Members of the Tamaqua LEO Club and the Tamaqua Lions Club and officials from St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital came together recently in the geriatric department of the Coaldale hospital. They were there for the official establishment of the LEO Club's first-ever St. Luke's endowment fund, called the Art of Caring Endowment Fund, which recently reached its goal of $10,000.

The interest income from the LEO Club's Art of Caring Endowment Fund will be used as a permanent source of future funds for the geriatric center.

The Art of Caring Endowment Fund was a three-year endeavor that called for raising sponsorship and donations for artwork on display throughout the hospital, with proceeds benefiting residents of the fifth-floor geriatric unit.

"It's been three long years and the LEO Club has been working very hard," Micah Gursky, St. Luke's Miners' director of development, said during the signing. "Today is the culmination of all that hard work."

Bill Moyer, president of St. Luke's Hospital, pointed out the hospital's continued appreciation to the Tamaqua LEO Club.

"If it wasn't for donations and efforts like this," said Moyer, "it would be very hard for a rural hospital like ours to exist. What really touches our hearts, is to see our youth today going out and doing things like this to really support the community."

A recent donation of $2,000, by Debbie Brabec of Jim Thorpe, allowed the Leo Club to reach its goal of $10,000.

Tamaqua Leo Club President Erin Zeigler, West Penn Township, stated her appreciation to all the contributors, artists, and sponsors who made this possible. LEO Club Vice President Jill Hoppes pointed out the club's appreciation to the hospital volunteers who made the initial donation of $938.34 on behalf of the volunteers of the 1990s.

"Without the help of our LEO members, officers, advisers, community members and sponsors, we would not have been able to get this project done," added Hoppes.

During the creation of the fund three years ago, LEO Club members pointed out the need for special items, like extra chairs, things for the community room, and funds for activities, outings and entertainment. The club had 100 pieces of framed artwork available for sponsorship.

St. Luke's officials considered the creation of the fund to be a landmark day in history of the hospital, founded in 1907 and dedicated in 1910 by Anthracite miners who wanted health care for themselves.

"This is a community hospital, and like those miners, we take care of our own," said Gursky previously.

Gursky pointed out the rarity for an organization to create an endowment fund.

"The LEO Club should be commended for what they have done," Gursky added.

Gursky mentioned that the $10,000 endowment will be used in untouchable perpetuity, at 5 percent interest, to provide $500 every year to the geriatric center. He continued by stating that contributions can always be added to the fund so the benefits can grow each year.

Sue Dolan, past LEO Club chief adviser, said, "I would like to thank everyone for their participation and allowing us to be the caring difference for the hospital."

Linda Benner, Lions Club District 14-U past region chair, also pointed out a number of past involvements with the LEO Club.

The LEO Club is sponsored by the Tamaqua Lions Club. The Tamaqua LEO Club is the second oldest LEO Club in existence. Its letters are an acronym for Leadership, Equality and Opportunity. The club includes youth, ages 12-18, who contribute their time and efforts to a number of community projects. Currently the club has 30 members.

In addition to the Art of Caring Endowment Fund Project, the Tamaqua LEOs have undertaken numerous projects, such as the restoration of the former railroad ticket booth in the borough's Depot Square Park; participating in Operation Comfort for military personnel fighting in the Iraqi war; garden care for Stonehedge Gardens, South Tamaqua; routine litter pick-up and playground cleanup details.

The club routinely visits the hospital throughout the year, delivering daffodils and Lions Club calendars, singing Christmas carols, and making seasonal holiday gift bags for residents.

"The Art of Caring Endowment Fund takes their efforts to another level. It is inspiring to see young people volunteering their talent and energy to not only help another generation, but to do so in a way that will last forever," said Gursky.

Dolan pointed out that all the artwork is located throughout the hallways, the patient rooms, waiting rooms and other public areas of the hospital.

"Each piece of artwork was sponsored for $100 and the name of the sponsoring organization or individual is permanently affixed to the piece of artwork," said Dolan. Past LEO Club adviser Fran Stahl and current adviser Liz McElwee also spoke a few words of appreciation during the signing.

St. Luke's Hospital also provided an Art of Caring cake to the LEOs and guests during the signing.

Benner concluded by pointing out the letters "TLC" located on all the LEO's shirts, meaning Tamaqua LEO Club, also represents the club's traits of "tender loving care."