TOPTON – Celebrating its 150th year, Diakon will hold its first major anniversary event when it dedicates a multi-million-dollar project that refurbished its iconic Old Main building at The Lutheran Home at Topton and also created a center designed to enhance Diakon’s foster care and adoption services.
The event will take place at 4:30 p.m. March 15 in Old Main on The Lutheran Home at Topton senior living campus.
The event will include dedication of the Helen N. Palmer Center for Permanency, an area of the second floor of Old Main designed to provide office space for Diakon Adoption & Foster Care staff and facilities to support and train foster and adoptive families and ease the transition of children into a new family setting.
Founded in 1896, the Topton home represents one of the two major roots of Diakon; the other is the Tressler Orphans Home in central Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1868. Diakon incorporates the sister organizations of Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries—which operates a dozen senior living and housing communities—and Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries.
The Old Main project, says Mark Pile of Macungie, Diakon president/CEO, involved renovation of the previously unused second floor of the building, installation of an elevator and completion of various exterior refurbishment efforts. “While the 32,000-square-foot building was structurally sound and its first floor was being used, Old Main needed extensive work to prevent further deterioration and make better use of the historic structure,” he says.
Seed money for the project came from a bequest of $7.2 million, received several years ago from the estate of Helen Nicholson Palmer of Wyomissing, who passed away in December 2012. Only a portion of the bequest was used for the Old Main project, Pile notes, with additional funding coming from bank financing. Palmer had served on the board of managers of the Home for Widows and Single Women, Reading, which was merged into The Lutheran Home at Topton in 1975. She also attended board meetings at Topton.
“Mrs. Palmer was very devoted to service to people in need, including children. We are pleased we could name the permanency center after her. The center is entirely in keeping with the original intent of The Lutheran Home to serve children and youths with few other resources,” Pile notes.
The center includes space for training of adoption and foster care staff and support groups for parents, as well as family-style areas helpful in the process of transitioning children and youths into foster and adoptive families.
“The center offers areas for family meetings, a kitchen for family meal preparation, a family resource center, better record-storage and, for staff and external groups, a moderate-scale conference and training area,” says Pile.
The $7-million renovation was done with respect for the building’s historical appearance, he adds. In addition to interior work, the project included renovation or replacement of exterior porches, window replacements or refurbishment, installation of new heating and air-conditioning systems and upgrading of the electrical system, all of which will help to preserve the building’s underlying structure and ensure continued use of Old Main, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The first floor of the building houses the Brandywine Community Library, the historic Putz train layout and some offices for The Lutheran Home at Topton senior living community and other Diakon staff members.
More information on the anniversary is available at www.diakon.org/150.