Larry Letters

The Masonic Homes of Kentucky Distillery

by Published On: Sep 29, 2011
I recently visited Masonic Homes of Kentucky as part of a trip to LeadingAge Kentucky's annual meeting. Thanks to Tim, Jennifer, and Rhonda for their great hospitality. Tim Veno and staff do a remarkable job win the Kentucky Legislature, and member camaraderie is energizing.

The unforgettable part of the trip was an afternoon and evening at Masonic Homes of Kentucky. I admire the Masons. What a great tradition of service and philanthropy. They have been meeting difficult and unmet needs since the founding of our country. Widows and orphans generations ago; medically-at-risk children and seniors with special needs today.

They transform mission and programs as the needs of society change. They raise money to do it. They are the classic not-for-profit, charitable organization in America.

Kentucky is known for bluegrass, race horses, and bourbon whiskey. So, I was a bit taken aback when Gary Marsh, CEO of Masonic Homes of Kentucky, said he wanted to show me his distillery. What his offer brought to mind for me was my own family's moonshine history in Georgia...both sides of the family.

Legend has it that one side of my family made corn liquor for FDR when he would visit Warm Springs. The other side reports that my great grandfather was a twin, one of whom became a bootlegger and served on the chain gang, and the other twin was a circuit-riding Methodist preacher. But I digress.

Gary Marsh walked me into their state-of-the-art dialysis clinic. Supporting it is a distillery that produces only pure water for dialysis treatments. He turned on the tap and gave me a shot. The dialysis program is a distillation of a public private partnership. That's not the only state-of-the-art program that Masonic Homes is "distilling" and advancing.

There is a new nursing home called the Sam Swope Care Center. It distills the best of interior and exterior culture change design concepts, with an internal, lighted skyline made by a National Geographic Society photographer.

I walked through the bistro, outside courtyards, neighborhoods, and chapel. I could not find the nursing home as we might currently envision one. Mr. Swope, the benefactor who made this non-nursing-home nursing home possible, must be very proud.

We also toured the new Sproutling center. Now, "Sproutling" is not a benefactor. Sproutlings are kids. In fact, several dozen pre-kindergarten kids, half of whom are medically vulnerable. A distillation of the best in child-care concepts. To see a severely deformed child enjoying a safe playground with healthy peers brought distillation to my eyes.

Gary and Masonic are also distilling the latest CCRC concepts in a new campus addition of 100% pre-sold units. They are distilling the latest technology concepts from health records to energy management to water retention and other green systems. They are distilling the best of Masonic Homes of Kentucky's 140-year past with progressive concepts of the future.

Many of their buildings are 1920's vintage. Old dorms are independent living units. The old dining hall for kids is now a public bistro and events pavilion that hosts 6000+ guests monthly (if you want to get married there, you'll have to wait 3 years).

I enjoyed dinner in the bistro with the LeadingAge Kentucky board, where I met new friends like Mother Christina and Sister Mary of Taylor Manor of the Order of St. Joseph's. I have photos of Mother and Sister playing pool in the bistro. I told them I'd destroy the photos if they would come to our annual meeting!

If you look up 'distill' in your Webster’s dictionary, you will find phrases like "process of purifying" and making "liquid products from vapors." I'd say that Masonic Homes of Kentucky is in a perpetual process of purifying, transforming, making tangible substance out of a perpetual vapor of need.

If you want to have an inspiring experience to help you distill some of your own ideas and strategic plans, visit Gary Marsh and Masonic Homes of Kentucky.

And, in this divisive political climate, take any politician to the Sproutling center or the Sam Swope Care Center and ask them which part of Medicaid, Medicare, or other services for vulnerable people they want to cut. I bet such a visit would distill their thinking very quickly about the values inherent in meeting unmet human need.

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