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Hiawassee Park provides tranquil lifestyle

Georgia Baptists' newest retirement community


Joe Westbury/Index

Twenty-two of 34 retirement homes have been constructed and are ready for occupancy. All of the units are built into the hillside and are rated “green” for being highly energy efficient. The next construction phase will include a lodge housing 59 one- and two-bedroom independent living apartments and 24 assisted living suites.

Hiawassee Park

► The two-bedroom cottages have 1,760 square feet with two baths, vaulted ceilings, granite countertops, a sunroom, front porch with view of the mountains, and a two-car garage.

► The clubhouse, which will serve as the center of activity for residents, will be equipped with a large kitchen fully equipped for family meals and a dining and sitting area. A large wood-burning fireplace will add to the lodge-like atmosphere, she added.

► Adjoining the clubhouse will be exercise and fitness rooms and a therapy pool. There will be adequate space for board games and arts and crafts activities.

► After the cottages are completed a lodge housing 59 one- and two-bedroom independent living apartments and 24 assisted living suites will be constructed. A beauty salon and office for a local physician will also be included for convenience of residents.

► The grounds will feature nature trails, a gazebo, and fountains and nooks for meditation and prayer, says BRC President/CEO Laura Willis. As much natural greenery is being preserved as possible; all trees that are removed will be recycled as mulch or used in landscaping. Rainwater will be captured and used for irrigation.

► Units are now ready for occupancy by calling Peggy Beckett at (404) 325-9077. For more information visit

HIAWASSEE — Occupancy of Georgia Baptists’ newest retirement community is well underway with 22 units already constructed and the final dozen on schedule for a late 2012 completion.

Ten of those 22 units are already occupied, said Baptist Retirement Communities Vice President Peggy Beckett.

The 1,760-square-foot units rent for $2,000 a month with no contract to give residents the flexibility to move as needs dictate. The highly energy efficient residences, rated green for their efficiency, feature state-of-the-art construction, including being built into the slope of the property, to lower heating and cooling costs.

In fact, the dwellings are rated earth homes by the Blue Ridge Mountain EMC because one-third of each unit is built into the slope. That designation qualifies the property for the lowest electrical rates from the cooperative.

Jane Arnold, a former member of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, was one of the first residents who moved into her two-bedroom unit in January. She appreciates the fact that the rent includes all water costs and maintenance, including grounds keeping, garbage removal, and all appliances that are furnished.

“When you consider you are in a private cottage with this much space it’s really a good deal. I really like the fact that every unit has a view of the mountains.”

Flo and Kenneth Gerrard moved into Hiawassee Park almost immediately after their Hiawassee home burned to the ground on Valentine’s Day morning. They barely made it out of the house with the clothes on their back as 15-foot flames poured from the roof.

“Someone’s a real thinker in the Baptist world to conceive of a project like this,” he added. “This is really a jewel; people will be real lucky to get a unit in here.”

Kenneth Gerrard

“We lost everything; if we had been in the basement the house would have collapsed on top of us because it burned so quickly. I tell folks I made it out with the most important things in life – my wife, my dog, and my wallet.

“Hiawassee has to be the luckiest town in the county to have a retirement community like this. Patio homes – with everything on one floor with no steps anywhere – are a rarity up here in the mountains. This property is beautifully landscaped with mountain views that can’t be beat.”

Gerrard says the clubhouse, when completed, will be a great asset and he and his wife are looking forward to using the therapeutic pool with the treadmill in the bottom to provide resistance.

“Someone’s a real thinker in the Baptist world to conceive of a project like this,” he added. “This is really a jewel; people will be real lucky to get a unit in here.”

Longtime Jubalheirs member Pat Lehman moved from Smyrna to Hiawassee Park on Jan. 5. She had worked for 40 years and retired in July 2011 and first learned about the property from an article in the July 14 issue of The Index.

“I have always loved the mountains and saw that God was doing a wonderful thing here and I wanted to be a part of it. I have already joined Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church across the state line in Haysville, NC and I’m looking for a place of service.

“I love the tranquility of opening my shutters every morning and seeing the mountains and sensing God’s presence.

“I didn’t come here to retire but to find a new place of ministry. I know God has something special for me here.”

Joe Westbury/Index

Every home features a view of the North Georgia Mountains and Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the state. This view is taken through the glass front door of one of the units.

Joe Westbury/Index

Pat Lehman, formerly of the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna, moved into her new home on Jan. 5. She says she enjoys the tranquility of opening her shutters and seeing the mountains every morning.