Rollins Foundation Awards Foundation of Wesley Woods $3.3 Million to Endow New Pastoral Care Program


New Program to Provide Critical Spiritual Care for 1,800 Senior Adults 
Living at All 10 Wesley Woods Communities

Recognizing the importance of a new program providing critical spiritual care to the senior adult residents of Wesley Woods, who often are struggling with end-of-life questions, age-associated grief and other spiritual issues, The O. Wayne Rollins Foundation has awarded a $3.3 million grant to the Foundation of Wesley Woods for the leadership and development of the new initiative. 

One of the largest grants ever received by Wesley Woods, the $3.3 million endowment will support the director position of the Wesley Woods Pastoral Care Program in perpetuity. When implemented, the program will provide on-site, dedicated United Methodist Church ordained clergy at each of the organization’s 10 communities. The director will be responsible for building the program, hiring and developing the chaplaincy staff, developing the volunteer structure and assuring that established outcomes are met.  The volunteer aspect is a key component of the program connecting the congregations of neighboring churches in mission and ministry with the residents.

The initial programmatic and development work of the new Pastoral Care Program was funded by a $100,000 gift given by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. Additional funding opportunities are available. 

“The Foundation of Wesley Woods’ vision is a world where all can age with grace, dignity, and purpose, living thriving lives surrounded by compassion and love in a caring community,” said Tracy Crump, president & CEO of the Foundation of Wesley Woods. “Senior adults often face greater issues of loss, grief, loneliness and despair, plus they often grapple with spiritual questions related to death and dying. Thanks to The O. Wayne Rollins Foundation, we can now provide our residents with the best in pastoral care, onsite in our communities, assuring that those we serve can have the peace, comfort, and joy found through faith.”  

“Wesley Woods residents have told us of their wish to remain strong in their faith and to have caring spiritual leadership to walk alongside them at what can be a difficult season of life if that spiritual care is absent,” said the Rev. Dr. Glenn Ethridge, board chair of The Foundation of Wesley Woods and senior pastor of Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Decatur.  “As a pastor, I know that one's faith can be the very difference between despair and joy, anxiety and peace, and fear and comfort. This new program supported by The O. Wayne Rollins Foundation will make a world of difference in the lives of these older adults.”  

“For older adults, church and faith have been central to their lives and they have had close and fulfilling relationships with their pastors,” said Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, leader of The North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church. “I know that once they move many people find themselves without a church home or a constant, trusting relationship with a spiritual leader. Since many older residents can no longer leave their Wesley Woods communities to go to church, we will now have the opportunity to bring church to them.”

According to 2017 data for Wesley Woods, half of their 10 communities serve low-income older adults through HUD-subsidized affordable housing with 75 percent of all Wesley Woods residents needing some form of financial assistance to remain in their Wesley Woods homes, and over 40 percent living below the poverty level.  All are over 62 years of age and the average age at most of the communities is 83.  

The older adult residents of Wesley Woods’ five HUD-subsidized communities, which serve both rural and urban low-income seniors, suffer disproportionately from the issues facing seniors as they age. These seniors have also long endured the stress of financial uncertainty and its related health and emotional issues.  This demographic, in particular, is known to draw needed strength and support from their faith and have been active in their local churches.  

Under the structure of the program, the pastoral care leader will serve as a key liaison with the leadership of The North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church (NGUMC). An advisory council consisting of well-known and respected NGUMC clergy and laity leadership will provide strategy, governance, and networking to help ensure funding is continually available.

Each community’s chaplain will be accountable for building stable, trusting relationships with residents and providing their community with the following services:
  • Resident pastoral care, visitations, relationship mediation, crisis intervention, and grief counseling;
  • Community worship and memorial services, administering sacraments such as baptism and communion, conducting Bible studies, devotion and meditation services, prayer groups, and music; and
  • Connectivity with local churches to increase mission and outreach, providing opportunities for laity volunteers to have direct involvement with residents.

“Sustained and ongoing access to qualified and compassionate pastoral care is critical to our residents’ well-being and spiritual health,” noted the Rev. Dr. Glenn Ethridge. “Since the community chaplains will also work with local, surrounding churches to increase outreach and opportunities for direct involvement with Wesley Woods’ residents, these congregations will also have the opportunity to strengthen their own faith in action, ministry, and mission.”

Created in 1967, the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation continues the mission of now four generations of the Rollins family, which includes supporting religious institutions that are important to the family and that espouse the spiritual, moral and ethical principles of O. Wayne Rollins, in addition to supporting medical research and public health issues at colleges and universities. The O. Wayne Rollins Foundation funds programs, primarily in the state of Georgia.  O. Wayne Rollins, a native of north Georgia, was a self-made entrepreneur and a steward of the free enterprise system. He and his brother John participated in numerous successful business ventures, including radio and television stations, cable television, oil field services, truck leasing, boat manufacturing, real estate and – most famous – the 1964 purchase of Orkin, Inc., the first documented leveraged buyout in U.S. business history.

“My grandparents, O. Wayne and Grace Rollins, believed in giving to organizations that would affect people’s lives.   Our family has strived to keep that vision alive by the Foundation’s continued interest in many programs here in and around Atlanta,” said Amy Rollins Kreisler, director of The O. Wayne Rollins Foundation.  “We are pleased to support Wesley Woods as they develop the Pastoral Care Program.”

Headquartered in Atlanta, Wesley Woods offers housing and supportive services for older adults throughout North Georgia. More than 1,800 older adults, 75 percent of whom need financial assistance to remain living in their Wesley Woods homes, and over one-third of whom live below the poverty line, are served annually in Wesley Woods residential communities, primarily in independent living settings.