Deep in December, when it’s nice to remember, I began preparing a presentation for January 2021, on the history of Carroll Lutheran Village, some of it based on a 15-year history of the Village that I had written for a 1995 celebration of that event. Although the year 2020 was the 40th anniversary of the Village, not much could be done to celebrate that momentous occasion given the COVID-19 pandemic. But I thought, why not celebrate in my column even if 2020 is over! Although 1980 is the official beginning of the Village, with the groundbreaking occurring on May 4 and the cornerstone laying at the Health Care Center on Nov. 30, the actual beginning was some years earlier.
The year was 1977 — Sept. 12, 1977 — when the Articles of Incorporation for Carroll Lutheran Village were signed and sent to the State of Maryland for approval, after the Rev. William Roeger of St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hampstead had made a motion to incorporate on Aug. 17, 1977. With the state’s approval, incorporation became effective 30 days from the date of signature; with incorporation came the ability to pursue a contract on land on which to build the retirement community.
That motion in August 1977 to incorporate came just a bit shy of two years after the first discussion on the third Thursday in September 1975, among the ministers of the Westminster District (now Conference) about the need for a nursing home in the Carroll County area. When the Rev. Roland Ries, then dean of the district, asked the new pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, the Rev. Dr. Fred Eckhardt, whether he had any special dreams or projects in mind for the district — Fred had been pastor at Grace just since Sept. 1, 1975 — he was initially taken aback but soon recovered enough to ask whether there was any hope of establishing a nursing home in the district for their needy elderly parishioners rather than having them go all the way to Washington, D.C.
Things moved quickly once the ministers asked the Rev. David Bollinger, director of health care services in the Tressler System, to assist them. Eager to help but unwilling to leave Tressler, the Rev. Bollinger directed the project free of charge and by 1976 had several formal meetings of corporation delegates from the Conference Churches of Lutherans. As early as June 21, 1977, the following officers were elected to lead the newly formed Board of Directors: Earl Yingling, chairman; Eileen Dutterer Welsh Gist and Harris Frock, co-chairpersons; Donald Lawyer, treasurer. Faye Flohr Koerner was appointed to serve as secretary by Earl Yingling. At the same meeting a committee was appointed to secure suitable property to accommodate future growth.
It was not until Feb. 9, 1978, that Earl Yingling could report, after examining seven tracts of land, that Dr. Earl Griswold, owner of Tahoma Farms, had accepted the offer of $12,000 per acre for 40 acres of his land with water and sewer availability for Carroll Lutheran Village, Inc., the corporate name established at a Sept. 21, 1977, corporation meeting. The land was finally purchased in April 1979.
Paying for the land and the development of Carroll Lutheran Village became of paramount importance. Ed Leister, who replaced Donald Lawyer as treasurer early on, remembers that for his first three years he had little or no money in the coffers. These early years often meant that board members would have to contribute $10 or more to cover the cost of postage for a mailing about the project. At other times board members shelled out $1,000 or $10,000 or more in gifts and loans to keep Carroll Lutheran Village afloat!
Before September 1978, retired pastors, the Rev. Dr. Harry Krug and the Rev. Dr. Elwood Falkenstein, were asked to chair a $500,000 fundraising campaign. Thirty months later, in March 1981, the board was able to announce that the goal had been exceeded by members of all ages of the congregations. Drs. Krug and Falkenstein even asked individuals and churches to go the “second mile” and pledge $12,000 to purchase an acre — what they called “God’s acre.” Dr. Krug was able to make a successful plea to members of his boyhood church, Lazarus in Lineboro, and garner payment for five acres, including one from himself!
With the purchase of the land, it became apparent that this corporation needed a full-time executive director/chaplain, to which the Rev. Bollinger answered the paid call in September 1979. By June 30, 1980, he could report the following significant events had occurred:
1. The Health Care Center was moving closer to construction with the Village receiving $2.225 million loan from Farmers Home Administration, a $625,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, approval for the drawings and specifications from numerous regulatory agencies, and bids for the construction.
2. The site plan for the Village was approved by the City of Westminster.
3. Signed contracts and deposits were received for 14 cottages on St. Mark Way.
4. The official groundbreaking was held on Sunday, May 4, 1980, with over 300 people attending.
5. The Village received 501(c)(3) tax exemption status from the IRS.
He concluded by saying, “With a positive spirit, an openness to the Holy Spirit in our midst, we will realize our dream of a retirement village in Carroll County.”
Earlier in 1980 the corporation had been reminded that their “real mission is not brick and mortar, but the serving of the aging in our midst.” The value and importance of Carroll Lutheran Village, therefore, stem from its status as a religiously-affiliated and mission driven, not-for-profit that places service to the aging first and foremost. The offhand but sincere remark by Rev. Eckhardt at the 1975 pastors’ meeting and the vision and work of many volunteers and the Rev. Bollinger brought into being the first continuing care retirement community in Carroll County, known as Carroll Lutheran Village. While it is important to remember our roots and not lose the purpose for which we began, the real heart of the Village — the “pioneers” who came to live here — didn’t come until December 1980.
Hermine Saunders writes from Westminster. Her Prime column appears once a month in Life & Times.