Posted by Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook on 03/04/2016

Constructing Community

Constructing Community

They are not studying blueprints. They are not surveying lots. And they are certainly not pouring concrete. But they are constructing a community—one friendship at a time.

They are the inaugural residents of The Lutheran Village at MILLER’S GRANT. The new continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Ellicott City, Md., is being developed by Carroll Lutheran Village, which has 35 years of experience and an excellent reputation in the retirement living industry.

A not-for-profit community, The Lutheran Village at MILLER’S GRANT will offer a range of apartment, duplex and single-family housing options, as well as casual and formal dining venues, gathering spaces, a fitness center, library, salon, tennis court, and various other amenities. The scenic 50-acre property was donated by the Charles E. Miller family to provide quality, faith-based services to the community. The first residents moved into the community in February 2016, and the grand opening will take place in late spring.

Among the first residents of the community are Howard Miller and Gene and Donna Streagle. Since meeting, they have become fast friends and have been looking forward to moving and spending more time with each other—and their many new friends.

Howard Miller grew up on a family farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. After his father passed away during his senior year of high school, Howard married his high school sweetheart, Lena, and purchased the family farm.

While farming, Howard earned a bachelor’s degree from Bridgewater College. After graduating, the family moved to Chicago so Howard could attend Seminary. He became a pastor and served various churches for more than 30 years. His profession took his growing family, including three boys, to several different communities, including Columbia, Md.

After retiring, Howard devoted a significant amount of time to woodworking. He and Lena also enjoyed traveling and explored the entire contiguous United States in a camper.

When the Millers learned about The Lutheran Village at MILLER’S GRANT through some friends, they decided to attend a welcome dinner. “Of course, living in Westminster, we knew about Carroll Lutheran Village, so we were excited to learn about this community,” Howard explained.

“The welcome dinner was all we needed to be convinced that we should make the move here.”

Howard knew that by planning ahead for retirement they were making a wise decision for themselves and their children. “As a pastor, I saw a lot of situations where people wanted to live and die in their own house,” he noted. “Often, those people got to a point where they couldn’t take care of themselves, and they were forced to go to wherever would take them. We wanted to make a choice, and this was a great choice.”

After Lena passed away, Howard became even more committed to moving to The Lutheran Village at MILLER’S GRANT. “It was a big blow for me to lose my spouse. But one of the advantages of being here is that I’ll be around people,” he explained. “No one will take the place of a spouse, but being around people helps ease the transition to single life. I just didn’t want to live in that house by myself.”

Now, Howard is looking forward to settling into his new apartment and taking advantage of all the amenities. He is especially excited about the woodworking shop that will provide all the tools—and space—he needs to pursue a lifelong passion alongside other hobbyists. He is also eager to spend time with new friends. Even before moving in, Howard has already made several new friends, including Gene and Donna Streagle.

Gene and Donna met at Salisbury University on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. They married the year Donna graduated and both pursued long careers in education. The couple has two children, a daughter and a son.

Gene started his career as a biology and earth science teacher, but later served in multiple roles including department chair, assistant principal, principal, Director of High Schools, and Executive Director of Instruction. Donna was a first grade teacher for an impressive 30 years.

One of Donna’s former coworkers prompted the Streagles to think about retirement living. “One of the women I used to work with lived at Carroll Lutheran Village, and she invited me to come visit,” Donna recalled. “When I came home, I told Gene that he had to see the place. It was just so gorgeous, like a nice hotel.”

After several more visits and hearing about the new construction at The Lutheran Village at MILLER’S GRANT, the Streagles decided to take a look. Donna laughed as she recalled their first visit. “We agreed before we came out to see the property that we were NOT signing up right away. Of course, we signed up the first day because it was so good,” she said.

While the Streagles openly admit that downsizing from their family home of 36 years was challenging, they are thrilled that they made the transition. “You have to get the mindset that those are just things,” Gene said. “Memories last forever, but your possessions are just things. Once you get rid of it all and the dumpster is gone, you won’t think about it anymore. You just move on to the next phase.”

The next phase includes enjoying beautiful surroundings and rewarding friendships—while avoiding yard work and household chores. “I raked my last leaf before we moved in, and I propped that rake up when I was done and thought about how great it would be to never do that again,” Gene said. “I just love thinking about the fact that at MILLER’S GRANT I won’t even have to change a light bulb.”

Both Donna and Gene have also already made connections with their future neighbors. In fact, many of the residents have come together to form clubs based on common interests. For instance, Donna, who enjoys paper crafting, is part of an informal craft club, including a variety of people who are interested in a wide array of crafts.

With so many connections already established between the residents, The Lutheran Village at MILLER’S GRANT is sure to be a community in every sense of the word. The community’s resident “pioneers” have crafted an environment where neighbors are not anonymous and friends are easy to find. While they may not be sporting hard hats, these residents are certainly hard at work—and they have constructed quite a community.

By: Christy Brudin

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