Highmark Delaware Contributes $1 Million to Build Ministry of Caring’s Villa Maria Senior Housing Project in Wilmington, DE

April 02, 2021 9:28 AM | Philanthropy Delaware (Administrator)

(April 1, 2021 by Press Release) Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is a Philanthropy Delaware member. On March 11, 2021, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware announced a transformative contribution of $1 million to help build Villa Maria, The Ministry of Caring’s newest senior housing project in Wilmington’s historic Brandywine Village neighborhood.

Once completed, Villa Maria will provide 72 affordable one-bedroom apartments for qualifying
low- and moderate-income seniors over the age of 62. The new residences replace vacant and dilapidated buildings on the 1900-2000 block of N. Market Street, with the project extending through the block to Hutton and Race Streets to the north.

“This incredibly generous gift from Highmark Delaware helps The Ministry of Caring provide 72
to 100 individual seniors with safe, secure, affordable housing in an enriching environment in their golden years and helps further the renaissance of the historically important Brandywine Village neighborhood.” said Brother Ronald Giannone, OFM Cap., The Ministry of Caring’s Founder and Executive Director. 

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania project the number of seniors ages 62+ in need of housing assistance will triple by 2030, with other studies connecting stable housing with significant improvement in health outcomes for seniors, while significantly reducing the associated costs of
elder care. 

Studies from 2012 indicate older adults living in safe, secure, affordable housing are mentally sharper and more mobile physically than those seniors experiencing homelessness or who live in substandard, insecure housing. Absent new housing solutions, substantial numbers of Wilmington’s seniors will suffer unnecessarily without more affordable housing options, while driving health care costs ever upward.

“The data tells us that we need healthy and affordable housing for aging populations as they may become more restricted both physically and financially. The Ministry of Caring is delivering a comprehensive approach that will enable our seniors to age with dignity by engaging them with the community and providing access to the health and wellness services they need most. We are thrilled to be a partner in supporting this effort,” said Rita Landgraf, chair of the Blueprints for the Community Advisory Council.

With its strong track record of building high-quality, affordable housing for 160 seniors in three Wilmington locations — Village of St. John, Sacred Heart Village I, and Sacred Heart Village II — The Ministry of Caring is a proven leader in the field. Assuming an award of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits by the State of Delaware in July 2021, the Villa Maria project is set to break ground in 2022, with the first residents moving in by the end of 2023.

The Ministry, a leading provider of human services in Wilmington, owns 39 properties and operates 20 high-quality programs that provide food for the hungry; emergency and transitional housing for the homeless; long-term and permanent housing for those with special needs; job training/placement for the unemployed; child care for the children of low-income and homeless parents; and housing for low-income seniors.

Highmark Delaware has made this leadership gift to Villa Maria as part of a bold strategy to invest in community initiatives that reduce health inequities while dramatically improving the health of residents in the markets it serves.

Knowing that health is impacted by a broad range of social determinants, including housing, Highmark Delaware has made a commitment to driving major positive change through these kinds of community investments.

“Now more than ever we are seeing that safe and affordable housing is a major need in our state and is a social determinant of health that requires our full attention,” said Nick Moriello, president of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware. “Villa Maria is an outstanding project that will revitalize an underserved area, support a vulnerable population, and create opportunity for continued collaboration among business and community partners to improve health outcomes.”

By partnering with The Ministry of Caring, Highmark Delaware aligns collective resources to address social and environmental barriers to health that truly make a positive difference in the health of local communities, especially for vulnerable seniors.

Highmark Delaware’s $1,000,000 commitment from BluePrints for the Community to Villa Maria and the Brandywine Village neighborhood bolsters the nascent revitalization of the area that began two years ago with Ministry of Caring’s repurposing of the Cathedral of St. John to create affordable senior housing across the street.

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