St. Luke's Miners celebrates 100 years of caring



St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital celebrated "100 Years Of Caring" during its third annual Black Diamond Celebration fundraising event Saturday at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe.

Funds raised through the Black Diamond Celebration benefited the St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital Capital Campaign, which supports the expansion and renovation of the hospital's Intensive Critical Care Unit (ICCU).

The event was held in conjunction with the yearlong celebration of the hospital's 100 years of caring.

Since 2008, the Black Diamond Dinner Celebration Committee, which consists of an even amount of hospital employees and volunteers, organizes this event to raise funds for the hospital.

Diane Luicana, three-year Black Diamond Celebration Committee chair, said she appreciated all the hard work and dedication the hospital employees and volunteers put into the celebration. Every year, a different painting honors miners, who are a great part of the St. Luke's history.

A different artist and town is also chosen each year. Luicana recognized artist Jacqueline Shafer of Tamaqua for painting this year's artwork, called "The Healing Tree." In her painting, Shafer honored the miners by painting them in the roots of the healing tree, as well as scattering 100 St. Luke's stars in the tree, representing 100 years of caring. She also pointed out the more than 40 years that Bill Paslawsky put into the hospital.

The Black Diamond Ladies dispersed special St. Luke's "Healing Tree" raffle tickets, in which students from the St. Joseph Regional Academy hand painted and identified themselves and the St. Luke's logo and colorful background on each one.

Luicana said this year's Black Diamond Celebration theme was "100 Years of Caring." During the celebration event, three Black Diamond ladies, wearing Imperial gowns representing 100 years, chatted and collected donations for the hospital. They even joined the guests on the dance floor.

"This event is our hospital's chance to pause and celebrate with our community," said Micah Gursky, director of development at the hospital. "As we kick off our yearlong celebration of 100 years of caring, we'll raise funds for a good cause and have a great time with the people in our community who support our mission."

St. Luke's Miners Hospital was originally called Panther Creek Valley Hospital. In 1904, Dr. E. F. Shifferstine, a young surgeon, began to survey the medical needs of the Panther Valley and found the need extremely vital. Emergency cases resulting from mine accidents had to be transferred very long distances for care. Many people died or suffered because of limited care available. Dr. Shifferstine, along with Rev. L.B. Norton, who selected the hospital's site, and John McElhenney, president of the local United Mine Workers, convinced the workers and the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company of the need for a hospital closer to the mines. The hospital was constructed through the contribution of a day's wage. Their donations assured care for the men and families.

Construction of the hospital began in July 11, 1910. Dr. Shifferstine was selected as superintendent and surgeon-in-chief.

The original capability of the hospital was 23 beds. Early cases had to be refused because of overcrowding. Women and children had to share the same ward and at times three patients had to share two beds. The cost of care back then was only $1.48 per day.

In 1912, a training school for nurses opened. The nurses stayed in the hospital's attic. In 1933, the nurses' home was completed and later attached to the hospital. In 1924, a new wing was adjoined and in 1950 a kitchen and laundry area was created. In 1952, a Miners Asthma clinic was started to provide therapy for those affected by Anthracosilicosis.

In 1970, ground was broken for a new hospital. A little over three years later, the new hospital was dedicated and still stands today. The new hospital contained an ICU, coronary care, physical therapy, diagnostic facility, parking, a large lobby, snack area, offices and a dispensary. The hospital was acquired by the state of Pennsylvania and renamed Coaldale State General Hospital. The state ran the facility until the disinvestment in 1992. The hospital was then changed again to Miners Memorial Hospital. In 2002, St. Luke's Hospital and Health Network combined with Miners Memorial and the current name stands today as St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital.

Gursky mentioned that there is a lot of behind the scenes work and dedication that is put into this event every year by caring hospital and community volunteers.

"So far, we've raised more than $2.2 million toward our Critical Care Unit expansion project," said Gursky. The total needed is about $3.5 million. Gursky also recognized state Sen. David Argall (R-29) and Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-124), who were both present, for their help.

Gursky also stated his gratitude for all the sponsors and contributors, to include the generous diamond sponsors.

He also pointed out a banner that was signed by St. Luke's employees and volunteers. The banner will be used in the future as part of a time capsule to preserve St. Luke's memories.

William "Bill" Crossin, president of St Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital, said, "One of the things that is truly amazing about this evening is that we're here for a celebration, for a hospital that is 100 years old." He pointed out that there are a very few hospitals across this nation that can proudly make that statement "That is a testimony of all the coal miners that started this hospital and all the people at the fundraising celebration tonight." Crossin also said they will hold their 10 year affiliation and relationship celebration with St. Luke's Hospital and Health Network in July of this year.

"We hope to complete our new ICCU in the mid to late summer of this year," Crossin added.

Live entertainment was provided throughout the Black Diamond Celebration by singer Meghan Devlin, 17, a junior at the Schuylkill Haven High School, and "Becky & the Beasts," who volunteered a majority of their time.

Gursky finished the program with a few big birthday surprises. The first of which was the introduction and recognition of Ida Totani, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday on Feb. 20. Ida states she has visited the hospital since 1915, three years after she arrived from Italy to Penn's Landing in Philadelphia. The second surprise was the introduction of Ethan Salovay, baby of Amanda Salovay.

The celebration finale ended with the debut of a very large blue and white wooden candle-lit birthday cake which was brought out from behind the stage. During a drum-role, Devlin then popped out from the top of the cake to the song of "Happy Anniversary St. Luke's."