Featured Business of the Month – Filling Homes
The U.S. population was 177,827,628, and Dwight D. Eisenhower was the president. The life expectancy of the average American was 69.9 years, a stamp cost $.04 and “Some Like it Hot”, starring Marilyn Monroe, was heating up the Box Office. What year was it?…..1959.
This same year, in Henry County, Ohio, one local woman left her mark on this rural community in a way that would not be forgotten-not even 60 years later.
(Sophie) Caroline, known as Carrie, was the fourth of six children (4 boys and 2 girls) born to (John) Henry and Maria (Meyerholz) Filling in 1874. In 1890, the Filling family moved from Woodville, Ohio, to a 55-acre farm located two miles south of Napoleon. After moving to the Napoleon area, the children continued their education at the Dunbar School and the family went to Emanuel Lutheran Church in Napoleon. The Fillings first lived in an old, log cabin and later moved to a white-frame, farm house just a little farther south.
By 1910, the now grown Filling children had lost both of their parents but remained close to one another. They invested in land and other ventures in the community accumulating a number of farms. The brothers never married, and none of the siblings had children. They had talked many times about leaving their estate to build a home for the unfortunate who needed care and love. As members of the family died, this dream was kept alive by the survivors.
After Carrie’s last brother died in 1956 as the result of being hit by a car while crossing the road, and after her husband, George Vajen, passed away in 1957, Carrie Filling Vajen, with the assistance of Reverend Emil Moser, pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church in Napoleon, followed through with her family’s wishes to establish the home they had imagined. A home to provide refuge and care for the handicapped, the crippled, the feeble minded, the blind, the deaf, mutes, in short, for children and adults who are most helpless and have no other place to go.* Instead of spending their fortune for personal pleasure, the family had chosen to endow the community with the wealth they had accumulated. Beneficiaries of the Filling estate included Emanuel Lutheran Church of Napoleon, Heller Memorial Hospital of Napoleon and the Luther Home of Mercy of Williston. The bulk of the estate was willed to the establishment of the Filling Memorial Home of Mercy, so named to honor the Filling family. Not only was the land and funding for the building of the home given, but four tracts of rich farmland in Napoleon and Defiance were also donated as a means of supporting the mission that would take place there.
Carrie Filling Vajen Breaking Ground
In the 60 years since the Filling Memorial Home of Mercy-or Filling Homes as it is now commonly called-opened its doors, the mission set forth by Carrie Filling Vajen has grown and evolved but the intention, her legacy, remains unchanged. Since its dedication on September 20, 1959, Filling Homes has increased the size of its base facility on Route 108 south of Napoleon from just over 9,500 square feet to more than 85,000 square feet. This has been accomplished through five major additions.
In 1967, the “South Addition” was the first expansion of living area and nearly doubled the capacity of the Home. In 1984, the floor plan was augmented once again to include a new Kitchen and Dining Room that would accommodate a more family-style dining where there was room enough for all to dine together. In 1992, the southern-most portion of the building was added to provide four (4) “pods” or living areas to accommodate 16 residents in each double-sided unit that had eight bedrooms, two bathrooms and 2 common living spaces. In 2003, the growing facility, now with 56 residents and employing more than 200 added space to house a breakroom, laundry facility and administrative wing. In 2005, the final addition, the Therapy Center-gym and pool-was added to the East side of the building initiated by very generous donations including from the namesake of the facility-the Hanson family.
From just 12 residents at the end of 1959 to more than five times that at its highest census and currently, with a license for 51 beds, 48 now reside at Filling Homes base facility where it all began. In fact, 240 people have resided at this facility over the past 60 years.
No longer are Filling Homes’ services limited to those provided here in this building constructed on the original Filling Homestead. Residential (ICFIIDD) services, as the services at the Filling Home are called, have expanded to include two additional group homes in Williams County where 16 individuals live. And, since 1959, the scope of Filling Homes’ services for people with Developmental Disabilities has grown as well. In 1996, Filling Homes had begun to serve individuals with DD in the community. Today we provide supported living and drop-in services at 13 locations across Henry, Fulton, Williams and Defiance counties, 9 of which Filling Homes owns. Over time, as needs changed and grew, Community Services expanded to include Adult Day Services providing everything from social and sensory activity to life and community employment skills. Today, three sites located in Napoleon-Soaring Arts Studio, Filling Homes Community Center and the Filling Homes Hab Center within the Filling Home and one in Bryan, Ohio, Trinity Place, offer such services to more than 106 people.
On March 6, 2019, when Napoleon Mayor, Jason Maassel, joined 120 Filling Homes’ clients and staff in the Therapy Center gym to officially kick-off of the 60th anniversary celebration, Carrie Filling Vajen could never have imagined that her “Home of Mercy” would grow to serve 153 people with disabilities in 18 locations across 4 counties, employing 360 people as Henry County’s 4 largest employer and impacting the local economy with a $14 million annual budget. She may not have imagined it, but she would sure be happy to know that, after 60 years, her legacy continues to grow in the spirit in which it was given and accomplish exactly what she planned-provide a place of refuge that recognizes the need for a comforting environment where all services are coordinated to meet their individual needs, thereby enabling the individual served to achieve their maximum developmental potential…and achieve a wholeness of personhood as one who is loved by God and others, and one who loves self, others and God.*
*From the Last Will and Testament of Carrie Filling Vajen