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When the organization that would one day become Lebanon Family Health Services (LFHS) launched in July of 1973, it was hard to imagine it would last five years, let alone 50.

Founded with the singular goal of providing free and confidential family planning services to lower income, uninsured, or underinsured women, some initially viewed Lebanon Family Planning warily, according to Alletta “Lettie” Schadler, a cofounder of the organization.

From left: Alletta “Lettie” Schadler, Mike Barrett (standing), Jerry Shenk, and Kim Kreider Umble gather in July 1993 to celebrate Lebanon Family Health Service’s 20th anniversary. This year, the organization recognizes 50 years since its founding as Lebanon Family Planning in 1973. (Provided photo)

“Some of the general practitioners opposed it and, as you know, the ‘70s were a different time – things were certainly different than they are today,” said Schadler. “We were concerned about whether we’d get some push back and I think there were some people who complained that we should not be doing family planning.” 

Original board members of today’s Lebanon Family Health Services, which was founded as Lebanon Family Planning in 1973, gathering to celebrate the organization’s 20th anniversary in 1993. From left: Aletta “Lettie” Schadler, Frank Yake, and Gerald Shenk. (Provided photo)

Located in the City of Lebanon but serving all county residents, Lebanon Family Planning logged 300 visits its first year. LFHS, which was renamed in 1981, today offers over 20 programs that serve about 15,000 men, women and children each year across 40,000 visits.

The agency first began to expand its menu of services in 1978 by offering peer counseling and again in 1980 when it entered the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program.

Kim Kreider Umble (left) and Donna Williams (right) celebrating the 15th anniversary of Lebanon Family Health Service’s participation in the Women, Infants and Children program in 1995. (Provided photo)

In 1982, one year before its 10th anniversary, LFHS faced a financial crisis: the elimination of federal funding. 

“The agency had to become self-supporting,” said Schadler. “Up to that time they had been providing free or low-cost services, but after that they had to have a minimal charge. . . and they also broadened their services. The services they had for women were much appreciated and were well executed, so they began to offer additional services to become self-supporting.” 

Lebanon Family Health Services Staff in 1989, pictured in front of their former (and original) office at 411 N. 8th Street. (Provided photo)

Additional services have been added through the year, in many cases to fill a void because no services existed to help community residents in their time of need.

To its credit, there are several factors that have contributed to the agency’s ability to grow from a singular vision to one that’s multi-faceted.

Lebanon Family Health Services board members Emmily Longenecker (left) and Eric McFaline (center) pose for a picture with Executive Director Kim Kreider Umble. (Provided photo)

“Not only is the staff great, but the agency has excelled at forming partnerships with like-minded organizations,” said Schadler. “They are always very much involved in the community and willing to partner with other agencies to find out what the needs of the community are and what is the best way to address them. If you made a list of all of the agencies that have partnered with family services through the years, you would have an amazing group of organizations on that list.”

One such partnership, first formed in 2000 to pool resources for the construction of a new facility to house both agencies, is with the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center (SARCC).

“Lebanon Family Health Services went from their original facility on North 8th Street across from Monument Park to a temporary location in the IU (Intermediate Unit) building on Cumberland Street and then to its present location in the Jeanie Arnold Building, which they moved into in 2003,” said Schadler.

Lebanon Family Health Services operated out of the IU-13 building from 1992 to 2001. (Provided photo)

Never losing sight of its mission to address local needs, LFHS recently added a new tool to expand its community outreach with the purchase of a service van.

Lebanon Family Health Services’ new mobile unit was funded by a grant obtained through WellSpan Health’s Imagine Grant program. (Provided photo)

Read More: Lebanon Family Health Services introduces mobile unit for WIC services 

“The van can go throughout the county to do WIC intake so that people don’t have to find a way to get themselves into the office in Lebanon,” said Schadler. “If people didn’t have access to the van, they would go without, which is not a good thing.”

Statistically speaking, the agency is still as relevant today as when it was first founded.

  • 35% of the city population utilizes LFHS for one or more services
  • 10% of the county uses LFHS’ services
  • 50% of the babies born in the county are enrolled in the WIC program
  • $0.83 of every dollar given to LFHS is utilized for direct care services

“The agency offers its services wherever they are needed, and I believe that is one of their strengths,” said Schadler. “Lebanon County is a small county, so it also helps that all the agencies know each other so that they can work together. It is the key to our collective success.” 

Lebanon Family Health Service’s modern-day WIC office at 615 Cumberland Street. (Provided photo)

Now that LFHS has reached its golden anniversary, Executive Director Kimberly Kreider Umble said a number of events have been planned throughout the year to commemorate the occasion.

For the 50th anniversary, LFHS will highlight four major pillars of the organization, one each quarter. The pillars are:

  • 1st quarter is celebrating the WIC program
  • 2nd quarter will honor education programs
  • 3rd quarter will highlight medical programs
  • 4th quarter will tie together all agency aspects to celebrate the community, their partners, valued donors, supporters and organizational volunteers

“Within each pillar we will recognize the history, program highlights and feature patients, clients and the community sharing how LFHS has made an impact,” said Umble. “We are excited to have launched our mobile unit into the community in January, allowing us to bring services to the patients and clients that we serve. We began by offering WIC services, which ties in well with our recognition of WIC services this quarter.”

WIC clients wait in the Lebanon Family Health Services office in 2021. According to LFHS data, 50% of the babies born in the county are enrolled in the WIC program. (Provided photo)

Other anniversary highlights include:

April 18 – Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours networking event, co-hosted with SARCC, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

May 21 – Splash of Color event at Lebanon Valley Craft Brewery.

July 28 – EMK Memorial Golf Tournament at Lebanon Valley Golf Club A double shot gun (morning and afternoon) golf tournament celebrating the anniversary.

September 28 – Annual Dinner with featured speaker, Nicole Lynn Lewis, author of “Pregnant Girl.” 

The agency’s Think Pink commemoration will be held in October and the Travel & Leisure Auction event is slated for Nov. 10. Visit the events page on the agency’s website for additional information for these events and much more. 

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James Mentzer

James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...