Sierra View Homes Retirement Community was founded in 1960 by the Reedley First Mennonite Church. Throughout our history, we have remained faithful to our founding values of caring and service.
The following article recently ran in the Reedley Exponent in honor of Sierra View’s 50th anniversary:
Sierra View Homes Celebrates 50 Years
As she inspects the grainy, black-and-white photograph, it’s clear that Georgia Linscheid is having a hard time believing it was taken 50 years ago. “It doesn’t feel that long,” she chuckles. In the picture she is 32 years old, and standing with the other members of the first board of directors for Sierra View Homes. In the photograph, as now, she looks a little bemused by all the fuss. But in both cases it was deserved – it’s not every day that a church starts an entrepreneurial venture, and even rarer that it is still around 50 years later. After half a century, Georgia Linscheid and Sierra View Homes are both going strong. She’s still making a difference in the lives of older people, and so is the organization that she helped to establish.
Sierra View Homes was originally the product of the First Mennonite Church of Reedley. “It grew out of conversations we had with Lelia Ruth, one of the congregation and an original board member, who was dealing with her mother’s Alzheimer’s,” Georgia explained. “She kept saying ‘we need a better place for our parents.’” Marden Habegger, a local doctor, agreed that a retirement community was needed and was instrumental in bringing it before the church body. “Concern for the care of our older church members became a predominant focus,” wrote former administrator Wendell Rempel in the First Mennonite Church’s centennial book. “The congregation…began to ask questions like ‘How can we as a congregation best serve the needs of our older members?’ and ’Does a Christian community have a duty, an obligation, or a social responsibility to care for the frail and elderly?’”
The church decided to sponsor the creation of a retirement care community, and set up a separate nonprofit corporation to make the vision into a reality. In 1960, Georgia was appointed one of the nine new board members. “I was working with older people in Fresno at the time, and they knew I was interested in gerontology,” she said. Even before the new facility admitted its first resident, Georgia and Lelia Ruth established the Sierra View Auxiliary, a volunteer group dedicated to fundraising and supporting the residents. “We did whatever was needed – bedmaking, sewing, recreational activities,” she said. “Sometimes we’d help the residents to churn butter!”
At 82, Georgia is still involved and volunteering at Sierra View Homes. She has watched it grow from a small 26-bed skilled nursing facility to a multi-level retirement community encompassing 63 independent apartments, a Wellness Center with indoor pool and spa, assisted living, and a 59-bed skilled nursing. “It’s well known for its quality now,” she commented. “People come from across the country to stay at Sierra View.” Vito Genna, the community’s administrator of five years, attributes this to the fact that Sierra View was designed for and by residents. “A lot of retirement communities are inflexible – the resident has to fit into their box. One of the things that distinguishes us here is that we are willing to work with the resident and their families to respect their individual needs and make this a home.”
Throughout her time with Sierra View, Georgia has watched it house and care for hundreds of residents. The organization she helped begin has now come full circle, caring for not only her generation’s parents, but members of that original board of directors. In fact, Herb Lichti, another founding board member and longtime volunteer was also a resident. Half a century of effort by Georgia, Herb, and others like them has paid off – Sierra View is a place that they are proud to call home. “We didn’t know it 50 years ago, but we were creating this place for ourselves, too.”