The goal at Episcopal Retirement Homes isn’t merely to keep residents healthy and happy. Ideally, they also will be achieving their life’s purpose.

The Fairfax-based organization has a philosophy called “Person-Centered Care,” in which residents’ freedom takes priority.

“If a resident had been a business person throughout their whole life, we really try to tap into that person’s experience,” says Bryan Reynolds, integrated marketing director for the not-for-profit group that was founded in 1951. “We may ask for their opinion on certain decisions.”

For a lifelong homemaker, “We may provide some opportunities, such as maybe baking some cookies or leading a group on quilting,” Reynolds says. “Something that really draws from their experience, from their comfort, and really put them to use.”

If residents aren’t interested, they aren’t pushed.

That philosophy extends to all aspects of a resident’s life, such as decisions as basic as when they get out of bed.

“People can get up when they want to get up,” Reynolds says. “We’re not going to wake them up at 7:30 a.m., breakfast is at 8. They can get up and eat when they want, shower when they want, go to the activities that they want. The day is theirs to do as they want.

“Another thing we like to say is, ‘They’re not living in our workplace; we’re working in their home,’” Reynolds says. “So we’re really very respectful that this is their space, their community, their home. We’re just here to enrich their lives.”

Episcopal Retirement Homes owns or manages 10 retirement communities with 854 total housing units.

Its two flagship premier retirement offerings are the stately Deupree House and Marjorie P. Lee Retirement Community, both in Hyde Park. ERH’s eight affordable-living communities for lower-income seniors include The Elberon in Price Hill, St. Paul Village in Madisonville and St. Pius Place in South Cumminsville.

Episcopal Retirement Homes is quickly expanding its affordable-living communities; seven more, which will have 322 total units, are in development, including the upper floors of the YMCA in Over-the-Rhine. The new communities will be in Walnut Hills; Amelia; Northside; Anderson, Ind.; Lexington, Ky.; and West Liberty, Ohio.

Phil and Joan Maechling have lived at Deupree House for years. After experiencing health problems, they moved from the home they built in Florida to be closer to family.

“The best decision we ever made—other than marrying my wife—was to come here,” Phil says.

In late 2011, the Maechlings decided to help a charity called Blanketed With Love that their granddaughters created in Detroit. It makes beautiful fleece blankets for the needy and homeless.

“My goal around that time was to make 50, and I had no idea that the people would come and help us,” Joan says. To date, residents of the Deupree House have created more than 940, donating $15,000 of their own money for the materials without being asked.

Most blankets go to the Salvation Army’s women’s shelter and the Center for Respite Care in Avondale, a temporary residence for homeless people who have been discharged from a hospital before they’re fully healed. Foster children and tornado victims in Moscow, Ohio, have also received some.

Women from Deupree House assemble blankets on Fridays.

“There’s no sewing involved,” Joan says. “It’s two pieces of fleece, which is a wonderful, warm fabric. We put them together and then we cut 5-inch strips all the way around them and tie them. That’s what holds them together.

“They’re wonderfully warm, and they’re beautiful,” Joan says. “Both of those things help people who are hurting.”

One homeless man at the Respite Center told Phil, “I’ve never owned a blanket before.”

Phil recently turned 86, “and my wife isn’t that far behind me, and there isn’t a whole heck of a lot we can do. But we can do this,” he says.

“The ladies that come here, they’re having a lot of fun, and at the same time, they know they’re doing a lot of good,” he says.

“The people here are very generous of time,” Phil adds. “Within the past half hour we had 15 ladies knotting on blankets that we had prepared for them. They completed 12 blankets today.

“I would say the most impressive thing to me about Deupree House is the caring staff,” he says. “You cannot ask for something that somebody won’t get it for you, if it’s at all possible.”

He has a sense the facility’s staff draws as much satisfaction from their work as he and Joan do from providing blankets.

The handymen and painters show up quickly and go out of their way to be helpful, Phil says.

Episcopal Retirement Homes is not owned by the church but has close ties with the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio. Some board members come from the diocese. But ERH accepts residents of all faiths, and transports residents to churches of several denominations.

The organization is aggressively creating more independent-living communities for seniors with lower incomes, Reynolds says.

“By no fault of their own, they may not have been able to save their whole lives, but we provide a very safe, comfortable and affordable community for them,” he says.

For those residents, “we’ve got chaplains who can come in and perform Bible studies and go and listen to the residents of the communities if they’re sick or having a hard time,” Reynolds says.

“In a lot of them, they have group outings where they may go to a restaurant or destination. They’ll have parties and get-togethers,” he says. “So it really fosters an atmosphere where the neighbors care about each other and look out for each other.

“We have staff that obviously is doing that as well,” he says. “And we’re starting to introduce some light housekeeping services, screenings of blood pressure and blood sugars, and things like that, so we can get into some preventive services, so we can catch things early and refer them to other social or medical services when they need it.”