Earlier this month, Brooks-Howell Home celebrated its 60th birthday. The following is a look at its history, the people who made it possible, as well as tangible pieces of history that reside in Brooks-Howell Home to this day.
A Brief History
The need for another retirement home was considered by the Women’s Division of Christians Service (WDCS) of the Board of Missions (now the national office of United Methodist Women) in the early 1950’s. At the time there were three, each with a waiting list. The WDCS had 500 active deaconesses and 500 missionaries under appointment; plus the responsibility for about 250 retirees in each category. All of these were single women. The 1954 Assembly offering was designated as “something for deaconesses and missionaries.” The decision was made for a home and the location was chosen by surveying all active and retired missionaries and deaconesses. Mable K. Howell, for whom BHH is named, had retired to Asheville and was instrumental in the selection of this site.
The house was purchased in 1956 and opened in 1957 as “Brooks-Howell Home” with nine residents. The main building (later named Bethea) opened in 1961. The first expansion was the Chandler-Burris Apartments in 1965, named for Helen Chandler and Emma Burris, the chair of the board of BHH and the WDCS liaison staff person from the New York Office respectively. The Jones-Cadwallader Apartments followed in 1970, and the Cummings Health Unit in 1977.
The Quad was opened in 1994. The Village and Activities Building were built in 1996-97, the latter championed by Deaconess Social Worker Elizabeth Nowlin. Deaconess Helene Hill contributed to the idea of a therapy pool which was constructed in 1998. The Chapel and the Apartments were the final expansions in 2003. All the buildings and units are named for women in recognition of their leadership.
Pieces of History
Brooks-Howell Home has inherited furnishings from the WDCS retirement homes that were open in the 1950s. One is a display case from the Founder’s room of Tremont Methodist Church in Boston, which commemorates the founding of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society in 1869. Another piece is the grandfather clock from the Bancroft Home (the first retirement home), from 1912. There is also a bamboo display case and two large chairs from Bancroft Taylor.
BHH also has a few pieces from the Robincroft Retirement Home. The Robincroft Retirement Home was once the estate of Jane Bancroft, who later became Mrs. George O. Robinson. The influential deaconess donated her Pasadena, California home, called “The Castle”. The Castle would become the Robincroft Retirement Home. From her home we have beautiful stained glass panels in our Lobby window, a fireplace in the International Room, a richly upholstered settee with matching chairs and a gilt mirror in the Chapel corridor.
Brooks-Howell Home has a rich history, and we truly appreciate all of those whose vision created this Home. We celebrate the millions of United Methodist Women members who supported it through all these years and those who continue to support it with gifts of love, volunteer time, supplies, and their mission giving.
Special thanks to Barbara Campbell and Betty Letzig for this information and their wonderful presentations.
The first ever Brooks-Howell Home Official Cookbook is now available for purchase! For only $10.00 you can get a cookbook that’s packed full with more than 150 pages of family recipes. Each delicious dish and helpful tip was submitted by residents, staff, family members, volunteers, and advisory board members. The book contains international recipes and family favorites alike. It even comes with a download for a free eBook version of the cookbook. They’re limited edition and selling like hotcakes, so come get one while you still can!
Creation care is something near and dear to many of us at Brooks-Howell Home. If you visit here, you will find native plants, natural habitat, a composting system, and a lot of bird feeders!
Today, our Landscape Manager captured this lovely photo of Irma planting radishes, strawberries and sugar snaps in one of the accessible raised gardens. Gardening is just one way our residents and staff work together to take care of Mother Earth year round.
If you’re in the area, stop by and enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds of our gardens!
When you visit Brooks-Howell, you never know who you might bump into. United Methodist Women, family members, friends and church family are typically in and out each day.
Every so often, though, you might just have the opportunity to meet guests of our residents–guests who are serving as mission service personnel overseas.
Recently, Fletcher introduced us to two such visitors. Dr. Leonardo Garcia and his wife, Dr. Cleivy Benitez Rivolta, clergy missionaries from Cuba serving at Quessua UMC in Angola, Africa.
Fletcher met Cleivy and Leo while he was serving as clergy in Cuba. They joined us for lunch and afternoon conversation about their mission field. Fletcher served as a clergy with Cleivy and Leo in Cuba. Even when the couple moved to Africa and Fletcher to Brooks-Howell, they have kept in touch through technology.
Leo and Cleivy were initially invited to East Angola for one year to oversee the orphanage, teach at the seminary, pastor the church, and serve as United Methodist Volunteers in Mission coordinators (UMVIM).
“We started with 15 children from our orphanage in our weekly Sunday school. It became a time to provide children a healthy meal, spiritual formation and a safe place to be. Now we have more than 1,000 children coming from various places to various locations. As they age into young adulthood, we are training them to be teachers with us,” Cleivy shares as she eats lunch with some of our residents.
Fletcher sings their praises as he adds, “Cleivy and Leo oversee the church, the orphanage and work at the seminary too. What DON’T they do!?”
After lunch, Cleivy and Leo offered residents and staff an opportunity to join them in the Media Room to hear more about their ministry in East Angola. Their orphanage is actually located near the first United Methodist Church established in that region.
When asked how long they are consider staying, Leo notes, “We were asked to go for one year, and now we have been appointed there for five. We will stay while we are needed.”
We are so grateful to Leo and Cleivy for taking the time to connect with Fletcher and our community here at Brooks-Howell. We will hold their journey and their ministries in our prayers.
You may read more about Leo and Cleivy here.
We know it’s a bit early for Spring, and we are grateful for the early pop of color around campus. Residents and landscaping crew have been out in the sunshine mulching, weeding, planting. Sure, Winter may come back to visit us here and there, but we give thanks for the reprieve and celebrate the glory of Creation!
Often we are asked what our motto means and very simply, it describes how we live our lives as people of faith. Many of us fulfilled our professional calling as service personnel for churches. We may have gone overseas as missionaries or served in our own backyards as deaconesses. We may have pastored churches or worked as administrators for mission organizations. Regardless of how God called us, we engaged in a life of service to and with others.
As retired adults, we have not stopped living out our faith in action. Whether we volunteer with organizations in the community or participate in missions projects on campus, we actively engage in issues that are important to us. Some areas of social justice that we lend our voices, hearts, and hands to:
- Creation care and climate justice
- Animal welfare
- Racial justice and reconciliation
- Affordable housing
- Systemic issues contributing to marginalization of individuals such as poverty and illiteracy
- Immigrants’ rights
- Maternal and child health
- Global peace
- Access to health care
- Domestic violence awareness
- Civil and equal rights for all
This commitment to serving still is what makes our community unique. Even though we may come from diverse mission experiences or demographics, we have the common language of faith and the common desire of service.
Welcome to our new website! We are so glad you have stopped by to learn more about our community and take a peek at our new pages.
Some new additions you might want to check out:
- The video on our About page
- Following our news posts to keep updated with what’s happening
- The “Upcoming Events” in our sidebar on the Home and About pages
- Slideshows and photo galleries on most pages
- Access to our Facebook and Instagram apps in the top left corner
- Recent editions of The Serendipitor, our community newsletter
Because we have so much information to share, there are two places that will help you navigate the site. The basic menu at the top of each page highlights general information. The navigation menu at the bottom of each page invites you to learn more about our site by clicking on different links.
If we are missing anything you’d like to see here, please feel free to contact us.