Focus on Fostoria - June_23b_04

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Fostoria Focus - June 23, 2004

Good Shepherd Still Caring after a Century of Service
by Leonard Skonecki
- Click for related picture -

In 2004, Fostoria's 150th anniversary year, a local mainstay is celebrating its first century of community service when Good Shepherd Home turns 100 years old on this Saturday.

Good Shepherd was a long time coming, but when it arrived, it came to stay. In 1880, the Big Lick congregation placed a proposal before the Church of the Brethren's Northwest Ohio District meeting to buy a farm to care fo members who had become a "church charge."

The proposal was tabled. In 1881, the Silver Creek, Eagle Creek, and Maumee Churches joined the call for a facility to care for the aged, poor and orphans.

Once more the motion was tabled, but this time the delegates were instructed to return to their congregations, discuss the matter and report back at the next District meeting.

In 1882, though the ministers reported strong sentiment in favor of the project, the matter was deferred once more. Finally, in 1883, a vote was taken. Every delegate voted in the affirmative.

A committee of ministers from Dunkirk, Mansfield, Lima, Bellefontaine and Tiffin was appointed to raise $5,000. When the money was raised, a special meeting would be called to determine the next step.

By 1886, $5001 had been raised, In October, a special meeting decided three things.

First, the name Brethren Orphanage and Old People's Home was chosen. Second, the fund-raising committee was directed to raise another $3,000. Third, a second committee was deputized to find a suitable location.

Here the project hit an 18-year roadblock. Raising the additional $3,000 proved an insurmountable task.

The project languished into the 1890s. The Panic of 1893 didn't help. The economic depression swept the nation and led to the bankruptcy of Fostoria's own Charles Foster.

In 1900, the Eagle Creek Church once again moved that the home be built. This time it was agreed to proceed once a total of $6,000 had been secured.

Finally, in 1902, the Church of the Brethren had the $6,000 in hand. The Northwest Ohio District voted to buy a piece of land just outside Fostoria, on the "Tiffin Road."

All throu 1903 and into 1904, Fostoria contractor James Jones supervised the construction. Finally in June 2004, the building was complete.

The new home was dedicated on June 26, 1904. Rev. Stephen Berkebile, pastor of Fostoria's Church of the Brethren, read from Matthew 25 which says the Son of Man shall gather the nations and separate them as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats.

Jesus told the nations they will inherit the kingdom prepared for them for He was hungry and they fed Him, thirsty and they gave Him drink, sick and they visited Him.

G.A.Snider, an elder of the church, was appointed the first superintendent. His wife was the first matron. The first residents moved in the day of the dedication.

As of 1910, only elderly persons were admitted to the home. That year a building was acquired for an orphanage.

The orphanage never took shape and in 1917, the building was sold and the name changed to The Old Folks Home of the Church of the Brethren of Northwestern Ohio.

In 1929, the home was expanded, but the name trimmed to The Brethren Home, but everyone simply called it "the old folks' home."

By 1952, 50 years after the land was purchased, The Brethren Home had 27 residents and a staff of five. As of 1957, the cost per resident per month was $75.

Into the 1950s, the home raised its own pork, canned much of its own food, operated an orchard and owned three milk cows. Residents who were able helped with the home's operation.

In 1961, the name was changed again, for the last time, to the Good Shepherd Home. The name is from John 10:11; "I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."

At the same time, the board was reorganized to include members from the Church of the Brethren Northern Ohio District and the Fostoria community


In 1968, under the direction of administrator Earl Lehmann, an entirely new 66-bed home was built at a cost of $725,000 followed by a 74-bed, $1.3 million expansion in 1972.

The Good Shepherd Home Auxiliary, roughly 200 members strong, has raised money for the comfort of the residents since 1960. Everything from beauty shop equipment to bird aviaries have been provided through the Auxiliary's energy and dedication. The Auxiliary's fall bazaar is a Fostoria institution.

Today Good Shepherd continues to grow and enrich the lives of its residents. The home completed a $2.4 million, 6,500-square-foot expansion in 1999.

Today in its centennial year, Good Shepherd is in the midst of a $3.5 million expansion that includes the new villas.

Administrator Chris Widman says the expansion is proof of Good Shepherd's commitment to Fostoria's future.

"We at Good Shepherd, the board of trustee, the staff and residents, are all very proud to have been a part of the Fostoria community for so long. Good Shepherd has always represented the best in care for Fostoria's seniors," he said.

"We intend to continue to expand both our physical facility and our programs to meet the changing needs of Fostoria's elderly," Widman said. "Good Shepherd Home wants to be just as important to Fostoria for the next 100 years as we've been for the last 100 years."