Brooks-Howell Home Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Betty Letzig speaks at 50th Anniversary Celebration of Brooks-Howell Home. Photo by Renato Rotolo.
by YVETTE MOORE*
Women’s Division-owned Brooks-Howell Home celebrated 50 years of service to retired deaconesses and missionaries Oct. 20 in Asheville, N.C., during a ceremony filled with historical significance for United Methodist Women. Division Deputy General Secretary Harriett Olson and Comptroller Lorraine Webster-Sharper participated in the “Serving Those Who Served” anniversary program.
Betty Letzig, a retired deaconess, former staff of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and resident at Brooks-Howell, said the celebration has special meaning to United Methodist Women, which has provided rest facilities for deaconesses and missionaries for more than 100 years.
“Our heritage is one that goes back at least to 1896 when the first ‘vacation home’ for deaconesses opened in Ocean Grove, N.J.,” Ms. Letzig said.
Ms. Letzig said deaconesses so enjoyed their Ocean Grove rest away from their appointments with spiritual and physical renewal by the seaside that nine Methodist conferences soon joined with national officers of the Woman’s Home Missionary Society to purchase a place for retreat rather than continue renting respite space. Over time, United Methodist Women predecessors provided rest homes for retired deaconesses and missionaries in New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and California. A $98,203 offering taken at the 1954 Assembly of the Woman’s Society of Christian Service May 25-28 in Milwaukee, Wis., provided much of the funds to purchase and renovate the initial property in Asheville, N.C., that became Brooks-Howell, named in honor of former Woman’s Division president Mrs. Frank G. Brooks and former Scarritt College mission professor Mabel K. Howell.
While the other residences have closed, Brooks-Howell today is home to 112 retired deaconess and missionaries. It includes one and two-bedroom apartments, an aqua therapy swimming pool, nursing care units, dining facilities, a fellowship hall, a chapel and gardens in an environment designed to be spiritually enriching and intellectually stimulating.
“Today, Brooks-Howell stands as the sole retirement facility of the Women’s Division, but continues to embody the heritage of the homes of the past,” Ms. Letzig said. “What had begun as vacation homes for rest and inspiration, then became a necessity for invalids and ultimately became a form of old-age security for retirees that enabled them to live out their lives in comfort, free from anxiety, surrounded by a ministry of love in sickness and in health.”
Brooks-Howell Executive Director Nancy Garrison said working at the home is equally inspiring.
“When I was young I wanted to become a missionary, but didn’t,” Ms. Garrison said. “That’s why it’s such an honor and a privilege to serve those who served. Working with these people, whom I believe are saints, encouraged me to become a deaconess too. I’ll be commissioned with the next class.”
*Yvette Moore is an executive secretary for communications with the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.
Date posted: Oct. 31, 2007