By Joshua Brockway
The Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren has approved a proposal to distribute $500,000 from the Health Education and Research Fund to church-related retirement communities. The proposal was presented by the Discipleship Ministries staff, who have worked with executive leadership of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes to discern the scope of need among the retirement communities and to design the best distribution of the funds.
The Fellowship of Brethren Homes is a collaborative network of retirement and assisted living communities that have roots in and connections to the Church of the Brethren. The fellowship allows for professional support among the administrative and chaplaincy staff to address key challenges of older adult care. The fellowship includes 21 retirement communities across the United States.
In the midst of the pandemic, retirement communities have been especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Leadership in the Fellowship of Brethren Homes reported that the costs for personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff have risen significantly, in some cases upwards of 1,000 percent. The need to quarantine community members who have been infected also has required additional nursing staff and a rise in wages.
The Church of the Brethren has managed the Health Education and Research Fund since 2009. Total fund value as of the beginning of April 2020 was $2.3 million. The money given to the Fellowship of Brethren Homes will be disbursed to the 21 member retirement communities in amounts relative to the dues that they contribute to the fellowship.
Church of the Brethren management of the fund began when the Association of Brethren Caregivers (ABC), which had been stewarding the fund, merged with the former General Board of the denomination. Bethany Hospital in Chicago, Ill., created the fund in the late 1950s in order to raise money to re-open its school of nursing. In 1959, the hospital received approval from Annual Conference to allocate the interest of the fund to nursing scholarships. The fund has supported Church of the Brethren nursing students since its inception, and also has provided grants to Fellowship of Brethren Homes member communities to help with continuing education opportunities for staff.