It all started with a dream.
While serving at First Lutheran Church in Altoona, PA, the Rev. Dr. Luke H. Rhoads answered the need for senior homes in West Central Pennsylvania. The Allegheny Lutheran Home was incorporated and Dr. Rhoads served as president of its first Board of Directors.
Funded entirely by donations from individuals and churches in the Allegheny Lutheran Conference, The Allegheny Lutheran Home at Hollidaysburg (Blair County) welcomed its first residents in 1952. Expansion came quickly when, just a year later, construction began on independent living cottages on the Hollidaysburg campus, Hickory Commons.
With the success of the Hollidaysburg community, The Allegheny Lutheran Home at Johnstown was built in Cambria County and opened its doors to residents in 1960. Since then, 21 independent living cottages have been added to the Johnstown campus.
For children, the first Growing Years Early Learning Center opened in Bedford in 1978. Centers were later opened in Altoona, Claysburg, DuBois and Johnstown, and Head Start programs for low-income families and children with disabilities were provided as part of our service to the community.
Other community services now include: Pre-K Counts programs located in Bedford and Johnstown; Kid Stop, which provides summer, before- and after-school care and activities for school-aged children in Bedford, Claysburg, Everett and Johnstown; and the Family Centers of Bedford/Fulton Counties, which in 1992 introduced resources and education services to families who are expecting a child or have a child who is not yet in Kindergarten.
The Hillcrest Apartments were built on the Hollidaysburg Hickory Commons campus in 1984 to provide additional options for seniors seeking independent living.
In 1991, as programs and services continued to expand, The Allegheny Lutheran Homes and Lutheran Social Services – Allegheny Region merged to form Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries. As the Rev. Dr. Daun McKee, President and CEO at the time, explained, each word in the new title was chosen with care:
- Allegheny denotes the specific geographic area of which we have social ministry responsibility in the church.
- Lutheran identifies us as a recognized ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Allegheny Synod).
- Social signifies that our proclamation is through services of healing and performing acts of love for others.
- Ministries because serving and helping others is a Christian way of life, and these acts of ministering to others are at the very heart of the Gospel.
More programs were added to allow seniors to continue to maintain their independence. ALSM at Home (formerly Community Support Services) began to offer in-home care to Blair County seniors in 1992. ALSM at Home services were soon introduced in Cambria and Somerset counties, and later expanded in Blair County to provide home health care options. ALSM at Home Health Care includes skilled nursing care and in-home physical, occupational and speech therapies.
The Lutheran Home at Johnstown underwent major renovations in 1993, adding 61 skilled nursing beds in the health care center and converting the existing building into personal care rooms for residents.
ALSM initiated the first program of its kind in Central Pennsylvania when the Senior Daily Living Center in Altoona became an intergenerational care program in 1993. The program provides opportunities for seniors and children to bond, grow and learn from each other by sharing activities and interacting throughout the day.
The Oaks at Pleasant Gap, a continuing care retirement community, opened in Centre County as a 40-bed personal care home and cottage duplex in 1995. Additional homes have been built on the campus, along with 33 apartments for seniors.
The Lutheran Home at Hollidaysburg was re-built adjacent to the current building in 2004 as a state-of-the-art skilled nursing facility. The new health care center provides 89 beds for residents with both short-term rehabilitation and long-term nursing needs.
Realizing the need for rental assistance for seniors with fixed incomes, ALSM constructed Lutheran Commons at Berlin Pike in Somerset County in 2010. The project was financed through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Lutheran Commons at Pleasant Gap, a rental assistance complex in Centre County, was also constructed through a HUD grant.
As ALSM looks to the future, we will continue to seek opportunities to serve our communities and to touch even more lives through a ministry of love, compassion, and mercy in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.