Bill Pierce has seen a lot of changes in the field of aging services. In 1990, he became president of Baptist Village Communities (BVC) when the ministry was facing financial difficulties and infrastructure problems. Not only did Pierce help BVC overcome those struggles, but he also has helped the culture overcome mindsets and perspectives that have hindered the reputation of the senior living profession.
Instead of nursing care, it’s personal services; instead of Alzheimer’s ward, it’s memory support; instead of activities, it’s life enrichment; instead of nursing staff; it’s Friends team. Though it may seem like a word spin, this positive vocabulary demonstrates honor and promotes dignity for those BVC serves. This is one of the ways Pierce has helped BVC become the largest not-for-profit provider of senior housing in Oklahoma.
BVC has grown to eight villages across the state and will soon feature a village in Elk City. Under Pierce’s leadership, BVC has expanded its home health services, Entrusted Hearts, to cover many regions, and its skilled nursing services are considered among the best in the state.
On Aug. 10, BVC celebrated Pierce’s 25 years as president. Many guests attended the event at Baptist Village of Broken Arrow, and a video was shown that featured special speakers and photos commemorating this milestone.
Anthony Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), shared his memories of Pierce’s early years at BVC and how Pierce “methodically worked” his way through the debt and organizational issues. “You led with such integrity and wisdom,” Jordan said. “And I look back over those years and see where we are today, it is utterly astounding. You have done an incredible job. It’s a real pleasure for me to walk and work beside you, and I thank God for you and Susan and for your faithfulness in serving Oklahoma Baptists.”
Those who have worked with Pierce, including Jerry Unruh and Steve Thomas in the home office, shared on the video. Unruh, former senior vice president, reminisced about the “early years of BVC” and how Pierce “led us with God’s leadership out of the darkness” of extreme debt, and he commended Pierce for leading BVC for being on the “cutting edge of taking care of the elderly.” Thomas, vice president of operations, shared how he has “always been amazed at (Pierce’s) vision for the future and ability to adapt BVC into a ministry that is always relevant and meaningful for so many people.”
The video also featured remarks and best wishes from leadership of state Baptist affiliates including Robert Kellogg, president of the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma; Tony Kennedy, president of Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children; and David Whitlock, president of Oklahoma Baptist University.
Leadership from LeadingAge Oklahoma, the state association of not-for-profit providers of aging services, was represented on the video. Mary Brinkley, executive director of LeadingAge Oklahoma, told Pierce, “Thanks for everything you’ve done for the long term care profession.” Larry Minnex, president and CEO of LeadingAge Oklahoma, said, “Bill, they don’t make people any better than you, and they don’t make ministries any better than the one that you lead.” He thanked Pierce for leading aging services providers “to the ‘promise land’ of better care and services for seniors in this country.”
Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford concluded the video telling Pierce, “Well done. You have served the Baptist community and the Baptist Village Community extremely well for 25 years. Add my voice to many voices that are proud to know you and amazed at your service to people and to God.”
Photos also were shown in the video of residents of the different Villages, congratulating Pierce in creative ways. Many were photographed overhead as they stood in the shape of the number 25.
Pierce offered his thoughts about his 25 years with BVC:
“I am grateful to God for the call in my life and for the people who gave me the opportunity to lead Baptist Village Communities. The work is both very challenging and very rewarding. I have always looked at what we do in BVC as ‘Shaping the Future of Aging Services.’ Through the years, thousands of Oklahoma Baptists and hundreds of churches have partnered with us in serving. I am especially grateful to those people who faithfully make significant financial gifts that benefit the people we serve.
“One of the most satisfying parts of my job is the opportunity to help people who do not have sufficient resources to live in a Baptist Village. Their financial needs are met through the BGCO Mother’s Day Offering received in the churches and the Larry and Edwine Adams Assistance Fund. When a person gives to the offering and the fund they are literally ‘helping widows in distress.’ Many people give to this fund on a monthly basis and their gifts make a huge difference.
“Some of the highlights of the 25 years include new villages in Broken Arrow and Elk City, the construction of four assisted living centers and a health center. We also began two patio home housing additions, one in Owasso and one in Broken Arrow known as Bradford Park and Eagle Ridge.
“BVC is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the country. People often ask how BVC is different from other organizations in our country that provide the same kinds of services. The answer is simple. Everyone involved in the ministry is serving God every day. The BVC theme is ‘Serving God, Serving you, Serving Together.’ Residents, volunteers and team members hold dear the scripture that says ‘through love serve one another.’ A lifestyle of serving others in Jesus’ name makes all the difference.
“Entrusted Hearts by Baptist Village is an important part of BVC. The ministry brings home health, assistance in living, case management and medical equipment services to the community. The ministry enables BVC to provide services to hundreds of people who do not live on a Baptist Village campus. More than 800 people are enrolled in the program.
“This year, we have an emphasis on prayer and evangelism. Residents and team members are learning how to share their story and post it on the website
mostimportantthing.org. The emphasis is taking place on every campus, and people are sharing Christ. The year will culminate with a retreat at Falls Creek in which we will worship together and seniors will share what God did in their life many years ago. We are praying that the retreat will result in a fresh call in their lives, as senior adults prepare and equip themselves to lead the way in the area of evangelism and discipleship in our state.”