A testament to service and generous giving since 1868
It was perhaps no accident that the Rev. Phillip Willard served the Lutheran parish in Loysville, Pa., between 1856 and 1858. There, he surely became acquainted with the "classical academy" being operated by the Tressler family, who would reconfigure their small institution into a soldiers' orphans home at the close of the Civil War.
In early 1867, Willard returned to Loysville with an attorney and a mission of making the orphans home an institution of the church. That dream came true the following year with the sale of the property—eventually to be known as the Tressler Lutheran Home for Children—to the church.
Named the first superintendent of the children's home, Willard nevertheless spent most of the next year on the road raising some $4,000 to equip the home for its mission of serving "poor orphan children … [supplying] their temporal wants … [educating] them physically, intellectually, morally, and religiously … and … extend[ing] over them a wholesome guardianship."
Nearly three decades later, concerned as well about orphaned children, members of the church's then-Reading Conference elected a board of trustees and set about raising funds to purchase land to establish "The Lutheran Orphans' Home in Berks County, Pennsylvania." Eventually, the institution would be known as The Lutheran Home at Topton.
The home's first superintendent, the Rev. Uriah P. Heilman, on a summer morning in 1897, undertook the groundbreaking himself, digging up several wheelbarrow loads of dirt, making the excavation in the shape of a cross.
And, just a little over a decade later, Lutherans came together in Baltimore to create an inner mission society focused on chaplaincy services and opening a home for young women traveling to the city for education or work.
All three organizations began in response to need, and grew as the direct result of generous donations given by individuals, congregations, community groups, and businesses.
While much has changed—with Tressler, Topton, and the Lutheran Inner Mission continued today through Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries and growing over the years to serve children, families, and older adults—the mandate to meet people's needs has not.
Nor has the pivotal role generous donors play in helping to make possible those services to children and youths, families and individuals, and older adults. Each year, as the result of efficient operations, the legacy of donors past, and the generosity of donors present, Diakon provides approximately $1 million a month in benevolent care—making care possible to many who could not otherwise afford it.
Helping to assure Diakon can continue to provide such charitable care is the role of the Diakon Lutheran Fund Board of Directors. The board, composed of individuals with a range of financial, business, and organizational backgrounds, oversees a variety of funds—including permanently restricted endowment funds—whose purpose is to generate income for services to children and families.
Having their genesis in gifts given over the years to The Lutheran Home at Topton and the Tressler Lutheran Home for Children, and the Lutheran Inner Mission Society, these funds are critical to assuring adoption for waiting children, counseling for families in crisis, day care for inner-city children, charitable care for older adults, and much more.
Only through growth of these funds, whose income supports so many programs, can Diakon continue to meet the growing needs of people throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware.