The leaders of Warm Beach Senior Community want to make sure the 350-resident community doesn’t forsake its original purpose.
“Warm Beach was founded 51 years ago as being a retirement opportunity for Free Methodist pastors and missionaries,” Executive Director Gary Dewhirst said. “It’s expanded over the years to now incorporate the health care component.”
Today, Warm Beach offers a subdivision of manufactured homes, several apartment buildings, the Warm Beach Health Care Center for people requiring skilled nursing care, the Cedar Court assisted living facility, and inpatient and outpatient therapy services. Residents are attracted to the beautiful setting of Stanwood, Washington, between Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains.
Warm Beach has 350 residents age 62 and older from a variety of professional backgrounds, but leaders want to make sure pastors and missionaries continue to be part of the population. Most people in fulltime ministry, however, have limited incomes that do not allow them to set aside much money for retirement.
“As people are living longer, they sometimes are outliving their funds. We have an obligation to make sure that we continue to be able to take care of them,” Dewhirst said. “From a financial perspective, we have to find ways to try and supplement that to be able to meet the commitment of taking care of people who have been in God’s service.”
To maintain this legacy of service to these retired pastors, missionaries and other people in fulltime ministry, Warm Beach Senior Community recently established the Good Samaritan Fund to help fulfill the original vision of affordable housing for these people who are sometimes referred to as “mission-match individuals.” The restricted fund is to be used only for assisting those who have faithfully served and are qualified for financial assistance. The Good Samaritan Committee manages the fund and reviews qualifications, policies and procedures annually.
“It’s our way of taking care of our people who have done so much already,” Dewhirst said.
Board Chairman Ken Dixon said Warm Beach is making it a clear objective to raise at least $1 million for a fund targeting these “mission-match individuals, both that are residents now that need help financially and/or those that are considering coming in the future.”
After a year of retirement from a 33-year accounting career with Deloitte & Touche, Dixon contacted Pacific Northwest Conference Superintendent Matt Whitehead and said he was open to volunteering wherever Whitehead felt like he would be needed. Whitehead recommended Warm Beach Senior Community, and Dixon joined the board in 2014 and became the board chairman in 2017. One of Dixon’s top priorities is ensuring Warm Beach remains a place that retired pastors and missionaries call home.
“My wife came from a missionary family so that’s a pretty significant target for us personally as well,” said Dixon, whose wife, Carol Aiko DeShazer Dixon, is the daughter of the late missionary Jacob DeShazer — a bombardier in the Doolittle Raid on Japan in World War II who then spent 40 months in Japan as a prisoner of war. Jacob DeShazer later returned to Japan as a missionary, and his story was told in the book “Return of the Raider” (available at jacobdeshazer.com) as well as in the New York Times and many other publications.
Dixon appreciates the support of Dewhirst in helping Warm Beach continue its Christian commitment and support of retiring Free Methodist pastors and missionaries.
“I think very highly of Gary,” Dixon said. “I have a great deal of confidence in him and his leadership.”
After 30 years in the long-term care industry, Dewhirst joined Warm Beach last with an appreciation for the senior community allowing him to openly incorporate his Christian faith into his work.
“The main difference here is that we are a faith-based community.” Dewhirst said. “We love Christ, and that’s who we are, and that’s how we are going to go about our business and that’s how we are going to be responsible to the people who come and move in with us.”
Dewhirst loved his work in the long-term care industry, but his secular employers lacked something that Warm Beach offers.
“The big thing that was missing for me was a bigger sense of purpose in what I was doing,” Dewhirst said. “There was something here that could pull together everything I’ve done in my career and to do it in a way that was purposeful and meaningful, not just as a job.”
Warm Beach has a stronger connection between the residents and employees than at other retirement communities where Dewhirst worked.
“I feel just as close to the residents as I do to my staff,” he said. “I have a regular prayer meeting with a group of residents that I meet with every Wednesday morning, and we pray for this place. That’s the kind of relationship I can have with my residents.”
Impacting the World
Dewhirst said many senior communities claim to offer “vibrant living,” but they focus on entertainment options and other services provided for residents. “We want to do all those things too, but vibrant living means that you have a purpose, and your purpose means that you’re needed by somebody.”
Warm Beach has adopted an intentional focus on reaching beyond the senior community for residents to impact the world around them.
“Last year alone, we had 20,000 hours of volunteer service that were delivered by our residents to each other,” Dewhirst said. “We’ve got a great percentage of our current residents who have lived lives of service. They have been clergy, or they have been missionaries.”
Volunteer services include operating the thrift store, leading programs, visiting residents in the skilled nursing area, participating in music groups that perform in surrounding communities, and mentoring students in the local school district. “We have residents who still do missions work overseas,” Dewhirst said.
Approximately 70 percent of Warm Beach residents are considered “independent living,” and their days of service and meaningful life experiences are far from over when they move to the senior community.
Visit warmbeach.org/make-a-donation to make a donation to the Good Samaritan Fund or Warm Beach’s other charitable funds, or contact Director of Advancement Scott Rossiter at srossiter@WarmBeach.org or 360-652-2628 for information on giving opportunities.
For more information about becoming a Warm Beach Senior Community resident, go to warmbeach.org or call 800-652-6302.1