The Founding of Flat Rock…
In March 1864, Rev. L. Scheuerman, pastor of the Fremont Mission and a fiery orator, made a plea to the people of the church to take up the cause of the children orphaned by the Civil War. He urged the people to donate land for an orphanage. George Weiker and wife, Susan, of Bellevue, Ohio, answered the call by giving farm land in Sandusky County, and part of another farm they owned in Michigan.
In May 1865, the first steps toward establishing institution to care for the orphans were taken. A committee was appointed to look over the donated lands and report their findings. Committee members included John Orwig and George Weiker of Bellevue, John Stull, Rev. Scheuerman and Lorenz Huber. They decided to rent the farm for a year until further plans could be made. Later, a building was a purchased in Tiffin, Ohio, and in July 1866, a home was opened with eight children. Soon four more children from Pittsburgh came to live in Tiffin.
Rev. J. G. Zinser was chosen to be the first Superintendent and his wife served as Matron in-charge. Teacher Anna Eversole was engaged at the rate of $3.00 per week and Matron Christena Endel at the rate of $2.00 per week. It wasn’t long before a seamstress was needed. Rev. Pfeiffer of Perrysburg, having a family of daughters, was called upon for help. His eighteen year old daughter, Minnie was selected. Her first task was making suits for the boys. Her assistant was a little boy, Elijah Crouse, who sewed on the buttons. Miss Pfeiffer later became the wife of Rev. W. H. Hammer, son of the second Superintendent of the home, Rev. Carl Hammer.
Life at Flat Rock in the Early Days…
With the rapid increase in children being orphaned at the time, the building in Tiffin was quickly outgrown. Wanting to avoid raising the children in the city, leaders decided a farm would be better and helpful in providing food in addition to providing training for the children. In 1867, a farm of 170 acres was purchased near Flat Rock, Ohio, twenty miles from Tiffin. This farm was paid for, in part, from proceeds of the land sold in Sandusky County donated by Mr. & Mrs. George Weiker.
A two story brick building 50′ by 85′ was built in 1868, at the cost of $12,000. The new home was dedicated the first Sunday in May 1868, with the new Superintendent, Rev. Carl Hammer conducting the dedicatory services. The home was to be known as the Ebenezer Orphan Institute of the Evangelical Association, dedicated to “God, Benevolence, Education and Charity.”
Immediately, there was an outpouring of support from the church and many Orphan Aid Societies were formed throughout the country. In time, the home achieved a firm financial base. Through farm-income, as well as liberal contributions, the building was enlarged and improvements were made. Additional land was donated and some large parcels of good farm land were purchased. The Ebenezer Church, a two story brick structure, was built just over 1,000 feet from the home and dedicated in November 1871. All services were conducted in English, but occasionally, at prayer meetings, the prayers were offered in German.
With the passing of time, the “Main Building,” although well preserved and serviceable for many years to come, was inadequate to house 150 children and workers. Thus, the east wing was added in 1873, but, that too was soon overcrowded. So, under Daniel Strawman, in 1888 the third story with hip roof, tower and bell was added. The girls were housed in the four front rooms on the third floor, and the boys in the four rear rooms. This meant 65 girls slept in four rooms–three and four beds in a row, sometimes four or five occupying one bed. Space in the boys’ quarters was even more congested. In May 1912, the Girls’ Cottage, now widely recognized as the yellow Bishop Horn building, was dedicated. The dedication was attended by Mrs. Hammer and Rev. Wm. Yost, both of whom had been present at the first dedication of the Main buildings in 1868.
In 1921, two new Boys’ Cottages (Oak Manor and Buckeye Manor) and the School Building (known as Newby Building) were built and dedicated. Land was added to the original 170 acres making a 500-acre farm. A large herd of registered Holstein cattle was maintained. A milking parlor, dairy barn and two harvesters were also added. Not only did the farm contribute good working habits and knowledge of animal husbandry to the boys, but the dining room, kitchen and laundry taught the girls caretaking skills.
A National Role for Flat Rock in the Care of Children…
Flat Rock Children’s Home, in its various forms, served as the national orphanage for the Evangelical Association and the Evangelical United Brethren Church for many years. Dr. James Nelson, a well-known historian of the Evangelical United Brethren denomination, remarked that while living in Kansas as a child, he remembered gathering pennies from the children of the Sunday School to send to the orphans at Flat Rock.
In 1968, Flat Rock Homes became affiliated with the East Ohio Conference, United Methodist Church, following a merger of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church. That relationship between Flat Rock Homes and Care Center and The United Methodist Church is now defined as “a covenant relationship with the East Ohio Conference, United Methodist Church.” Flat Rock Homes, Flat Rock Care Center, and Flat Rock Community Services continue to be members of the United Methodist Association (UMA), which serves as the accreditation source for the United Methodist Church’s Health and Welfare Agencies. T
Evolving to Meet New Needs…
Following a severe blizzard in the winter of 1978, which destroyed the main building on the campus of Flat Rock Children’s Home, the focus of Flat Rock’s ministry transitioned from an orphanage to serving children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Rev. Dr. Donald Bable, took the helm as President/CEO of Flat Rock Children’s Home and Mr. Ralph Newby, became President of the Board of Trustees. They worked closely with Bishop James S. Thomas, presiding Bishop of the East Ohio Conference, to lead the Flat Rock Children’s Home through this critical time in history. Prior to making the change in mission, some suggested the closing of the agency and the end to its long history. However, the visionary leaders of the church felt certain that God’s work with children who were overlooked in our society should be continued at Flat Rock.
Most of those served today are challenged in multiple of ways with I/DD being their primary diagnosis and physical, emotional and psychological diagnoses as secondary diagnoses. Flat Rock Care Center provides a unique ministry to children with I/DD and severe aggression, who are mobile and active. Parents from across the state of Ohio come seeking service for their children.
Until 2004, the children served by Flat Rock lived in five houses. Thirty-four individuals live on campus. All are placed for residential service and therapeutic treatment through the County Board of Developmental Disabilities in the county where their parents/guardians live.
Birth of Flat Rock Community Services Program…
In 1992 the Flat Rock Community Services Program was created when one of the residents who had lived on campus for more than 10 years was ready to transition into the community. In collaboration with Seneca County, Flat Rock Homes provided funds to move the resident into the community of Tiffin. Staff were hired to provide services to support him in this setting.
Once again, in response to the pressing need, Flat Rock’s ministry was expanded to additional counties and additional adult persons with I/DD. By January, 2005 the Community Services program was serving 46 adults in community settings under the direction of the Director of Community Services and the administrative staff of Flat Rock Homes. This program continues to thrive by serving more adults in need of healthy, community group living.
Flat Rock Takes on a New Image: “Field of Dreams” Building Project…
In November, 2001 another critical moment in the history of the agency was faced. The buildings that had been built in the early 1900’s and before were rapidly deteriorating. Their steps, large rooms and dormitory style bedrooms and showers were no longer feasible settings for the ministry being done within them. Knowing that the physical structures on the campus were becoming less and less suitable for the children being served and their multiple handicaps, the Board of Directors of Flat Rock Homes and Care Center, under the leadership of Board President, Rev. Dr. Kenneth Ehrman, and with the leadership of the new President/CEO, Nancy S. Hull, they made the decision to move forward with a building project that would replace all existing buildings on the campus.
Strategic plans had been developed for a rebuilding of the campus during the 22 year tenure of Dr. Don Bable, but funds were not available at that time. During the three-year tenure (1998-2001) of Ms. Jacquie Talbott, Esq. as President/CEO, a new strategic planning process was begun. Under Rev. Hull’s leadership, a Building Committee was named, architects (Martell and Associates, Toledo ) and an Owner’s Representative, Mr. Ed Downey (Chesterland, Ohio) were hired to begin the planning and implementation for the project. The Building Committee of the Board included Board members Mr. Harry Askin , Mr. Tim Cullen, Mr. Dan Jones, and Mr. Joe McDonald. Staff members included Rev. Nancy S. Hull, (President/CEO), Richard Peitz, (Vice-President for Operations), Rebecca Brandt (Program Director), and Gail Kerlin (Administrative Assistant to Pres/CEO), Tim Thompson, (Maintenance Director).
Janotta and Herner Inc. of Monroeville were contracted as the Design/Build Construction firm for the project and in October, 2002 ground was broken.
At the same time, a Capital Campaign Committee comprised of Rev. Dr. Kenneth Ehrman, other Board Members and lay volunteers was created. This Committee was chaired by Mr. James Ehrman, a lawyer from Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. William McFadden was hired as the Capital Campaign counsel. Board members included Mel Miller, Stan Manbeck, Harry Askin, Joe McDonald, Dan Jones, Leslie Stoneham, and Mickey Muffett. Other volunteers included Mr. Ernie Sheetz, Mr. David Douglass, Esq., Ms. Jan Harlamert, Dr. Donald Bable, Dr. Phil Gillis, and others. A capital campaign to raise $2.3 million dollars was commenced in January, 2002. Flat Rock was also able to take advantage of state and federal funds that were available to complete the funding for the project. The new $6.2 Million replaces all five of the existing living areas which had housed the ministry, as well as replacing the Newby and Bishop Horn administrative areas.
Construction of the new 50,000-square-foot facility, which is entirely handicap accessible, took 18 months. The first gathering in the new building took place in October, 2003 when former residents of the orphanage returned for a Homecoming in the yet to be completed gymnasium on a chilly Saturday afternoon. This event honored the heritage and history of Flat Rock Children’s Home as the vision for the future began to emerge. This great reunion of children who had been family to each other during their years at Flat Rock inspired all who currently are in ministry at Flat Rock.
Administrative staff moved into the new building on February 26, 2004 and residents were moved into their new homes on May 19, 2004 after all Licensure and regulatory agency requirements were met. A Consecration Service for the new facility was held on April 17, 2004 with over 550 persons in attendance in the new gymnasium from across the state. Bishop Jonathan Keaton presided. Dr. Lance Herrick, from the Wisconsin Conference, represented the United Methodist Association. Dr. Kenneth Ehrman was also on the program and Rev. Nancy S. Hull preached.
A Plan for the Future:
Continuing the Legacy of the Transforming Power of Care for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities…
The new Flat Rock Care Center facility consists of six individual homes connected by a large inner hallway to nursing, dietary, the Therapeutic Center and gymnasium, and a new Administration Center. It is a state-of-the-art facility for the treatment of children with profound intellectual, developmental and behavioral challenges. As a result of the improvements to the facility, every resident who moved from the old facilities has shown dramatic improvement in all levels of health, development and well-being.
In order to continue to build upon past successes and to further expand our ability to extend the full continuum of care to persons in need throughout their life, Flat Rock Homes will embark upon a new, exciting plan for the future of care. The plan will create a unique set of living and learning facilities for residents with intellectual and developmental challenges at every stage of life. Watch closely for news about this exciting plan that will transform the future of care for mentally and developmentally disabled individuals far beyond the Flat Rock Homes community to a national scene.