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. Because of their pioneering treatment of the disease, President Theodore Roosevelt awarded the Silver Medal to the Kensington Dispensary on behalf of the International Congress on Tuberculosis in 1908. Under the driving force of Sister Maria, the work continued and by 1913, they purchased and refurbished a second location, River Crest. This property gave orphaned or ailing inner-city children a place to heal in the fresh air of its rural setting. “A Place in the Sun” was the slogan for their first-ever fundraising campaign.
Caring for Children with Disabilities
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 evolved over time to result in groundbreaking work. In 1985, KenCrest opened 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.
Adding Services for Adults with Disabilities
In the early 80s, KenCrest blossomed with a new set of diversified services offered for adults with intellectual disabilities. In 1983, KenCrest opened adult community living homes in Pennsylvania, 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 to support infants who were medically fragile and technology-dependent. KenCrest’s supported and customized employment model began taking off in the early 90s, offering individuals career choices, and the appropriate supports to work in the position and location of their choosing.
The work continued into the coming decades with expansion of adult community living services in the states of Connecticut in 2008. The capacity for the delivery of adult residential supports increased with the acquisition of Lynch Homes in Pennsylvania in 2011.
Today, KenCrest continues to ensure that all people 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, KenCrest supports youth transition and employment opportunities so that people with disabilities are prepared and ready to work.