In 1905, the initiative to purchase a dispensary located in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, led by The Rev. August Fischer pastor of the St. Michael Lutheran Church, Deaconess Sister Maria Roeck, and a local physician Dr. William G. Eisenhardt, was finalized and the treatment of local immigrants suffering from tuberculosis began what would become a lifelong mission of helping those in need in the community. Their efforts were so productive and beneficial at the Kensington Dispensary that it was awarded the Silver Medal by President Theodore Roosevelt on behalf of the International Congress on Tuberculosis for the pioneering and treatment of the disease in 1908. Under the driving force of Sister Maria, the work continued and by 1913 a second location, RiverCrest, had been purchased and refurbished for the purpose of providing a location where inner-city children who were either orphaned by tuberculosis, or were suffering from other ailments could heal in the fresh air of its rural setting – “A Place in the Sun” was the slogan for their first-ever fundraising campaign.
In 1947, Deaconess Sister Grace Jones took the helm and began leading KenCrest’s efforts to take the mission in a new and exciting direction. The eradication of tuberculosis made KenCrest available to apply their talents to supporting the needs of children with disabilities and their families, which Sister Grace identified as an unmet need in her community.
Opening the first programs in the city specifically designed to formally educate children with intellectual disabilities began in 1955 and would evolve over time to result in groundbreaking work in 1985, when KenCrest would open some of the first centers in the city for to educate very early learners with disabilities along with their typically developing peers. This model offered new, insightful data on the positive academic, social, and emotional value of such a setting for both groups of children.
The early 80s saw a blossoming set of diversified services being offered for adults with intellectual disability. In 1983, the first KenCrest adult community living homes were started, followed by the first in the state of Delaware. Then came the innovative Lifesharing programs in 1985.
In 1991, KenCrest pioneered the model of how support was given to infants who were medically fragile and technology-dependent. KenCrest’s supported and customized employment model began taking off in the early nineties, offering individuals career choices, and the appropriate supports to work in the position and location of their choosing.
The work continued into the ensuing decades with expansion of adult community living services in the states of Connecticut in 2008 with the capacity for the delivery of adult residential supports increasing with the acquisition of Lynch Homes in Pennsylvania in 2011.
Today, KenCrest continues to ensure that all individuals live well in their community and offers not only community living options, but a host of adult employment opportunities as well. Recognizing that the most effective outcomes begin with good planning, our youth transition and employment supports are ensuring that individuals not only live in their community, but are also prepared and ready to work as well.