Carroll Lutheran Village

November 2015 - July 2018


Carroll Lutheran Village was established in 1980 through the cooperative grassroots effort of 21 local Lutheran pastors and lay leaders to provide quality care for older adults.  The original 40-acre campus in Westminster, Maryland, opened with eight cottages, followed shortly by the Health Care Center.  Over the past 40 years the community has evolved to offer a full continuum of care to nearly 700 residents. 

Two distinct neighborhoods provide a choice of size and floor plans for independent living.  The Traditional neighborhood offers mostly one-bedroom and studio apartments ranging from 450 to 600 square feet with a limited number of two-bedroom apartments just under 1,000 square feet.  The two utilitarian red brick apartment buildings are connected to each other as well as the Health Care Center (103 beds for short-term rehabilitation, long-term care and memory care), the Diven House for assisted living (52 suites licensed for 64 beds), two dining venues, a pub, a large library, beauty salon, bank, art studio and multi-purpose room.  Forty-eight cottage homes, reflective of the late 1970’s to early 1980’s ranch design style complete this neighborhood.  These cottages average about 1,000 square feet and most have exceptional rural views.  A walking trail, large woodworking shop and community garden round out this neighborhood.

The Wakefield Overlook expansion in the mid-2000’s on 50 adjoining acres added 90 apartments, 52 homes, a Wellness Center with indoor heated saltwater pool, fitness rooms and a massage/spa area, two new dining venues and more community spaces for active living.  The Wakefield Overlook neighborhood has craftsman design and offers larger square footage.  Apartments range from a one-bedroom with den with 1,000 square feet to a two-bedroom with den for over 1,800 square feet.  Homes range from 1,600 to over 2,100 square feet, some with walkout basements.  Outdoor community spaces include a walking trail with fitness stations, putting green, tennis courts and a labyrinth. 

Senior Marketing Solutions, LLC began working with Carroll Lutheran Village in November 2015 in a consulting role, which led to a full-time position for Karen Hodge as the Vice President of Marketing & Communications beginning January 2016.  The role was three-fold:


Stabilize occupancy for Carroll Lutheran Village.  Occupancy had dropped to the mid-80% range during the recession that began in 2008.  Sales efforts were challenged by nearly half of the available inventory being in the Traditional neighborhood with smaller square footage, outdated kitchens and baths and a changing market area



Opening and filling The Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant.  This new Lifeplan Community was an expansion of Carroll Lutheran Village into Ellicott City, Maryland.  Ellicott City is located in Howard County, which is consistently identified as one of the most desirable places to live in the country and one of the wealthiest. Miller’s Grant was under construction and scheduled to open in February 2016 – the first new continuing care retirement community/lifeplan community to open in the State of Maryland for nearly a decade. 


Standardize marketing processes, policies and procedures as the single campus evolved to a multi-site organization serving two very distinct markets


Progress at Carroll Lutheran Village

Independent living occupancy reached 95% within one year by: employing more targeted marketing approaches to sell particularly the smaller inventory, revising the wait list program to a two tier general wait list and adding a ready list for those willing to move within 18 months, and showcasing renovations and the livability of the more dated, smaller residences with well-staged models.  A team restructuring created a move-in coordinator/sales position, focused the marketing office coordinator more on CRM utilization vs. paper reporting, and increased digital and direct mail marketing for lead generation.  Karen collaborated with Love & Company to conduct a pricing analysis and competitive market research to recommend future pricing options including a proposed 90% entry fee offering and a 50% refund plan, which would align with the contract options at The Lutheran Village at MILLER’s GRANT.  The sales team visited key competitors to refresh their sales approach as CLV needed to expand its primary market are farther into western Baltimore and southwestern Carroll Counties. 

Under Karen’s leadership, the marketing team also helped boost occupancy in the Diven House for assisted living, where occupancy had dropped to the lower 80% after enjoying two decades of strong (95%) occupancy and waiting lists, mostly from interest by internal transfers vs. direct admissions.  Tactics implemented include leveraging information from the Love & Company pricing and competitive analysis to revise admissions practices, creating a model suite with upgraded options, combining some studio-style suites to create true one-bedroom suites, target marketing and marketing events for referral sources.

Progress at The Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant

It was clear during the construction of Miller’s Grant that the community would need to meet the demands of the “new consumer” – the baby boomer generation that has high expectations.  The demographics of the depositors, plus the demographics of the greater community situated between Baltimore and Washington and adjacent to one of the country’s first planned communities (Columbia, MD,) meant that these consumers were well-educated, had higher incomes, and know exactly what they want.  Karen’s more than 30 years of senior living marketing experience, including opening six new communities, provided effective support to the operations team as the community transitioned from construction to move-in through fill-up, including the development of new policies and procedures, to meet the high expectations.

Within three months of its February 2016 opening, Miller’s Grant was nearly 50% occupied, and the community achieved 95% occupancy (229 of 241 residences) within one year of opening.  By the summer of 2018, Miller’s Grant was 98% occupied and 99.5% reserved.  The strong early fill-up was above projections allowing approximately $68 million of bonds to be repaid three years early for a significant operational savings.  The early fill-up also allowed Karen to scale down the use of an outside agency and trim the pre-opening marketing staff to reduce marketing costs.  The use of targeted marketing tactics, including digital and direct mail, were used to begin building a wait list program.

The marketing team was also responsible for communication to residents, families, the community and the media when several cases of Legionnaire’s Disease were reported in June 2016, less than six months after the community opened.  The team served in a leadership role while working with state and county health officials to identify the cause and the crisis communication tactics employed led to praise in the aging industry as well as from the state and local health authorities.

Corporate Marketing

As part of the Executive Leadership Team, Karen participated in the transition from a single site to a multi-site organization, working closely with President/CEO and the Vice Presidents of Finance, Operations, Human resources and Philanthropy.  Karen made early contributions in the following areas:

  1. Pricing & competitive analysis for future pricing;
  2. Creation of new resident move-in survey;
  3. Review of admissions policy & procedures;
  4. Review of entry fee contract and pricing plans;
  5. Collaborative outreach and events with philanthropy including serving on the inaugural golf tournament committee for The Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant;
  6. Branding proposals to begin the branding process for the corporate organization.

Karen returned to South Carolina and her consultant role with Senior Marketing Solutions, LLC in July 2018 due to family demands.  She provided a ten-month notice to allow for national recruitment and a smooth transition.  Karen returned to Carroll Lutheran Village in the fall of 2018 to stage several model apartments, provide furniture arrangement options for existing floor plans, and to establish a detailed inventory system for furnishings and accessories.