Inspirational Retirement Living

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It is often said that great minds think alike, and in the case of Paul Miller, Geary Milliken and Dr. Eugene Willis, this phrase is no exception. Each has a unique history while playing a different role in the development and future of The Lutheran Village at MILLER’S GRANT, a Premier Retirement Community solely-owned by Carroll Lutheran Village and scheduled to open in Ellicott City in 2012. Though they offer diverse perspectives on the budding community, these three men certainly agree that beneficial opportunities are in store for the city’s residents.

As exemplified by their careers and lifestyles, Paul, Geary and Eugene are no strangers when it comes to giving back.

A lifelong resident of Ellicott City, Paul Miller was raised on a 435-acre farm belonging to his parents, Charles E. and Grace Westphal Miller. When the farming operation closed down in the early 80s, Paul teamed up with the Miller Land Company to develop the Grey Rock Community on 260 acres of the farm.

The Miller family’s generous contributions to Howard County do not stop there as exemplified by the property given towards building the Charles E. Miller Library and the extension of the First Lutheran Church. As Geary Milliken said, “There’s a legacy here…the Miller family has been engaged in supporting the community faithfully for a long time.”

Since the mid 80s, Paul has pursued the dream of a Lutheran presence on 50 acres of his farm. “We felt this was a perfect piece of ground that was right next to all of the amenities of Howard County,” he said. “The idea was to do it on a charitable basis and to make sure that hopefully everyone in the county could afford it.”

MILLER’S GRANT became more of a reality for the family after Paul was introduced to Carroll Lutheran Village’s President and CEO, Geary. Prior to his appointment with the nationally accredited continuing care community, Geary had been in long-term care administration for 20 years in Gettysburg and York with the Lutheran Social Services of Southern Pennsylvania. Along with his license in Nursing Home Administration in Maryland and Pennsylvania, the Shippensburg University graduate has spent 34 years working in social ministry for the Lutheran Church.

Like Paul, Geary understood there was a need for a community in Ellicott City that could offer a maintenance-free lifestyle and the flexibility to accommodate different healthcare needs for older adults. Thus began their partnership and the formation of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, charitable organization known as Lutheran Village at MILLER’S GRANT. With a Board composed of volunteers representing Howard County and the Carroll Lutheran Village Board, all members have shared their visions and aspirations for developing this community.

The organization’s next steps were to rezone the property, develop a feasibility study and undergo a review with the Department of Aging. As the ball started rolling while Geary and Paul talked to county officials, the two found they had a great deal of encouragement. In fact, many of the neighborhood associations stayed into late hours to testify their support.

“Some people would say this beautiful pastoral land is something they would like to leave as is,” said Geary. “But we found many of the neighborhood associations very supportive and knowledgeable of the Miller family and the intent for this property for the past 25 years.”

Another individual who recognized that intent and was already an avid supporter was Dr. Eugene Willis. A graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, he had finished his Orthopaedic Surgery Residency after serving in the Army for two years, and moved to Howard County to begin his Orthopaedic practice in December of 1972.

“Our first night here, in the Dunloggin area in Ellicott City, we heard the cows from the Miller Farm,” said Eugene. “It’s ironic now that almost 40 years later I’ll be moving to that same place.”

He has joined 25 others who have already paid their 10 percent fully refundable deposits to become MILLER’S GRANT’S first residents. Those like Eugene who seize the opportunity can take advantage of the 100 percent refundable entrance fees (per residency agreement) that are available for a limited number of depositors.

With the passing of his wife eight years ago, and having undergone some health problems, Eugene has felt extremely comfortable with his proactive decision, knowing that at MILLER’S GRANT, state-of-the-art assisted living and skilled nursing care is available onsite. “I think this is a wonderful place to live as I’ll have help around if I need it and at the same time, I can be as active as I want to be,” he said.

According to Eugene, part of his early decision making was inspired by his 93-year-old mother, Jane, who had made the decision to leave her home of 40 years and move to Carroll Lutheran Village.

For the past five years, Jane has enjoyed every minute making friends and taking part in all of the various activities the community has to offer. “I play a lot of bridge and there are many trips and tours,” she said. “The staff here is excellent and very helpful.”

His experience in the healthcare industry of watching families struggle with decisions regarding their loved ones’ futures also led Eugene to plan ahead while spreading the word to his friends.

“They look at me and say ‘You’re not ready for that yet,’ and I’ve explained my reasoning so hopefully the word will continue,” he said.

Geary has often seen individuals hesitant to take that next step, which is why he encourages residents of Carroll Lutheran Village to share their stories of thriving in a community.

“This isn’t about living in the past or protecting a legacy that you have built,” said Geary. “It’s about continuing to grow and maintaining a lifestyle that is fulfilling as you make new friends and try new things.”

And thriving is putting it lightly for potential future residents of MILLER’S GRANT. The faith-based nonprofit with its dedication to physical, spiritual and mental well-being will feature a fitness area and indoor heated pool as well as different dining facilities, entertainment and cultural programs. It will also allow residents access to the adjacent Miller Library and local senior center along with a close proximity to the city’s museums and award-winning restaurants.

As these three men look to the year 2012, they see a future filled with opportunity, peace of mind and the continuation of serving a community.

And perhaps Paul Miller, whose family’s vision is closer with every step, best summed up the ultimate goal of MILLER’S GRANT.

“It is so important that everyone have the opportunity to get into a facility like this and live the rest of their life in a quality way,” he said. “I learn something new everyday, and this is just what my family was looking for.”

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