Phoebe Ministries Kicks Off 115th Anniversary with Fete, Photo Re-Creations

Among the earliest guests at the Phoebe Home (in 1908) were: (left to right, seated) Emily Sprenkle, Alexandria, Pa; Catherine Soliday, Hanover; Sarah Bortz (Aunt Sally), Macungie; (standing from left) Barbara Debach, East Greenville; Lizzie Anthony, and Eva Remaley, both of Allentown. Photo from “A Legacy of Care: The History of Phoebe Ministries 1903-2003.

UCC CHHSM’s Phoebe Ministries will kick off its 115th anniversary of providing care and service to older adults with a special Lawn Fête and band concert Aug. 22 at its Phoebe Allentown community.

The event, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m., is free and open to the public, and will feature the renowned Royalaires in concert. The evening’s program includes honoring members of the local community with ties to Phoebe’s history, a blessing and re-dedication of Phoebe Allentown, plus carnival games, food, and the concert.

Phoebe Ministries chose to begin its year-long celebration in August because it marks the month that Pauline Hoffeditz, the very first Phoebe resident, moved to the original farmhouse that once stood where Phoebe Allentown is now (1925 Turner Street in Allentown, Pa.).

Organized in the 1950s, the Phoebe Home Auxiliary’s Annual Lawn Fête and band concert was an August tradition in Allentown’s West End.  Another Phoebe tradition, “The Annual Visiting and Donation Day,” later renamed “The Phoebe Festival,” was held on the front lawn for more than 100 years.

As part of the celebration, an historic photo from the 1930 Donation Day will be re-created at the event. All attendees are invited to help us stage the new photo at 5:30 p.m. during the Fête. The original photo as well as the re-creation will be featured on the Phoebe Ministries Facebook page.

Phoebe’s Beginnings

Phoebe residents participating in the recreation photo. Bottom Row from Left to Right: Helen Juretus, Mary Sidoti, Irene Hixson. Top Row from Left to Right: Julia Endres, Theresa Lehman, Loretta Gable.

In the publication, The First 50 Years of Phoebe Home, Dr. H.M.J. Klein wrote:

Although Phoebe’s charter was granted by the Court of Lehigh County on Jan. 20, 1903, the Griesemer Homestead at 1923 Turner Street was not purchased until the spring of 1904, when it was then made ready for its new purpose. It was shortly after this that the Board engaged Monroe Gangawere and his wife to move into the farmhouse and serve as caretakers until the home was formally opened. Quite unexpectedly in the following weeks, the Board was notified of two women who were in dire circumstances, left homeless and unable to care for themselves. Without hesitation they opened the doors of the organization that would later be known as The Phoebe Deaconess and Old Folks Home.

On August 20, 1904 Mrs. Pauline Hoffeditz and Mrs. Sarah Egge were admitted into the Old Folks Department of the Home. Within a few weeks Mrs. Egge surrendered to the privilege that had been granted her at the Home, and Mrs. Catherine Hersh was admitted in her place.

The original photo, above right, shows six of the earliest residents of Phoebe. The first anniversary recreation photo is above left. “In the re-creation, we had fun asking six of our current Phoebe Allentown Health Care Center residents — one from each neighborhood — to imitate the facial expressions and postures of the women from the early 1900s! They were all good sports and it took quite a lot to keep them from smiling!” reports the members of Phoebe’s 115th Anniversary Committee.

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