It’s always been a matter of service for Martha Baxter – her friends and the people she serves seem to be one and the same. This year marks a quarter century of her life dedicated to the residents of Highlands Court, bringing the facility from an experiment to an inspiration for the Deer Park neighborhood.
Baxter’s experience as a manager of low income family housing began in 1981 at Underhill Associates. Prior to that, her resume listed 15 years in retail customer service. Entering a program such as Highlands Court with a flair for problem solving and customer satisfaction was an obvious fit from the start. Baxter won Manager of the Year awards from HUD in 1995 and 1998. Her steadfast devotion was returned with tenured residents.
But beyond the good will, there is good business to consider. Located at 1720 Richmond Drive, near the corner of Norris Place, the facility is one of the many vital elements of Highlands Community Ministries (HCM). The building has 100 apartments where its residents – a blend of elderly and physically handicapped individuals – can continue their shopping, recreation and worship in the community they already know and love. “Highlands Court has helped these people to remain in familiar territory and keep the economy of the Highlands going,” says Baxter.
HCM Director Stan Esterle recalls the corner as a place where he grew up. “It was a Bonnycastle ball diamond,” he says, in a smile audible over the phone. “We loved playing ball there with all the kids in the neighborhood.”
The property was developed with Bellarmine University and the program is maintained by HUD and staffed by Underhill Associates. Renovations and other continuing improvements have been a big part of HCM’s goal for the property. Esterle says having someone like Martha keeping things running smoothly on the inside has been a blessing.
“She’s very efficient,” he says, “and bends over backward to help someone in need. Everyone loves her.”
Resident Verna Adams grew up along Payne Street and lived on Eastern Parkway near Quadrant Avenue for 30 years before settling into Highlands Court as a retiree. While she wishes Baxter well, Adams will miss seeing her on a regular basis.
“We hate to lose her. She’s just a sweet, caring person about everybody,” Adams says, but adds, “She’ll be coming around from time to time.”
Adams is a six-year resident at Highland Court and is thrilled with the benefits of independent living. But the real ‘glue’ for the tenants has been the advocacy and organization of Martha Baxter.
“We’re on our own,” Adams says. “But it’s been good to know that someone like Martha is there for us if we need anything – medicine pickup, groceries – she’d take us to funeral homes when we needed to go.”
When asked about the future, Baxter replies, ”I want to spend time with my husband, Bill Baxter, and my grandchildren ... rest, travel and attend swim meets for my three wonderful granddaughters.”
And as to the residents?
“Every day for the past 25 years as manager has been memorable and a pleasure to serve the community,” says Baxter. “Thanks for the memories.”