with congregations as well in partnering with them in supporting adult members of any age who have need for in-home services.

Our vision at Landis Homes is to be leaders in SERVING, with the emphasis on serving. Our mission is to be a ministry that “serves aging adults and their families by honoring and enriching their lives in a community of Christ-like love”. We seek to carry out this mission guided by values of compassion, integrity, joy, creativity, teamwork, stewardship and excellence.

With the recent retirement of Ed Longenecker who helped guide Landis Homes for the past 30 years, a new Management Team has formed to help carry out the vision of the Landis Homes Board.

Continuing on the Management Team is Eva Bering, who has assumed a new role of Vice President of Operations. In this role she continues her prior work, as well as supporting the areas of Dining Services, Housekeeping, and Laundry. Also continuing is Linford Good, Vice President of Planning and Marketing, who now also supports the Volunteer Services team.

Joining the Management Team is Allen Heinly, who has moved from Director of Human Resources to Vice President of Human Resources. Sandy Smoker, former HR Manager, has assumed the role of Director of Human Resources. The net effect of these changes is a reduction of one administrative position.

We as a Management Team seek to serve you and the Landis Homes community as we join in “serving one another” as Jesus served by taking the towel and basin and washing the disciples’ feet.

Please feel free to be in touch with us at any time with comments or questions. It is our desire to learn from others as we seek to serve and lead toward the exciting future that will continue to be found in the community that is Landis Homes!


Comments to Lancaster Mennonite Conference

March 18, 2007

By Larry Zook
In the past several months since Ed Longenecker retired as a gifted servant leader, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for several attributes of the community at Landis Homes.

Landis Homes is a community of prayer, where residents, families, board, staff and volunteers seek God’s direction and support each other in prayer.

Landis Homes is a community of serving one another, where our desire is to follow Jesus’ example as he took the towel and basin and washed the disciples’ feet.

Landis Homes is a community with a mission. This mission is to serve aging adults and their families by honoring and enriching their lives in a community of Christ-like love.

Landis Homes is a community guided by values of compassion, integrity, joy, teamwork, creativity, stewardship, and excellence, as we carry out our mission.

Landis Homes is a community with a vision. This vision is currently taking two significant new expressions:

First, the Landis Homes Board desires to keep the retirement community campus vital, and has recently adopted a master site plan calling for exciting new models of residential living apartments and cottages to be built in the coming 3 to 5 years, while seeking to be good stewards of the natural environment and land God has provided.

Second, we have recently launched a new program, called “Landis at Home”, which extends the ministry of Landis Homes by serving adults of any age within their homes.

Landis Homes is also a community deeply rooted in the Mennonite Church. We were started by the Mission Board of Lancaster Conference 43 years ago to serve as a community for retired missionaries, church workers and many others who embrace aging with enthusiasm and seek to remain active in learning and service.

Today, we commit anew to this partnership with the Church. Several examples of this include:

Seeking to serve pastors through annual breakfast learning opportunities, and

Providing services to congregation members living in their homes through Landis at Home, and

Developing a new Speakers Resource list of Board Members and Staff who would be happy to meet with your congregation, Sunday School class, or small group.

We welcome hearing from you how we can best partner with you in fulfilling the mission of your congregation as you seek to follow Christ! Thank you!



Reaffirming Our Guiding Values

March 15, 2007

By Larry Zook
At our all-staff REC Days in March I invited comments about our Guiding Values since it has been about seven years since we first placed them in writing. I really appreciated the good response, which is summarized below. We are also inviting the thoughts of Residents Council members and of Landis Homes Board members, and later this year the Board will review the thoughts shared and perhaps make a few additions or modifications reflecting our current reality. Thank you to each person who shared your thoughts and feelings!


REC DAY 2007 – Staff Feedback

  1. Which value or values do you feel most passionate about, or feel to be most important?

Guiding Value Times Identified

Compassion 77

Teamwork 52

Integrity 40

Joy 35

Excellence 15

Creativity 7

Stewardship 5

TOTAL: 231

  1. Are there any ideas or values that you feel are missing or should be added?

Enhancing security

Stewardship of time


Stewardship of environmental resources

Respecting our heritage

Respect for individuality

Respect for other persons

Valuing and responding to employee concerns and suggestions

Commitment to the Golden Rule

“Not sure what to call the value, but where one’s gift is valued and a place is available to put that gift to use, regardless of age.”





Carefulness of one’s character

Valuing all employees, regardless of role/assignment


Developing self-confidence

Modest dress

Serving / service



An Invitation to Prayer

February 7, 2007

By Larry Zook
In January and February I had the privilege of chatting with many residents, staff and other friends of Landis Homes as I began to serve as Landis Homes’ president. Many of these conversations ended with the assurance that we are a praying community at Landis Homes. We pray for each other, and pray for wisdom in making decisions and for God’s guidance as we plan for the future.

Prayer has been an important part of Landis Homes from the beginning. Resident and author Grace Wenger gives numerous examples of this in the 1994 history of Landis Homes, The First Thirty Years: 1964 – 1994. She describes how new projects at Landis Homes were initiated in prayer, how prayer has been an important part of the hiring decision-making process, and that there are and have been a number of small groups of residents who gather for prayer for Landis Homes and God’s work around the world. Also, many residents feel called to ministries of prayer, and Caring Teams supplement the work of Pastoral Care by praying and caring with other residents who live nearby.

At the start of each year the Landis Homes Board looks ahead and updates our Strategic Plan, charting direction for the next three years. At the January 23, 2007 Board Meeting, Board Member Susan Godshall opened the meeting with a devotional and prayer, focusing on new opportunities which lie ahead. She shared that a new year has begun, Landis Homes has a new president, and new items and programs are on the agenda. Susan invited the Board to reflect where Landis Homes is presently and look to the past to give perspective on where Landis Homes is heading with new initiatives and realities. She shared from Scriptures that in Matthew, Jesus talks about treasures of both old and new. It is good to use treasures of both old and new as Landis Homes looks to nurture its community and care for the aging. Susan read several verses from Lamentations 3, which tells of God’s faithfulness and mercies as we look to Him in the challenges and opportunities of the New Year. She then led in prayer for wisdom as the Board leads Landis Homes into the future.

It is in this same spirit that I invite you to join in prayer for God’s guidance and blessing for the future, including a number of new initiatives that are either underway or soon to be started as part of the Landis Homes Strategic Plan as set forth by the Board. These include:

Landis at Home – the new home and community based service that is reaching out to elders both living at the retirement community at 1001 East Oregon Road as well as to those living in a 10-15 mile radius of Landis Homes.

Campus Master Site Planning – In 2006 the Landis Homes Board began a master site planning process for our campus, which started with focus groups of current and prospective residents, board members, staff and others from the Lancaster community.

What we heard from these persons is that further development of our campus should include the following design objectives:

  1. Connect East and West campus.
  2. Create a campus center or “town square” providing full campus with improved access to events and activities.
  3. Offer additional residential living options, which accommodate aging in place, affordability and land sensitivity.
  4. Preserve natural habitat in woods, stream, pond and meadow areas of campus.
  5. Provide a medical practice center offering services to campus residents and the general public.
  6. Give residents the ability to travel from residences to events and activities in a safe, convenient and pleasant environment.

If you are interested in learning more about the Master Site Plan, please attend the March 7, 2007 Town Meeting held in West Bethany Chapel.

Landis Homes is a community that has sought God’s guidance and direction over the years, and your prayers as well as your counsel and suggestions as we look toward the future are appreciated! Thank you for being part of a praying community!



Supporting Teamwork at Landis Homes

January 27, 2007

By Larry Zook
The transition in leadership at Landis Homes has provided an opportunity to look carefully at how we are structured to best fulfill our mission in light of our values, one of which is Teamwork.

As part of the organizational change, the new Management Team will again include four persons, with Allen Heinly joining as Vice President of Human Resources. I previously covered this HR role in Management Team as VP of Resources, and I’ll continue to be closely involved as President with the financial aspect of Landis Homes, but am valuing Allen’s joining the Management Team in support of both current and new HR initiatives that value each staff person and their contribution to the overall Landis Homes team! This change for Allen leaves open the position of Director of Human Resources, and Sandy Smoker, who has served as HR Manager, will fill this role. I invite you to join in welcoming Allen and Sandy to these new roles!

The organizational chart identifies which Management Team member supports each department. Decisions on oversight were made after speaking with each Department Director, and are rooted in a desire to form teams that support our mission and facilitate communication and natural flow of information. Of the teams I previously supported, Dining Services, Housekeeping and Laundry will join the teams that Eva Bering supports. With this additional responsibility, Eva will see a title change from Vice President of Resident Services to Vice President of Operations. Volunteer Services will join the teams that Linford Good, Vice President of Planning and Marketing, supports. I will support Pastoral Care as well as maintain my involvement in support of Finance and Information Technology.

In addition to the organizational structure as shown on organizational chart, there are many inter-departmental teams on campus which are meaningful as we work together. Examples of these are House Meetings in Healthcare, the Residential Living team meeting, Person-Centered Care meetings, Admissions Meetings, and many others. Eva Bering will be pulling together a similar campus-wide team meeting which includes the persons she supports as well as others whose focus is on serving residents (ie Maintenance and Pastoral Care).

The new organizational structure will take effect on February 4, 2007, and was reviewed and affirmed by the Landis Homes Board of Directors on January 23, 2007.

I believe this new structure, along with the wonderful gift of a committed staff team, as well as God’s blessing, will enable us to do an excellent job in carrying forward our mission of serving aging adults and their families by honoring and enriching their lives in a community of Christ-like love.


What can be learned in a few weeks?

January 1, 2007

By Larry Zook

In the first several weeks of serving as President and CEO at Landis Homes I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet with many residents, staff, family members and business partners of Landis Homes. Several impressions stand out:

  • Landis Homes is a praying community… Residents pray for staff, staff pray for residents, God answers prayer!
  • In my meetings with the 24 members of the Department Directors group, many mentioned that the thing they value the most about Landis Homes is the caring, Christian community that embodies our Guiding Values and expresses itself through serving one another in following the example of Jesus. Many also mentioned appreciation for our close ties to Mennonite and other congregations that are still frequently attended by many residents who are able to do so. The pastoral care provided by and engagement with these congregations is much appreciated as well!
  • Our Landis Homes Guiding Values of Compassion, Joy, Creativity, Teamwork, Integrity, Stewardship and Excellence are alive and well! At the same time, we recognize that it has been five years since these values were identified, and it is a good time to take another look at them, making sure they include everything that we value and are passionate about as we serve in community.
  • The number one way that staff keep in touch with what residents want is by talking with residents and listening carefully.
  • Two significant growth areas that are at the forefront of many staff person’s minds, as well as residents, are our move toward person-centered care, sometimes described as consumer driven choice, and aging-in-place. Whether the discussion occurs in Management Team, Department Directors Meeting, or in Caring Team Leaders Meeting, we are in serious and meaningful dialogue as to how we move away from an institutional feel toward a more home-like environment.
  • Also on the mind of many staff are our new community outreach efforts, including an expanded Adult Day Services Eden West Center, the new Landis at Home service, and other opportunities as they may arise in the future as we expand our Home and Community Services efforts in response to direction from the Landis Homes Board of Directors, as well as a growing community interest in these services.
  • While Landis Homes is a very special community, I also sought and received many good suggestions for change and improvement! An organization that reaches a pinnacle of success is soon heading downhill, so it is incumbent that we always seek to learn, to grow, and to improve from one day, month, and year to the next. Several areas of needed improvement identified include providing more growth and learning opportunities for staff, finding ways to strengthen communication, and doing a better job at facilitating decision-making, including finding new ways to empower both staff in decision-making as well as to engage residents in making decisions that impact resident life at Landis Homes.

These items are only the tip of the iceberg of learning that has come my way and will be coming in future weeks. I welcome walking this learning journey with you, so feel free to write me a note, give a call (ext 3561, or 381-3561), or share your ideas and dreams for the community that is Landis Homes with me or any other member of the staff team. It is truly our privilege to “serve one another” at Landis Homes.


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