Epworth Village campus sold; offices to move to church

David Burke


After more than 130 years of serving children and families in York, Nebraska, Epworth Village’s campus is being sold and its offices moved to York United Methodist Church.

A sale price was not disclosed, but the purchase had to be approved by the denomination’s United Women in Faith, formerly United Methodist Women. Epworth Village opened in 1889 as the Mothers’ Jewels Home for orphans and through the years became a group home for youth. United Women in Faith had to approve the sale because of its historic missional relationship with Epworth Village.

Margaret Donovan, CEO of Epworth Village for the past seven years, said the sale was a sign of the times, since in 2017 the facility disbanded group-home services to focus on in-home family services and foster care.

“Child welfare policies on a national level were changing,” Donovan said. “We have seen our in-home family services expand and our foster services families expand.”

The Epworth Village grounds and buildings are being sold to a company that already owns property directly to the south, Donovan said. The shop area will be used by the company, and cottages will be remodeled for housing.

“They will do some refurbishing to the cottages and some of the buildings,” she said.

Epworth Village personnel will move into the lower level of York UMC, Donovan said. Many of the employees already work remotely, she said, and not as much space is needed. Meeting rooms in the building will be shared by the church and Epworth Village, she said.

“With the amount of resources that we are putting into keep the grounds and buildings, we will be able to shift to programs for families and children,” Donovan said.

“It’s going to expand our capabilities even more,” she added. “We’re just really grateful.”

Rev. Tamara Holtz, president of the board of directors, said the sale was a win-win.

“There have been so many changes in the last six years,” said Holtz, a retired elder in the UMC. “(On) our campus, we were not using the buildings at all. We were paying marginal utilities to keep those buildings going, but we still had a lot of cost. This was a good time to sell when we had this opportunity come up.”

Epworth Village began in 1889 as the Mothers' Jewels Home for orphans.

Holtz said the York community has supported Epworth Village throughout its history.

“They have watched the changes come and go throughout the years. This has been a good partnership between the community and Epworth Village, support-wise, mission-wise, and we wanted to stay in our community, because it’s been such a supportive area,” she said. “We’ve had so many United Methodist Women and churches see the mission and work with us. We were able to expand our mission because of the local churches in the area.”

Holtz said she was excited about the future of Epworth Village.

“Our mission will only expand as new opportunities come along to serve women and families. We’re dedicated to working and helping support women and families and children,” she said. “There’s new opportunities to expand our foster programs.”

The mission of Epworth Village will be better communicated with the change, she said.

“The people in the local church will see what our mission is. They’re dedicated to helping us, but possibly there’s a family who thinks maybe they should be a foster family,” she said. “We’re going to be able to relate to one another together because we’ll be working together.”

Holtz praised the work of the Epworth Village board of directors, up to and including the sale.

“I’m just in awe of the skills and the gifts this board has,” she said.

Marilyn Zehring, a longtime board member, said the sale made sense to all those involved.

“We were sitting there with a number of vacant buildings,” she said. “We didn’t feel like this was good stewardship of our money.”

Keeping in close contact with United Women in Faith is beneficial to Epworth Village as well, she said, including the ability to receive grants.

“We have a covenant with them, and we will still be a part of United Women in Faith through being an institution,” she said.

Contact David Burke, content specialist, at dburke@greatplainsumc.org.

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