At the end of the month, Micheline Buchanan will retire, ending her 12-year term as director of the Raphael House, an assisted living facility. According to her staff and residents, she will be missed dearly.
“Her role as administrator comes second to her role as caregiver,” said Claire Loftus, a Potomac resident and family member of two residents at Raphael House. “We will all miss her so much.”
Raphael House, a nondenominational group home and assisted living facility affiliated with St. Raphael’s Catholic Church, is part of Victory Housing, a nonprofit, human service organization that provides affordable housing and support services throughout its Washington metropolitan area-based assisted living facilities.
“[In the recent push for affordable housing], the government has helped us and has been very supportive of the church,” said Buchanan.
Throughout her 12 years as director, Buchanan has seen only a few other, albeit successful, changes in Raphael House.
“Not much has changed over the years, other than that the residents, especially the men, are living longer,” said Buchanan.
She attributes Raphael House’s success to her staff and a lot of hard work.
“In the beginning I had to do some of the maintenance and cooking; it was like running your own house,” said Buchanan. “The only thing I didn’t do was painting.”
Buchanan, as well as the residents and their families, also credits the success of Raphael House to the team leadership of herself and her assistant, Helen Lowery, who has been with Buchanan for all of her 12 years as director.
“Helen is opinionated and strong,” said Buchanan. “We make a good mix.”
The staff, including Edith Avila, a Raphael employee for 10 years, also attributes Raphael’s sense of community to the work environment established by Buchanan’s warm personality.
“The first thing you notice about her is how kind she is,” said Avila. “She’s just the best.”
Buchanan, a London native, has five children and seven grandchildren, with an eighth on the way. In the future, Buchanan, now residing in Kensington, plans to move to Annapolis to be close to one of her four daughters. She also plans to help with the transition as the residents and staff of Raphael House acquaint themselves with a new director.
“I will miss her being in charge,” said Mary Louise Barbour, a Raphael House resident and Loftus’ mother. “She’s just wonderful and helps everybody.”
Even some of those who haven't known Buchanan very long speak of her charismatic demeanor.
“I haven’t even been there for very long,” said Marianne Barbour, a Raphael House resident and Loftus’ sister, “but she made me feel like I was a special person.”