|SOCIAL SERVICES |
Bryn Mawr College initiated two significant early social service projects: the Bryn Mawr Community Center and a summer school for women industrial workers. The college's Graduate Department of Social Economy and Social Research started the community center. Hilda W. Smith, a pioneer in social work and later dean of the college, directed the center, which opened in 1916 in three rooms in the old public school on Lancaster Avenue next to the firehouse. College students worked as volunteers in a program that began with after-school activities for children, a playground, and a twenty-volume library. Later additions included a kindergarten, night school courses in English, a women's club for sewing and recreation, a hot lunch program (soup and crackers for three cents at first, later a more varied menu for fourteen cents), and a number of boys' clubs. Necessary additional space was secured by transplanting the library, the office, and the girls' and women's clubs to a house, the Milestone, three blocks away. In 1917 the township commissioners voted an appropriation for the library, which became the Ludington Public Library.
The center took on many problems created by World War I. It started a canning kitchen to save surplus fruits and vegetables. During the influenza epidemic it organized a kitchen crew to send out hot food to households where no one was well enough to cook. In 1919 a committee of citizens, considering an appropriate war memorial, voted to accept Miss Smith's suggestion: a permanent community center with its own building and an endowment for upkeep as a living memorial to the war dead. A large stone house on the southwest comer of Lancaster and Bryn Mawr Avenues was bought for the memorial.
An experiment in workers' education, the first of its kind in the United States, was started in 1921 by Bryn Mawr College. The Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, directed by Hilda W Smith, was governed by a board consisting of equal numbers of representatives from the college and the workers. Women between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five were recruited from all over the United States to study economics, English, literature, hygiene, science, and music appreciation for eight weeks on the Bryn Mawr campus. This school, in existence until 1933, led to the formation of workers' schools on other campuses. Many former Bryn Mawr Summer School students assumed significant leadership roles on returning to their own communities.
Numerous agencies now offer assistance with health related problems to residents and provide opportunities for them to help others. These include the Family Service of Montgomery County, the Family Division of the Neighborhood League, Jewish Family Service, Main Line Meals on Wheels, Goodwill Industries, the Salvation Army, and a Christian organization called The Fish.
Several specialized services are offered to children and youth, including day care opportunities. Two of these are the Neighborhood Youth Corps and ABC, A Better Chance. The Timothy School for emotionally disturbed young children was established in 1966 by the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. The Phoenix House, initiated in 1972 by the Junior League of Philadelphia and aided by the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, offers a home, located on Radnor Street in Bryn Mawr, to troubled adolescent girls. The "Soul Shack," popular name for the Ardmore Recreation Center, was founded in the late sixties to provide activities for young people, especially those from black families in South Ardmore.
Organizations for older people include the Pennsylvania Association of Older Persons; the Lower Merion and Narberth Coalition for Older Adults, both in Ardmore; Lower Merion Senior Center in St. Mary's Episcopal Parish House, Ardmore; Ardmore Senior Club, Spring and Walnut Avenues; Hillside Club, Belmont Hills; Springhouse, Bryn Mawr; and Levering Mill House, Cynwyd.
A federally funded organization providing activity for older citizens is the RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program). Retired persons volunteer to work in hospitals, as tutors in schools, or in other institutions where their skills are needed. Government funds pay administration costs and volunteers' travel expenses.
Providing in-home services for people over fifty-five as an alternative to nursing home care is Senior Outreach Services, a nonprofit membership organization funded by contributions from individuals, churches, civic associations, and private foundations. Located in Ardmore, it was founded in 1974 under the corporate sponsorship of Resources for Human Development. Other organizations providing in-home care are the Visiting Nurse Service and the Community Health Association in Ardmore and Comcare, Inc., in Bala-Cynwyd.
Nursing homes in the township include Saunders House at Lankenau Hospital, Bryn Mawr Terrace Convalescent Home, Chateau Convalescent Center in Bryn Mawr, and Rosemont Manor. Mary J. Drexel Home in Cynwyd is a Lutheran retirement home with nursing care available. The Charles C. Knox Home, in Wynnewood on the old Knox farm, is open only to Lower Merion residents over sixty-five.
The township has three ambulance services: Allied Medical; Main Line, in Cynwyd; and the Narberth Ambulance (VMSC of Narberth). The Volunteer Medical Service Corps of Narberth, Inc., has served the Lower Merion area since 1947.
Social and emergency relief services are offered by the many benevolent, fraternal, and women's societies in Lower Merion. The American Red Cross Main Line Branch, founded in 1917, established a one hundred bed hospital in Bryn Mawr's old Montgomery Inn during the influenza epidemic. It has given assistance whenever disaster strikes a community or family in the area. During World War II the Main Line Branch initiated its blood donor program while supplying over two million surgical dressings, garments, and knitted articles, and packing thousands of kit bags for soldiers and supplies for prisoners of war. During the Korean War the Red Cross gave valuable assistance to veterans and their families. The blood donor program and many other volunteer activities continue.
The Lower Merion unit of the American Cancer Society, formed in 1974 by Hal L. Bemis, a former president of the township Board of Commissioners, has rendered outstanding service in practical help to cancer victims, in education in cancer detection, in "quit smoking" clinics, and other programs.
Groups having a variety of social service projects include the Knights of Columbus, Bishop Kendrick Council #2256, in Ardmore; the Masonic Lodge, Ardmore; Rotary clubs of Bala Cynwyd-Narberth, Ardmore, and Bryn Mawr; the Optimist Club; the Veterans of Foreign Wars; the Soroptimists; the Woman's Clubs of Bala-Cynwyd, Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, Penn Valley, and Wynnewood Valley; and the Women's American Organization for Rehabilitation through Training.
Since 1975 Lower Merion Township has participated in the HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) Community Development Block Grant Program. Grants totaling $3,278,000 provided such programs as upgrading declining neighbor-hoods, assisting lower income residents, supplying low interest loans and direct grants to rehabilitate both owner-and renter-occupied houses, rehabilitating and reselling vacant houses to low income families, operating and maintaining recreational facilities in Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, Belmont Hills, and many others.
Resources for Human Development was established in 1970 in Ardmore as a diversified, tax-exempt corporation designed to develop and provide human service programs to retarded persons (Residential Support Systems, Ardmore), to disabled adults (Lower Merion Vocational Training, Wynnewood), to people in "change process" (ECLIPSE, Ardmore), to mental patients (People's Advocate System, Haverford), to older persons (Senior Outreach Services, Ardmore), to probationers and their families (Joint Training and Treatment, Haverford), to drug abusers (Lower Merion Counseling Services, Haverford), and to those who have been exposed to radiation (Genetic Risk Information Project, Ardmore).