Good Shepherd History

1908: Good Shepherd Home Founded

One night in 1906, The Rev. John (affectionately known as "Papa") Raker was riding a train from Reading, Pennsylvania, when he ran into James Fritz, a parishioner of Papa Raker's from many years before. Papa Raker, a Lutheran minister, shared with James a deep desire to build a home for the needy. James was so moved by Papa Raker's vision that he asked for the honor of making the first donation towards that home. With Papa Raker's permission, James handed him fifty cents. 

After getting off the train in Belfast, James walked six miles to his home in Pen Argyl. He could have paid for a ride, but he had given the last of his money to Papa Raker. Some time later, James would remark that he still would have donated his last fifty cents even if that meant walking a hundred miles. 

On September 30, 1907, Papa Raker's dream of a home for the needy was put on hold as he and his wife, D. Estella Raker, celebrated the birth of their daughter. Her name was Viola. Sadly though, Viola passed away in December of that same year. She wasn't even three months old. Returning home from the funeral of their beloved daughter, the Rakers found a letter from a local minister asking if they had room in their Lutheran Church for a crippled child. 

Her name, too, was Viola: Viola Hunt.  The Rakers took Viola into their home.

And on February 21, 1908, so began the tradition of charity and care that became the Good Shepherd Home in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

1908: First Edition of Sweet Charity Printed
In 1908, The Rev. John Raker printed the first edition of Good Shepherd’s official magazine, Sweet Charity. Within the pages of the bi-monthly publication, Raker shared his thoughts on spirituality and chronicled the growth of the organization. Sweet Charity would become Good Shepherd’s seminal publication and an official account of the organization’s pioneering spirit of innovation and compassionate care.

1909: Ladies Auxiliary Founded
Good Shepherd’s Ladies Auxiliary was founded on August 26, 1909.  It’s purpose was to aide the board of trustees in properly furnishing and maintaining Good Shepherd Home and to provide clothing for the home’s residents.  Miss Laura V. Keck of St. John’s Church was the auxiliary’s first president.  Mrs. Robert W. Kurtz of St. Michael’s Church was the secretary and Mrs. R.S. Diehl of Christ Church was the treasurer.

By 1914, there were 10 Good Shepherd Ladies Auxiliary groups in existence besides the original group in Allentown.  Those groups were found in Bethlehem, Birdsboro, Coopersburg, Harrisburg, Hegins, Mauch Chunk, Quakertown, Reading, Sellersville and South Bethlehem.

1915:   Two Farms Purchased on the Lehigh River
In 1914, Papa Raker convened Good Shepherd’s Advisory Board to discuss a new idea.  He wanted to purchase two farms comprising 225 acres of land in Salisbury Township, about 1 mile southwest of Good Shepherd Home.  The farms would give the able-bodied children and elderly individuals at the home a place to find employment, recreation and an occasional change of scenery.  The advisory board accepted the idea and, in 1915, Good Shepherd Home purchased the farms.

Upon purchasing the farms, The Morning Call wrote: “The acquiring of the farms was a happy event at the home.  The achievement of Mr. Raker to secure the farms is considered a master stroke and one essential for the larger work of the Home.”

In the following years, the residents of Good Shepherd Home helped hired farmers tend to the farm.  They grew various fruits and vegetables, such as apples, beans and peas, and they raised cattle and pigs.

Good Shepherd would operate various farms until 1960.  Today, the original farms owned by Good Shepherd are part of Queen City Airport and the Allentown Park System, including the property where the Allentown Police Academy is located.

1919: First African American Admitted
At its founding, the organization was known as the Good Shepherd Home for Crippled Children and Old People.  Founded by a minister, Good Shepherd was, and remains, affiliated with the Lutheran Church.  However, Good Shepherd was a home for individuals of all faiths and of all colors.  The first Catholic child arrived at Good Shepherd in 1910, the first Jewish child arrived in 1918 and the first African American children arrived in 1919.

1924: New “Old Folks” Home Is Dedicated
In 1924, Good Shepherd opened the first accredited nursing home in the Lehigh Valley.  It was one of many innovative initiatives to come.

1938: Dispensary Opens
In 1938, Good Shepherd opened a dispensary with a part-time in-house physician on staff.  The dispensary was housed in a renovated workers building on South Sixth Street.  The building was furnished with supplies and equipment from the Allentown District Luther League.  In September of 1938, Atty. Henry V. Scheirer, a past president of the State Luther League, gave the dedicatory address.

Five years later, The Rev. Dr. Conrad W. Raker wrote of the dispensary in Sweet Charity.  “Our children and aged people received the best possible care,” he wrote.  “They could not have been cared for better if they had been paying guests in private rooms.”

1941: The Rev. Dr. Conrad W. Raker Becomes Administrator
The Rev. John Raker was Good Shepherd’s superintendent until his death in 1941.  During his 33 years at the organization’s helm, Rev. Raker established Good Shepherd as a leader in providing care to individuals with disabilities, orphaned children and senior citizens.

In 1941, the Rev. Dr. Conrad W. Raker took over as administrator of Good Shepherd following the death of his father, John.  Dr. Raker’s innovation would lay the foundation for the impressive growth that would define Good Shepherd later in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

1944: Last Able-Bodied Orphan Is Admitted to Good Shepherd Home
Until 1944, the Good Shepherd Home welcomed children of all abilities.  In that year, the last able-bodied orphan child was admitted to the Home.  Phasing out the care of physically normal children was a reaction to the climate in the nation.  Across the country, orphanages were being closed and children were finding homes in foster care.  Good Shepherd turned its attention exclusively to individuals with varying degrees of disability.

1958: Sheltered Workshop Opens
Opening the sheltered workshop was a dream that Papa Raker first articulated in 1929.  Papa Raker’s son, Conrad, assumed the mantle of the Sheltered Workshop and worked diligently to make it happen.  In 1958, the one of the Raker’s loftiest dreams came true.  That year, Good Shepherd opened a sheltered workshop for individuals with disabilities.  The Good Shepherd Workshop, a new concept in rehabilitation, sought to give men and women with disabilities the dignity and sense of worth that comes with gainful employment. The workshop opened with 25 employees, who produced component parts for electronic equipment on behalf of several local businesses.

1964: Vocational Services Program Begins
In 1964, the program that would become known as Good Shepherd Work Services began.  Individuals with disabilities began being evaluated and placed in employment positions with local companies and organizations.  The program allowed these men and women to ease into the working world and gain the financial and spiritual independence that comes from gainful employment.  

1967: Rehabilitation Hospital Opens
The notion of opening a rehabilitation hospital in Allentown was evident from the early days of Good Shepherd.  Papa Raker wrote about it in Sweet Charity in as early as 1912.  In 1961, Conrad Raker wrote in Sweet Charity:

“Now a vacant lot ... soon a modern rehabilitation center.  The joy of creating something from nothing is a godlike pleasure the entire Good Shepherd Home staff enjoys.”

In 1964, ground was broken for the rehabilitation hospital.  Conrad Raker said that “no event in our history ... is of such magnitude and importance.”

Three years later, in 1967, the Allentown Rehabilitation Hospital, with the 23rd Psalm engraved around the top of its exterior, opened its doors.  It was one of the country’s first inpatient rehabilitation hospitals.  The 22-bed unit offered integrated rehabilitation care to individuals with orthopedic or neurological issues and injuries.  Patients there had access to medical care, physical therapy, social workers and psychological services.  

Today, Good Shepherd’s Allentown Rehabilitation Hospital, which is licensed for 74 beds, is still a leader in the provision of physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapy.

Good Shepherd now operates four inpatient rehabilitation units throughout eastern Pennsylvania.  In addition to the Allentown hospital, Good Shepherd currently provides inpatient rehabilitation at Pocono Medical Center in East Stroudsburg, Easton Hospital, and Wayne Memorial Hospital in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.

1980: Conrad W. Raker Center Opens
In August of 1980, the Conrad W. Raker Center opened on Good Shepherd’s south Allentown campus.  The facility would provide 24/7 care for 99 individuals with severe disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida and traumatic brain injuries.

Today, Good Shepherd provides long-term care at two sites — Allentown and Bethlehem — for individuals with severe disabilities.  At both facilities, an interdisciplinary team seeks to help residents maintain as much independence as possible for the longest amount of time.  The team consists of attending physicians, neurologists, psychiatrists and psychologists, R.N.s and L.P.N.s, social workers, chaplains, and physical, speech, occupational and recreational therapists.

1983: 60-Bed Rehabilitation Hospital Opens in Allentown
In 1983, Good Shepherd opened a 60-bed rehabilitation hospital in Allentown.  The new hospital was an extension of the groundbreaking inpatient facility that opened 16 years earlier.  

The facility was dedicated at a ceremony on July 31, 1983.  More than 700 people attended the ceremony. On that day, Lutheran Bishop Wilson E. Touhsaent told the crowd that “[Good Shepherd] has always recognized the source of all healing and help is in the Creator ... we don’t do it.  He does it ... through us, through the medical skills, through tremendous advances that have been made in all kinds of therapy to help people be restored to the maximum health of which they are capable.”

1987: First Outpatient Satellite Opens
In 1987, Good Shepherd Physical Therapy-Kutztown opened its doors.  The facility was Good Shepherd’s first successful outpatient site beyond Allentown’s city lines.  It opened with a four-person staff of physical and occupational therapists.  Today, the staff has grown to 12 and the site has become the provider of choice for patients seeking outpatient rehabilitation the Kutztown area.

The success of the Kutztown outpatient site laid the groundwork for what would become an organizational strategic direction to bring Good Shepherd’s quality care to more people closer to their homes.  Today, Good Shepherd provides outpatient rehabilitation care at 23 sites throughout 7 eastern Pennsylvania counties. 

1988: 15-Bed Fourth Floor Added to Rehabilitation Hospital
In 1988, a 15-bed fourth floor was added to the Allentown Rehabilitation Hospital.  The unit serves individuals with traumatic brain injuries.  The Robert and Marian Edwards Center, located on Good Shepherd’s main south Allentown campus, opened in 1988 as a facility to provide outpatient rehabilitation.

1993: Dornsife Pediatric Center Opens
In 1993, Good Shepherd opened the Dornsife Pediatric Center on its south Allentown campus.  The Pediatric Rehabilitation Program provides comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation care to children with a host of physical or cognitive conditions, including autism and other developmental delays, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.

The Pediatrics Program is currently located on the upper level of the Good Shepherd Health & Technology Center.  Two board certified developmental pediatricians, the only such physicians in the region, practice at Good Shepherd.

1999: First Inpatient Satellite Opens
In 1999, Good Shepherd opened its first inpatient rehabilitation satellite facility.  Good Shepherd Rehabilitation at Pocono Medical Center, which is licensed for 12 beds, is the most comprehensive rehabilitation unit of its kind in the Poconos.  In the coming years, Good Shepherd would open inpatient units at Easton Hospital (2003) and Wayne Memorial Hospital in Honesdale, Pennsylvania (2006).

2000: Good Shepherd Specialty Hospital and Good Shepherd Home-Bethlehem Open
When individuals have an accident, suffer a stroke or need surgery, the first place they go is an acute-care hospital.  There, the doctors and nurses fix their injuries, perform their surgery and stabilize their condition.  Many times, after being stabilized at an acute-care hospital, patients are too medically fragile to go home or to a rehabilitation facility.  Perhaps they have an underlying chronic disease, like diabetes or heart disease, which delays the healing process.  

To assist these patients, Good Shepherd opened a Specialty Hospital — or long-term acute care hospital — in 2000.  The hospital, which was the first of its kind in the Lehigh Valley, was built to treat patients for several weeks until they are well enough to move on to the next level of their recovery.

The Specialty Hospital was originally located at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Allentown.  It would move to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg in Bethlehem in 2005.

Also in 2000, Good Shepherd Home-Bethlehem opened its doors.  The long-term care facility is home to 60 individuals with severe disabilities.  Like the Conrad W. Raker Center, Good Shepherd Home-Bethlehem offers an interdisciplinary team approach to help residents maintain as much independence as possible for the longest amount of time.

2003: Supported Independent Living Apartments Open
In 2003, Good Shepherd opened the Supported Independent Living Apartments on its south Allentown campus.  The 18-apartment facility is designed to help people with disabilities, who would otherwise need 24-hour care, live independently with the help of state-of-the-art assistive technology.  

Many of the apartments, which were featured in the New York TimesThe Morning Call, and on TV Tokyo, include lifts to transport tenants from bed to shower, environmental aides to daily living to operate appliances, shades and doors with voice control, and other technologies.

2006: South Allentown Campus Transformation Completed
In 2004, Good Shepherd representatives presented a plan to Allentown City Council.  The plan was to create an integrated south Allentown campus, complete with a parking deck and a new outpatient center.  The plan called for closing a portion of St. John Street and transforming it into healing gardens and greenspace.  John Kinnaird, a resident at the Raker Center who, through the use of assistive technology, gained the ability to synthesize speech, spoke on behalf of Good Shepherd.  The members of City Council were moved and the south Allentown campus transformation project began.

Two years later, in 2006, the campus transformation was completed.  The anchor of the project, a state-of-the-art Health & Technology Center, consolidated all of the outpatient services formerly scattered throughout the campus.  Numerous new services, including a lifestyle products store, a fitness center, an imaging center and more, were opened in the building.  At Good Shepherd Independence Days on October 13, 2006, more than 600 members of the community came to Good Shepherd to dedicate the new campus.

At the time of the campus dedication, Sally Gammon, Good Shepherd’s President and CEO, said, “This beautiful campus is now making a positive difference – for our patients, residents, neighbors and staff, for the city of Allentown and beyond.  This campus transformation resulted in a $41.7 million investment in Allentown, created about 130 new, well-paying jobs and will inject more than $8 million into the local economy annually.”

2008: Good Shepherd Penn Partners Opened
In 2008, Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a joint venture between Good Shepherd and the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) opened its doors.  The joint venture provides post-acute care for the entire UPHS network.

Good Shepherd Penn Partners provides specialized inpatient, long-term acute care and medical and physical rehabilitation for patients transferred from medical, surgical and intensive care units at UPHS’s three hospitals. UPHS’s outpatient centers are also operated by the joint venture, as is rehabilitation therapy services for UPHS’s three hospitals and three skilled nursing facilities. Good Shepherd is the controlling interest in Good Shepherd Penn Partners through majority ownership and a majority board membership.

2009: Good Shepherd Announces Inpatient Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit
In July 2009, Good Shepherd opened the region's first pediatric inpatient rehabilitation unit. Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital Pediatric Unit provides acute, physician-directed rehabilitation care, including rehabilitation nursing, physical, speech and occupational therapy, and psychological services. Conditions treated at the unit include: stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury, multi-trauma, neurologic dysfunction, burns and post-traumatic amputations.