A community and a ministry: Lutherhaus offers affordable housing and sense of family

Lutherhaus is a special place.

You can feel the warmth that surrounds the Hickory apartment complex when you step on its campus. Whether it’s a hug from Manager Sandi Shuford, a smile from one of the 50 residents, or an energetic greeting from its new mascot, Milo, Lutherhaus feels different. It feels like a family.

“If I had a choice right now to move somewhere and live rent-free, I don’t think I would go. I really don’t,” resident Zim Seagle said. “That’s how much I really enjoy being here.”

Building a dream

In 1980 a devoted group of parishioners from St. Andrews Lutheran Church, Bethany Lutheran Church, and Lutheran Services for the Aging, now Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC), joined together to build a dream. What started out as a parcel of land for sale has been home to residents now for close to 40 years.

The complex, which is adjacent to Lenoir-Rhyne University, is managed by Community Management Corporation and offers independent living for 50 residents to promote an active lifestyle in a protected environment. It is a HUD, section 202/8 apartment community, and individuals must meet certain requirements to be considered for residency. They must be at last 62 years old or disabled, but also capable of independent living and eligible based on income.

Shuford said the apartment complex is in high demand, especially now that the baby boomer generation is rapidly aging, creating a need for more retirement communities and healthcare workers.

“I wish we had more because, especially now, it’s really relevant. Today I have a heavy waitlist. I get probably 10 calls on average a week with people looking for an apartment,” Shuford said. “I wish we had 50 more apartments because people need them right now.”

Lutherhaus is an apartment community and a ministry. When residents move in, they meet with Service Coordinator Angie Turner to address any needs, from transportation to help with paying for food.

“You move in here and you don’t drive anymore, so you need transportation, so she’ll get you hooked up with that. You move in and want to apply for food stamps but have never done that, she’ll hook you up with that,” Shuford said. “We have Cooperative Christian Ministries not even a mile away and most of our residents take advantage of that. We try to take advantage of as many services in the county that we can.”

The complex also has a community room where residents can participate in a variety of activities, from crafts to karaoke. Shuford bought the residents a speaker with a microphone for Christmas and said they had a blast singing, or trying to sing, all of the Christmas carols.

A local librarian also brings new large-print books every 6 months, and residents don’t have to sign up for a library card to check them out. Speakers from the community visit to talk about things of interest to residents, like wills or living wills.

That family feeling

Gioia Larkin says that she would be living on the street if she hadn’t found Lutherhaus.

It was the low rent that originally attracted her, but she stayed for the atmosphere and the people.

“My sister was helping me look around and this was the nicest looking place. Then we came and talked to Sandi and she took us to look at one that happened to be empty, and I liked the layout,” Larkin said. “And to have your own outdoor patio, that is really nice.”

Of all the activities offered, she says the gospel singing is the best. A local family comes with their instruments to perform every so often, and Larkin says it always lifts her spirits.

Then there is Seagle, who constantly seems to have a smile on his face. He moved into the complex in 2015 and has been a loving neighbor ever since.

He helps fellow residents in the garden, takes their trash to the dumpster and walks Milo, who Shuford is training to be a therapy dog.

“I try to do everything because I feel like if I were to ask someone here to do me a favor or to help me, I wouldn’t have to ask but one time and they’d be right there,” Seagle said. “It makes me feel good to know I can do something to help somebody.”

About a year and a half ago, Seagle said he had a problem with his medication and ended up in the hospital. Then he had to go to rehab for 30 days. He said during his hospital stay, his friends from the complex came to see him, and left a surprise on his door when he got home.

“There was the biggest card on my door that had been hand-drawn and had all of the signatures. Before I even unlocked my door I just broke down and cried. Things like that, you know it’s real,” he said. “I’m just so glad to be here. I absolutely love it.”