Brio Living Services Celebrates Women’s History Month
March is Women’s History Month, and Brio Living Services is delighted to congratulate and lift up the countless contributions of women who have helped lead and build our organization throughout our history.
Brio Living Services, formerly UMRC & Porter Hills, would not be the organization it is today without the important roles that women of faith have played over its combined 165+ year history. In fact, both United Methodist Retirement Communities (UMRC) and Porter Hills were founded with women in mind – whether the spouses or widows of Methodist pastors (all men in those days) in the case of UMRC in 1906; or for primarily women of moderate means, including many school teachers, in the case of Porter Hills, established in 1970.
Throughout the history of UMRC and Porter Hills, visionary women have helped to shape the future of our organization to provide the highest quality care and services for older adults. For example, Ruth Leenhouts Porter and her husband, Don, were active members of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids. When a group of church members decided to build a retirement community in the area, the Porters wanted to help. Ruth donated 35 acres of her father’s farm, which he had left to Ruth and her brother, to make the project possible. Located on rolling hills, this property was the perfect spot and gave this project its name: Porter Hills.
The Kresge family and Kresge Foundation have been instrumental in supporting UMRC since the beginning – everything from installing steam heat and an elevator in the 1910s and 20s; to the construction of Kresge Chapel at Chelsea Retirement Community (CRC) in 1947, thanks to a gift from Anna Kresge. In 1985, the Kresge Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center was completed and named for Dorothy McVittie Kresge for her significant and tireless work as UMRC Board Chair. “Her interest in caring for people and the Methodist connection of UMRC meant so much to her,” says her son, Dr. Bruce Kresge.
Dedicated, compassionate women like Marianne Conner, Judy Dow Rumelhart, and Carole Holmes were also instrumental in launching the UMRC Foundation in 1998 to support Benevolent Care and the development of Towsley Village Memory Care Center on the CRC campus which opened in 2000.
Today, women continue to lead the UMRC & Porter Hills Foundation and Brio Living Services, as leadership team members and board members. These include Foundation Board co-chairs, Jackie Taylor and Karen Andrews, and Brio Living Services Board Chair, Mary Wagner. Eighty-four percent of the Brio Living Services workforce identifies as female. We are grateful to all these women who make the programs and communities of Brio Living Services such outstanding, caring, and welcoming places to live and work.