The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Full circle at Wartburg

Affordable housing, church partnerships and more

The Wartburg, a pan-Lutheran senior care ministry in Mount Vernon, N.Y., has come full circle. 

Founded in 1865 by Lutheran congregations in and around New York City as a home for orphans, today the Wartburg finds itself caring for seniors and those at the end of life — and hoping for more involvement with congregations. Its 34-acre campus about 20 miles north of New York City is home to more than 500 seniors from varied faith traditions. 

In 2010 the New York State Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law (HEAL) gave Wartburg nearly $27 million in grants and funding to build, expand and renovate its facilities, especially to add affordable housing. Using the grant, Wartburg built the Friedrichs Residence, a four-story building with 61 affordable studio and one-bedroom apartments for seniors on a budget.

The grant also helped fund the Rehabilitation and Adult Day Services Center, which is equipped with all the high-tech equipment of a first-class medical facility. The center treats seniors and patients of all ages who are recovering from injury or illness. Seniors who have memory issues or who seek daily social activities also can attend one of two day-programs.

The Friedrichs and the center round out Wartburg’s continuum of care, which also includes independent living townhouses; assisted living apartments; home-care and hospice services; and Waltemade, a skilled-care nursing home with a staff of 700 and a $44 million budget that is continually rated among the best in New York by U.S. News & World Report. 

The HEAL grant recognized the need for affordable housing in the area and chose Wartburg to be the steward of the large grant. It was one of nine organizations that received a total of $150 million in grants. 

President and CEO David Gentner said the HEAL grant is especially significant because the Westchester County area is one of the most expensive in the country, making it hard for seniors to retire there. A two-year waiting list for Wartburg’s affordable housing bears this out. 

Linda Burkhardt, 56, a retired widow, moved into Friedrichs in June. She was living with her daughter and granddaughter in a single-family home in Yonkers. When the opportunity arose for an affordable place of her own, she jumped at the chance to apply. “I love it here,” she said of her one-bedroom apartment. “I feel safe, and I’ve made a lot of friends. It’s very convenient.”

Rents for apartments range from $719 to $1,000, depending on income limits set by the government, Gentner said. People receive subsidies in the form of tax credits, he added, and the median income for a single Friedrichs resident is around $36,000. 

Since the Friedrichs project, “we now have the experience in building and operating tax-credit housing in the community,” Gentner said. Wartburg is now eager to work on similar projects with Lutheran churches that have available land and have expressed an interest in building affordable housing for seniors, he added.

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February issue


Embracing diversity