ALSM continues to expand

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec From left, William Hickox and Jane Shultz join Cory Geishauser, a life enrichment manager, for a sing-a-long at Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries in Hollidaysburg.

Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries has grown during its 70 years, and leaders expect further growth in the years ahead.

Today, ALSM is the only regional not-for-profit organization offering services that span the generations in an eight-county service area.

“We are a not-for-profit organization that uses business principles so we can sustain our services. We are a social business. We respond to the needs of the people in the community,” said Patricia Savage, president and CEO.

Today’s ALSM was founded in 1948 by Rev. Dr. Luke Rhoads, pastor of the First Lutheran Church in Altoona.

“He and the congregation raised about $336,000. That was the beginning of the Allegheny Lutheran Home in Hollidaysburg. That would be well over $1 million in today’s dollars,” Savage said. “The reason was if Lutheran seniors needed a care home, they had to go to Washington, D.C., to go to a Lutheran home. Today we serve anyone who needs our services.”

On April 5, 1948, the Allegheny Lutheran Home was incorporated with Rhoads as executive director. He remained in this role until his retirement in 1978. Through the leadership of Rhoads, the Allegheny Lutheran Home at Hollidaysburg opened in 1950.

A temporary residence was opened in Johnstown in 1954, and a second Allegheny Lutheran Home opened there in 1960.

“We just did a major refurbishing of the personal care wing and added a child day care center there, as well,” Savage said.

In 1978, Daun McKee became executive director and ALSM expanded services, offering children’s day care programs through Growing Years Early Learning and Head Start programs in Bedford and Fulton counties. In the 1980s, services expanded to add adult day programs — Senior Daily Living Centers and before-and-after-school programs for children.

In the 1990s, ALSM continued to offer more community-based programs to assist individuals who wanted to remain independent in their own homes. ALSM at Home now provides in-home personal care and companion care in Blair, Cambria and Somerset counties.

A third senior living community, the Oaks at Pleasant Gap, opened in Centre County.

“We had a generous donor in Centre County — Margaret Schreffler, who donated $1 million. Her donation was to provide residential care services in Pleasant Gap,” Savage said.

In 1996, McKee retired, Savage became president and CEO of ALSM and the growth continued.

“Under my tenure, we became more financially sustainable and expanded independent living cottages for seniors. We recently opened new independent living cottages by the golf course called Blairmont Commons. We upgraded our personal care home in Johnstown. We’ve moved into retired assisted housing for seniors in Pleasant Gap and Somerset. We are consolidating our two senior daily living centers into a new building in Somerset that will be done this summer,” Savage said.

The growth also included a new administration building along Logan Boulevard.

“The small administration building in Hollidaysburg was not adequate for our needs. We have well over 100 people on a waiting list for independent living cottages. We needed the land for cottages. We also felt we needed a building that was more visible. We did a survey, and people said they thought all we did was run the Lutheran home in Hollidaysburg,” Savage said.

ALSM officials are proud of their growth.

“I am most proud of Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries continuing to grow and serve the needs of the people. I’ve been told people believe we care for people deeply and treat our staff right. We fulfill the mission to serve people through love, compassion and mercy. We walk the talk. Each year, we provide more than $2 million in charitable care to those residents who have outlived their resources,” Savage said.

“ALSM has grown and succeeded precisely because of the strong faith and outstanding abilities of our unparalleled staff. From the top on down, they are men and women of the finest character, inspired by their mission to provide the best for our clients and explore new ways to meet the needs of our community,” said Pastor John Miller of Trinity Lutheran Church in DuBois, chairman of the board of trustees.

Savage credits the board for the growth.

“I think our board of trustees has a real commitment to Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries and a vision to grow and continue to serve people and look at programs we would consider starting. They have been very supportive. We have been good stewards of the funds we have because we use good business principles,” Savage said.

Savage expects ALSM to continue to grow.

“We look for opportunities in program expansion, partners who have a similar mission to ours. I think we will see more independent living for seniors. People want to stay in their homes. There will be more cottages with services coming from the community to help maintain their own homes. We want to do anything to help people remain independent in their own homes. That is the wave of the future,” Savage said.