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An Enduring Heritage and Expanding Mission

November 17, 2013

Landis Homes Board and Staff gathered on November 14 for a Staff Banquet.  The evening included a great meal at Yoder’s in New Holland and recognition of staff reaching employment anniversaries in five year increments, this year from 5 to 40 years.  Since we are approaching our 50th Anniversary of welcoming our first residents on February 18, 1964, I shared comments on “An Enduring Heritage reflecting on the way we have seen God at work over these past 50 years.

John Eby, Board Chair for Landis Homes and our umbrella organization, Landis Communities, also shared about our Expanding Mission into the future, building on our strong heritage.  John’s comments are shared below.

An Expanding Mission – by John Eby 

One of the things I enjoy about going to national conferences is hearing the impressions others have about Landis Homes. At the Leading Age conference several weeks ago, I talked to the people who do our surveys of staff and resident satisfaction.  Spontaneously she complimented us for showing up at the top of their surveys.  One of the other vendors commented that she enjoys working with Landis Homes and that from what she sees we have a very good program.

Of course I am happy to accept their compliments on your behalf since it is your commitment and quality work that earns them.

I speak for both Landis Communities and Landis Homes Boards in expressing our appreciation and thank you.

It is tempting to think of our mission to be providing a nice place for aging people to retire and to receive special care they might need and to die a comfortable death.  

In fact, though, we do these things, that does not come close to describing what we do.    Our web site says, “The ministry of Landis Homes is to serve aging adults and their families by honoring and enriching their lives in a community of Christ-like love.”

The key is “honoring and enriching lives” and we have done that by providing a community in which that happens.  You as staff and volunteers have done it well

Today there are about 40.4 million Americans over the age of 65.  In 2030 that number will expand to 72.1 million. 1 of every 8 Americans now is over the age of 65.

When a person reaches age 65 they are expected to live 20 more years.  27% of persons not living in institutions live alone.  Nearly 75% of women 75 and older live alone.

What the statistics hint at but don’t totally reflect is the incredible change in the life styles and expectations of aging people.  When our youth group some 60 years ago sang  at what we then called old peoples’ homes my image was that they had a particular odor and that people who lived there were senile, bored and waiting to die.  I told Larry that if I ever encounter that odor at Landis Homes he is going to be in deep trouble!  That image was not true then and is totally false now. But you know that. You are the change that has occurred.

Now the kind of people we serve at Landis Homes enter retirement, if they retire at all, with a level of expectations similar to those they would have when entering a new job. They are looking for opportunities, for enrichment and for meaningful ways to contribute to society with their more flexible schedule.   Even those with special needs want to be challenged and want to participate in enrichment activities and to serve others.

Unfortunately the opportunity to think that way is not possible for many because they do not have financial resources. A poverty index that is more nuanced than the one we often use suggests that nearly 16% of people over age 65 live in poverty.  Mollie Orshansky who first defined the poverty line many years ago when she worked for the Department of Agriculture defined is as “a minimally decent standard of living,” basically the level of income a family or person needed to have a place to live, clothes to wear, and food to eat, very little more.

This changing context is what motivated the development of Landis Communities.

There will always be a need for communities like Landis Homes, and we want to be on the cutting edge of responding to that need. We intend to continue doing it well and at high quality.   But we also want to “honor and enrich” the lives of the majority of older people who for a variety of reasons choose other options. One person who knows the field suggested that as many as 75% of residents of Lancaster County  cannot afford a Continuous Care Retirement Community like Landis Homes.  Other older people prefer to stay in their homes and neighborhoods.  Others prefer to be integrated into urban communities with a full range of ages and activities and all the social and cultural and commercial activities of a lively urban setting.  Some have special needs and require medical care or help with housekeeping or personal care.  Most do not. 

We don’t know what Landis Communities will become any more than the founders of Landis Homes could have envisioned what Landis Homes is now. As they did nearly 50 years ago, we with the formation of Landis Communities have taken the first steps in a journey of faith. 

We are in somewhat the same place Abram later called Abraham was in the story in Genesis 12 and 13.  He and his family were settled and comfortable and doing well in Haran.   He was 75 years old.   Remember what I said about older people wanting new challenges?  The Lord spoke,  “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to a land that I will show you!”   

We don’t know yet what land God will show Landis Communities.  In a way we are in the same place that a trapeze artist is between the time she lets go of her swinging bar and has not yet been caught by her partner.

We have started a journey not knowing totally where it will take us.  We have let go of the security that we have in doing what we know and understand to take on new challenges with a significant learning curve.

In closing let me suggest some of the things that I sense will be part of our explorations.  These are my thoughts, not an official statement from anybody.

1.  We will continue our fundamental commitments to be a mission of the church. We will not change our calling to be “Jesus Christ in Street Clothes.” You will remember that as an acronym using the first letters of our values statement.

2.  Program forms may vary greatly. The CCRC model meets some needs and interests, but we will explore other models of service. Steeple View Lofts does not carry the promise of continuous care and bases rentals on market rates. There are a number of exciting models emerging in the industry,  a continuous care model where people stay in their own homes rather than moving to a facility, co-housing where families form a form of intentional community,  community based support services, home care, etc. Only our creativity limits what innovative and creative new models might be possible.

3.  We want to expand our ministry to population groups who do not fit the CCRC model, giving special consideration to people with lower incomes.  Welsh Mountain Homes has found a way to do this and is building a new facility using tax credits to do this. Landis Homes never was exclusively “by and for Mennonites” but the majority of our residents are related to Mennonite congregations. The programs of Landis Communities will serve a broader group.

4.  We will work with partners rather than doing projects alone.  We do not have all the capital nor all the expertise we will need.  Combining our vision and resources with the resources of others opens expanded possibilities. Steeple View Lofts partners with the development expertise and capital of Zamagais. We also have significant expertise that we can share with others who need it.

5.  We will take risks, but they will be risks we understand and know we can handle. Part of the new structure is designed to allow us to take risks in some areas yet protect other areas.

The mission statement of Landis Communities is:

“Following God’s call to creatively serve the diverse needs and interests of older adults by developing opportunities and collaborative relationships.”

As Larry outlined in his earlier comments this evening so well, Landis Homes has throughout its history responded to a changing context and emerging needs.  We build on that tradition and strength with the formation of Landis Communities. 

Only God knows for sure where that will lead!   I hope you all can feel the excitement and challenge of being part of that journey.


Living more fully…

September 27, 2013

Over the years we as a Landis Homes community have been enriched by meditations shared by board members, residents, staff and others at the start of many of our meetings and other gatherings, such as staff and volunteer team member appreciation events.  Beth Rohrer, who is completing 11 1/2 years of service as Director of Residential Living and joining her husband’s business this fall, shared the below meditation at the start of the Landis Homes Board Meeting on September 24, 2013.  She reflects on her experience at Landis Homes.

Reflections for Board Meeting 9/24/13

In preparing reflections as Director of Residential Living I have focused on the many aspects of LIVING and what that has meant for me and has hopefully been for residents in my time at Landis Homes.  We are called to LIVE as Christ LIVED, experiencing the fullness of LIFE only through HIM.

I feel that persons choose Landis Homes to continue to LIVE, and our ability to enhance their LIVING experience need be our greatest calling.  Whether they have only days or decades with us, their LIVING experience is where we are called to support and enrich their lives.

They come with varying degrees of vitality but each with a story, a heritage and a history that can only improve our present day.

I have been able to LIVE more fully through being at Landis Homes finding

  • inspiration from a visionary board,
  • motivation from a gifted leadership team and
  • great joy in serving alongside fabulous residents and wonderful team members

My desire has been to help residents and their families LIVE more fully by their being part of Landis Homes.

Serving as director and reflecting on our logo has often reminded me that the higher the position the greater the service.  Christ reminds us In Mark 10:43-45 that ”whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Much has been given me, with the opportunity to serve and lead with influence in my position, but far more has been returned to me as I have served as director.  The opportunity to serve alongside and learn from residents has been incredible.  The gifts they bring, their wisdom, their guidance, their encouragement and their faith walk LIVED out has been a LIFE GIFT to me as I served.

The need to learn, as a nurse, how to run a grocery store and gift shop, and how to reorganize and computerize a library has been humbling!  But wonderful all the while in serving with gifted persons.

I have been

  • touched when I ‘ve been reminded that I was covered with the prayers of residents who often say    “I prayed for you this morning” as I pass them in the hallway

I have been

  • enriched with  stories of those who have served within and beyond our borders in God’s work and calling on their lives

I have been

  • amazed to learn of the hundreds of residents who continue to serve, with vigor and  vitality or of those who continue to serve  within their own  frailty.

And I have been

  • influenced by the rich experience of true  community where residents and team members live and serve together

Team members at Landis Homes have the unmatched gift of serving and learning from residents who bring a legacy, from their LIFE of great work and service as

  • educators
  • factory workers
  • administrators
  • farmers
  • pastors
  • business men and women
  • physicians, nurses, social workers
  • craftsmen
  • missionaries
  • housewives
  • counselors
  • veterans
  • authors
  • and the list goes on and on

Team members enrich the LIVING experience of these residents in innumerable ways ….some of the most memorable for me…….exemplifying the towel and basin are witnessed moments where

  • Residency Planning – welcomes a new resident with excitement who was once her bus driver as a little girl…but  soon after his welcome cries with him in the recent, tragic loss of his wife
  • Maintenance men moving a refrigerator through the hallway to an apartment, but taking the time to stop and tie the shoe of a resident
  • Housekeeping taking the time to look for lost keys, lost handbags and offer consolation through singing as they search
  • Dining team members down on one knee at the table for a resident unable to look up from her frail condition, offering choices and sharing a laugh as they serve her with dignity
  • Life Enrichment persons boarding the bus at the last minute with a wheelchair in tow to ease the anxieties of others on the bus, while offering opportunity for a resident to get out and enjoy an experience with ease and support
  • Pastoral Care ministering at bedsides and at home with residents. And listening beyond these moments with support groups and a listening ear to persons separated on campus and experiencing loss of a spouse.
  • Receptionists helping new residents find their way back to their new home, encouraging with them with stories of how she got lost when she was new here and still does from time to time
  • Social Workers wading through piles mail, insurance claims and paperwork to ease the anxieties and support residents and their POAs.
  • Landis at Home arriving to meet the needs on the scripted care plan only to stop and take the time to read a piece of mail to a client who can no longer see to read
  • Nurses responding to emergencies who often pray with residents as they wait for the ambulance
  • Gift Planning listening to the stories of donated treasures and the history of the keepsake given to auction
  • Empty rooms reserved by team members as the snow falls, committed to staying through the storm to help in any way they can
  • Laundry team members taking the time to sit on the edge of a bed to explain new procedures and labeling of clothing
  • Finance explaining billing procedures and invoices with great patience and poise
  • Mail Delivery team serving in wind sleet snow rain and sunshine, sorting and delivering thousands of items and pounds of packages and parcels throughout campus
  • And grounds team riding, mowing, blowing, shoveling scraping and  maintaining over 100 acres of God’s incredible creation

These are only a few the LIVING experiences that have richly blessed my LIFE and time at Landis Homes.

And Landis Home will forever remain a community where LIFE can be LIVED and enjoyed and honored and I pray God’s blessing on you as you continue to govern and guide, consult and counsel as a board.

Beth Rohrer


Living Where One Prefers

August 6, 2013

By Larry Zook, President/CEO

While at Landis Homes or driving throughout Lancaster County, an observant person may notice a small, boxy car with a Landis At Home logo on the side.  Jan Bobin, Director of InHome Services, and her team, use this vehicle as they visit the apartments, cottages and hybrid homes providing reliable, cost-effective care to both residents living on campus as well as to clients who live within a 15-mile radius of Landis Homes.

This less costly alternative to moving from one’s home to a personal care or healthcare location, is in line with our guiding value of stewardship.  Not only are residents and clients provided with the most appropriate level of services, but they are also making the best stewardship choices with their assets.

A personalized plan is made for each person, which may include support with bathing, dressing, grooming, medications, housekeeping, companionship or transportation. Additional support can also be provided during times of rehabilitation to help speed recovery time. Supportive visits can be scheduled for as little as 15 minutes at a time on the Landis Homes’ campus or round-the-clock as needed.

Pets make great company and provide a sense of well-being. However, the duties involved in keeping a pet can be too much when individuals are recovering from illness orrecent surgery. Landis at Home team members can assist with feeding, walking and other tasks for a pet so the owner can still enjoy their furry companion.

One recent client and a team member spent an enjoyable afternoon planting a flower garden. When they were finished, they went for ice cream.  They now go for ice cream regularly, after checking on the garden’s progress!

Landis At Home continues to be an important part of the work of Landis Communities.  New residents at Steeple View Lofts in Lancaster are already inquiring how they might access these services so they can live independently for as long as they desire in the comfort of their new homes. Jan and her team are happy to provide more information about Landis At Home and how they can assist persons, both on and off campus, to live where they prefer for as long as possible.

Readers can find out more at www.landisathome.org or by calling 717-509-5800.


Remembering Curt Johnson

July 10, 2013

Curt and Ruth Johnson with Ed Longenecker, former CEO of Landis Homes

Over the nearly 50 years that Landis Homes has welcomed and served residents, there have been many persons who have served faithfully and generously in honoring and enriching the lives of residents and families, motivated by the desire to be a community of Christ-like love.  One of these persons, Curtis Johnson, also known as Curt, has known Landis Homes for more years than many.

As noted in the below summary of excerpts from the history of the first thirty years of Landis Homes authored by A. Grace Wenger, Curt began his involvement as a volunteer in the late 1960s before joining staff in 1971.  He continued employment into the 1990s as a key assistant to Administrators George Leaman and Ed Longenecker until his retirement, and eventual move to Landis Homes as a resident.  On Monday evening, surrounded by family in a community that he knew well for 45+ years, Curt entered his heavenly home.

I am grateful to Curt and Ruth for their generous service over the years, and invite you to join me in remembering the Johnson family in your thoughts and prayers as they lay to rest a beloved husband, father and grandfather.

Mentions of Curt & Ruth Johnson in A. Grace Wenger’s First Thirty Years history:

By the fall of 1965 more than half of the twenty-nine residents required some medical attention; two of them were bed patients. When the nursing Unit D opened in 1969, eighteen residents transferred from Unit A, one from B, and eighteen more were admitted. Ruth Johnson, who was employed in 1968 while Unit D was being built, organized the skilled care unit. Her husband, Curtis, who had many contacts with suppliers of medical equipment because of his experience as purchasing agent for Bethany Hospital in Chicago, assisted George Leaman and Ruth in buying supplies and equipment for the new unit. He wisely recommended buying steel bedpans instead of the cheaper plastic; they are still in use, whereas plastic would have had to be replaced many times in the past twenty-five years. Curtis gave voluntary service, freely offered before his employment as administrative assistant.

Landis Homes became a family project for the Johnsons. When Ruth had to work on Sunday, Curtis took their baby son, Alan, to church and then brought him to Landis Homes at noon. When the little boy grew older, he began to run errands for the nurses and even helped to feed residents. Ruth was amused to see a resident lift the four-year-old to a chair so that Allen could feed the woman’s husband. Soon a little daughter, Beth, also felt at home in the nursing unit. Before long, she too was helping the nurses, wearing a candy striper’s apron made by her mother.

Curtis Johnson, who was employed as bookkeeper in the autumn of 1971, became administrative assistant the following January. Before long, both Curtis and George were making quarterly reports to the Advisory Committee. Courtesy, helpfulness and a quiet sense of humor soon made Curtis popular with residents and staff. When asked whether he was related to President Lyndon Johnson, he replied, “I think I am because I’m sure the Lord didn’t think enough of the Johnsons to make two sets of them.”

From 1968 to 1971 Ruth Johnson served as Director of Nursing, responsible for hiring, orienting and scheduling employees on the nursing staff. When she wanted to spend more time with her children, Barbara Cooper, who joined the staff in 1969, took her place, serving from 1971 to 1978. Ruth continued to be available to fill in as needed, writing policies, assisting with orienting new staff, and providing training for all nursing assistants. Landis Homes recognized the need for training assistants many years before 1987, when the state mandated a training program for nursing assistants.

In 1979, Ruth again became the Director of Nursing. Her responsibilities grew as Landis Homes grew, and as federal and state requirements became more demanding. Writing policies, educating staff, making changes to be more efficient, involving other departments in enhancing the well-being of residents– these were some of her many responsibilities. Today (1994), with twenty-six years of service to her credit, Ruth continues to direct the program, ably assisted by Barbara Cooper and Ethel Caldwell. Another long-term nurse, Rachel Brubaker, came in 1965, and continues to work today.

Summer of 1963

July 5, 2013

by Larry Zook, President/CEO

As we approach the 50th Anniversary of welcoming the first residents to Landis Homes on February 18, 1964, and look back to events happening at this time 50 years ago, we see a quickening of the pace of work. By the summer of 1963, the 10-member Retirement Home Planning Committee was preparing for its 12th meeting on July 5, 1963.

At the July Planning Committee Meeting, chairman Frank Enck called on Adam Martin to lead devotions. Adam read verses from I Cor. 4, Luke 9 and Psalms 37, stressing faithfulness, before leading in prayer. Of our ten founders and their spouses, Martha Martin, widow of Adam, is the only surviving member at the age of 103, and resides at Menno Haven in Chambersburg. It was a privilege to travel there last year, along with John Buckwalter, son of founder Ira Buckwalter, to visit her. Martha reminisced about traveling with Adam from their home in Maryland to Lancaster to attend Planning Committee meetings.

The first agenda item in the July 5 meeting was a report by Ira Buckwalter on a course he attended on “Organization and Administration of a Home for the Aged”. Highlights of his learning that he reported to the Planning Committee were:
a) A home should not be too large–probably 50 to 200 residents.
b) The board should determine policies but not administrate.
c) Women’s auxiliaries can assist in many ways.
d) The best way to raise funds is by a professional fund raiser.
e) The supervisor is the key person. He must be qualified for the job, age is not too important. A good young man could be preferable.
f) It is important to watch setup so that tax exemption can be maintained.

Ira also shared a detail report on progress being made in a number of areas, including the May 1st farm transfer from Viola and Catherine Landis to Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions, work to create a pond near the farm, and a variety of efforts including well drilling, floor coverings, selection of brick for the building now called Aspen, central vacuum system, kitchen and laundry design.  Construction costs and progress were 30 percent complete as of mid-June, with invoices totaling just over $50,000.

The report by Ira Buckwalter also included updates on prospective staff and prospective residents, referred to as “guests”. The prospective guests included four persons: two women and a couple.

The Planning Committee agreed to begin meeting monthly for the next several months, and appointed new committees to focus on Publicity & Promotions, Development of Staff & Admissions, and Decorations & Furnishings.

The group also discussed the relationship of the Planning Committee with the Mission Board, and while the operating structure was not finalized, the Planning Committee was described as a development group that was responsible to the Mission Board.

The next meeting of the Planning Committee was held on August 6, 1963, and minutes of the meeting identified the meeting location as “Landis Homes” for the first time.

Mission, Serving and Strength

May 17, 2013

For an organization to remain strong and vital, it needs to always reflect its stated mission. For Landis Homes that means keeping in mind, “The ministry of Landis Homes is to serve aging adults and their families by honoring and enriching their lives in a community of Christ-like love.” We do that by striving to live out our values of Joy, Compassion, Integrity, Stewardship, and Community.

In 2011, as it looked through these lenses, the Landis Homes board developed the LandisCommunities organization which is designed to guide not only the work of Landis Homes, but additional services as well. We often talk about Landis Communities as the “umbrella” organization. It serves as the handle and wire structure, if you will, designed to allow the different organizations making up Landis Communities function their best.

Landis Communities has as its mission, “Following God’s call to creatively serve the diverse needs and interests of older adults by developing opportunities and collaborative relationships.” Through the organizations making up Landis Communities, this vision is growing. On January 1, 2013, we saw Welsh Mountain Home become a new affiliate of Landis Communities. This personal care home in New Holland, Pa., has a shared history and heritage with Landis Homes and provides quality care to residents, many of whom have limited resources. They are also seeking to build additional rental apartments for those 62+ in age who have less than median incomes to address one of the most urgent needs for housing in Lancaster County.

In addition, Steeple View Lofts, designed as loft apartments in downtown Lancaster, Pa., are nearing completion. Interested people are signing leases with first move in dates slated for June. These are rentals with access to another part of the Landis Communities umbrella which provides home services. Landis At Home provides reliable personal care and support services in the privacy of clients’ homes in short blocks of time.

We continue to investigate additional opportunities to collaborate with others to fulfill the vision of serving people throughout the need and financial capabilities spectrum. While each of these segments of Landis Communities is guided by their own boards and has their own finances, the “backbone” of belonging to Landis Communities helps strengthen them all. Please be in prayer for all of these parts of one ministry to serving older adults and others.





Looking Forward to our 50th — Spring of 1963

April 12, 2013

By looking back to what was happening 50 years ago leading to the founding of Landis Homes, we can learn much about Landis Homes today, and possibly see a bit of our future. Recently, Landis Homes Board Chair John Eby shared from a sermon, entitled, “Looking Back Gives Courage to Look Ahead”, based on 2 Samuel 7:18. In this passage, King David, sat before the Lord, and asked, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” 

As a community, we can also be grateful for the many persons who have helped build on strong foundations over the years, and most of all, be grateful to the Lord who has brought us thus far. In this glimpse back, we are looking at happenings during the spring of 1963.

In Spring of 1963, the Retirement Home Development Planning Committee was firming up plans for Landis Homes’ first buildings; the quadruplex cottages at the East Entrance and Unit A, today known as Aspen. Supporting these plans were the Mission Board Executive Committee and the joint meeting of the Lancaster Conference Bishop Board and Mission Board.

1963 Brochure

This set the stage for new work, including publicity efforts to communicate the vision to “keep in mind our vision of creating a ‘community’ rather than the traditional old people’s home facility,” as Frank Enck put it.

Ira Buckwalter, who as a member of the planning group also served as lead staff person via his role at the Mission Board, worked with Omar Eby in the Mission Board’s publicity office, in the preparation of a brochure. Five thousand copies were printed and distributed to Deacons of Lancaster Mennonite Conference congregations. The Mission Board further supported the effort by publishing articles in several issues of their magazine, Missionary Messenger. Lester Wenger and Frank Enck, both members of the Planning Committee, also joined Ira Buckwalter in making contact with area congregations for the purpose of acquainting them with the project and its objectives.

Recently while visiting the archives of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, 50th Anniversary Committee member Lowell Detweiler and I found an original copy of this brochure, pictured above.




Landis Homes Residents Support International Efforts

April 9, 2013

By Larry Zook
Landis Homes President/CEO

Last November I had the privilege of joining representatives from Mennonite Partners in China and Mennonite Health Services Alliance in spending ten days in China consulting with churches who have begun, or plan to open retirement homes in China.  We also visited church sponsored retirement homes in several cities.  Residents of Landis Homes were actively involved in this effort through covering my transportation costs, with most of the in-country expenses in China covered by the official Protestant Church – the China Christian Council.

My wife, Dawn, and I served as teachers in China for two years from 1992-94 with Mennonite Partners in China, known then as the China Educational Exchange.  MPC is a joint effort of several Mennonite groups, including Landis Homes’ founder, Eastern Mennonite Missions, as well as Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Mission Network, and Mennonite Church Canada Witness.

Mennonite Partners in China Update – April 2013

The April issue of Mennonite Partners in China newsletter, among other items, features the retirement home visit.  Conversations continue between the China Christian Council, Mennonite Partners in China, and Mennonite Health Services Alliance on future collaboration, most likely focused on the need for training opportunities for supervisors and direct care staff in current and future church-sponsored retirement homes.

It has been a joy to participate in these conversations, and to see the Church in China energized by this significant opportunity for both sharing the Gospel as well as meeting the needs of a rapidly growing aging population.

The full issue of the April 2013 MPC Update is available at http://bit.ly/Z7VJL5


Looking Forward to our 50th

March 12, 2013

Winter of 1962-63
By Larry Zook, President/CEO

By looking back to what was happening 50 years ago in the journey leading to the founding of Landis Homes, we can learn much about Landis Homes today, and possibly see a bit of our future.  In this glimpse back, we are looking  at happenings during the Winter of late 1962 through March 1963. 

On December 1962, the Retirement Home Development Planning Committee met at the High Welding Co. Office in Lancaster, and reviewed drawings and plans by the landscape architect, engineer, and by builder and architect Abram and Clyde Horst.  At this meeting, the group took unanimous action to approve the plans for the first buildings, which included the quadruplex at the East Entrance and Unit A, what today is known as Aspen House.

Following additional meetings, a report was written.  It was received well by the Mission Board Executive Committee and then went to the  joint meeting of the Lancaster Conference Bishop Board and Mission Board on March 12, 1963, where an action was taken to adopt the recommendations regarding the proposed retirement home, and that the facility being developed to provide for the Mennonite retirees and older citizens be known as  Landis Homes, Route 3, Lititz, PA.

John Ruth describes this in his history of Lancaster Mennonite Conference, The Earth is the Lord’s:

“In March 1963, around the time Bishop David Thomas was being elected as the new moderator of Lancaster Conference, the bishops approved the new retirement home project.  Here retired mission workers like Philadelphia’s Emma Rudy and Alma Ruth had a peaceful home in a community that kept expanding every several years.  The growth of retirement facilities was another of the many major historical developments that had not been anticipated.”


The importance of listening and being responsive…

March 4, 2013

Throughout our nearly 50 years of history since welcoming our first residents in February 1964 to the campus of Landis Homes, we have valued the importance of listening to those whom we serve, and seeking then to be responsive to their needs and interests.  I have often reminded myself that good planning begins with good listening.

In 2003 we began participating, as one of about 1,000 non-profits across the United States, in the Johns Hopkins University Listening Post Project which identifies key trends and challenges facing the U.S. nonprofit sector and the innovative strategies nonprofits have adopted in response.

In 2012 one of the Listening Post Soundings sought to identify key values guiding non-profits.  The survey found a widespread consensus that seven values−being productive, effective, enriching, empowering, responsive, reliable, and caring−lie at the core of the nonprofit sector.

A few weeks ago Landis Communities was invited to select one of these values and to share stories about ways that we seek to live out the value.  Given the importance of listening throughout the years, whether in times of strategic planning or through consistent use of resident and staff satisfaction surveys, we selected the value of being responsive to what we learn through listening carefully.

Our blog entry is online at http://ccss.jhu.edu/nonprofits-are-responsive.  As indicated in the invitation to prepare this blog, we are responding to the Listening Post Projects effort “to nurture a larger conversation within the nonprofit sector around these values and help nonprofit leaders use them both as a guide when making programmatic and other internal decisions, and as a framework for better communicating their stories to diverse external stakeholders.”

Over these past ten years, The Listening Post Project has published more than 20 Communiqués which report the results of the project’s Soundings, and these can be found at http://ccss.jhu.edu/research-projects/listening-post/listening-post-publications


Felt Around the World

January 28, 2013

Larry Zook (seated 2nd row on the left) with the consultation group in China.

Nearly 50 years ago, before the first residents moved in February 1964, our founders were envisioning “a Christian community in which residents will enjoy Christian fellowship with all other residents.” 

A July 1963 brochure to promote Landis Homes suggested future residents would include: “retired missionaries and other church workers with many years of experience.”  The brochure continues, “Participation in the life of the community will be encouraged.  Christian service activities will be planned and it is expected that the ministries and influence of this community will be felt around the world.”

Having recently returned from a 10-day visit to China consulting with Christian Church leaders who are being asked to develop aging services for a growing aging population, we found church leaders across China are envisioning new Christ-centered retirement homes much like Landis Homes’  founders did 50 years ago.

In recent years Landis Homes staff and residents have hosted a visiting Japanese sociology professor several times as she studied and published two books about Mennonites and aging services.  Both books shared about Landis Homes, and one included a photo of a resident knotting a comforter for Mennonite Central Committee. The professor was impressed with the ways residents were actively involved in serving others.

We’ve also hosted several Australian groups as they visited a number of retirement communities across the United States.  Landis Homes Vice President of Operations  Eva Bering, who hosted several of the groups, heard from a recent visiting group that they felt, “the culture at Landis Homes is something special, and can be felt as one walks through the buildings.”

Several persons from Ethiopia have also been in touch with us to discuss their interest in creating a retirement home in Ethiopia similar to the Christ-centered community at Landis Homes.  We have shared Grace Wenger’s first thirty years history book with them, which they found very helpful.

Conversations continue. The seeds sown 50 years ago at  Landis Homes with God’s blessing have blossomed into a beautiful community, and as our founders foresaw, the influence of our community is being felt around the world.

We are grateful for God’s work among us these nearly fifty years, and look to God for guidance in our next fifty years!

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