The Methodist Conference Home began as the dream of Maine Methodists, who were concerned about the welfare of senior citizens in Maine, and particularly about housing for retired ministers and their spouses. As the idea evolved, the focus broadened to include meeting the needs of any senior citizen to help maximize their self-sufficiency. “The intent of services is always to supplement a person’s own energy and resources, rather than to supplant them,” states the original bylaws that still guide MCH’s mission today.
The Methodist Conference Home, Inc. (MCH) established to provide housing and services to assist all elderly persons in their struggle to remain independent. J.E. Stevens donated his home with 3.5 acres of land, located on Summer Street in Rockland, Maine, to the Maine Conference of the United Methodist Church. HUD approved a low interest loan to finance construction of the building and Methodists in Maine raised money to equip the building and fund startup costs.
The newly constructed Methodist Conference Home opened its doors to any older person in need of the housing. The 48-room apartment building offered a home and meals to residents in the common dining room.
The Stevens House, the 19th century house adjacent to the newly constructed Methodist Conference Home, was renovated into six apartments and opened to provide additional housing and shared services.
MCH began the management and operations of Meals on Wheels serving Knox County. Lois Stackpole-Alley started the program in the Methodist Conference Home kitchen delivering home cooked meals Monday-Friday. The program began with 10 clients and now serves 200 individuals.
MCH expanded into transportation services taking over the “Sea ME” vans formerly operated by the area agency on aging to transport local seniors. The transportation program grew during the 80’s with the addition of Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties and the towns of Brunswick and Harpswell. As more funding became available, the program expanded its scope to become the regional transit provider for Maine Department of Transportation’s Region 5.
MCH Housing, Inc., formerly ElderServ, Inc., the housing management subsidiary corporation of MCH, was created. Today MCH Housing owns and manages the Methodist Home, Rankin Center and Stevens House, and manages two other properties owned by other organizations: Knox Hotel Apartments in Thomaston and Stonewood Road Cooperative in Rockland.
MCH was funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for a demonstration project to provide “aging in place” and support services to help frail residents at Methodist Conference Home receive more support to remain independent. This model helped MCH develop our Service Enriched Housing Communities which continue to serve people transferring from nursing homes, patients discharged from the local medical center, a large number of people who are wheel-chair bound, and a large percentage of seniors in their eighties and nineties.
MCH established Coastal Trans, Inc. as a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation in 1983 as the umbrella organization for all transportation services. Services include general public transportation at affordable fares, transportation for MaineCare members and eligible low-income families.
Rankin Center, a 50-unit subsidized elderly housing project located in downtown Rockland was purchased. The downtown building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to expanding the housing opportunities, the Rankin Center also received a federal grant to provide support services to residents. Supportive services were also developed for the residents at Knox Hotel Apartments.
Bartlett House, a 34 unit apartment building, opened to help provide housing for moderate income seniors not eligible for subsidized housing. The Bartlett Woods Cooperative, with 14 cottage units, was completed in 1999. Bartlett House provided supportive services to its residents from the beginning and was licensed as an Assisted Living facility in 2001. Bartlett House was sold in September of 2004. Today MCH continues to manage the cooperative, now renamed Stonewood Road Cooperative.
MCH received a grant to convert the 16 apartments on the second floor of the Methodist Home for Assisted Living. MCH developed an enhanced independent living program based on our successful support services model.
As part of MCH Transportation, an expanded set of transportation programs serving the community, Coastal Trans developed the Midcoast Ridfinder, a user-friendly print and online comprehensive guide to all transportation options in Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties.
MCH Transportation in partnership with seven participating taxi companies began managing the Transportation Coupon Program, an innovative service enabling elderly and disabled individuals to utilize local taxis for half the cost of regular fares.
MCH Transportation began operating the Brunswick Explorer, a fixed route bus service in the Town of Brunswick. This project emerged from the work of the Midcoast Collaborative for Access to Transportation, a group of local service providers interested in developing more community transportation resources. The project is funded by the Federal Transit Administration with local funding from Sweetser, the Town of Brunswick, Bowdoin College, Brunswick Housing Authority, Mid Coast Hospital and the United Way of Mid Coast Maine.
MCH established the MCH Neighbor Foundation to provide leadership for future capital campaigns and major fundraising initiatives.
MCH Meals on Wheels won Pop the Cause, receiving the prestigious $100,000 award. Pop the Cause sponsored by Cellar Door Winery.
In 2015 MCH began development of Home to ME, a new community initiative to provide services to seniors and individuals with disabilities in their own homes in Knox County. MCH is forming a collaborative to help address and coordinate services from existing agencies and businesses. The program will be based on the successful national Village to Village model. Participants will pay an annual membership fee to access a menu of guaranteed core services and a vetted list of service providers. Membership fees will be charged on a sliding scale allowing access to individuals of all incomes.
As diverse as the services provided through MCH are, the programs all clearly relate to the overall goals and philosophy developed by the founders of the home. The nutrition services allow homebound older adults to remain in their own homes, maintain their independence, and make as many of their own decisions as possible. The housing programs offer maintenance free, affordable housing with services available to assist in times of need. These programs all strive to allow people a broad range of choices in their efforts to live independent lives.