A year ago, the Tamaqua LEO Club established the first-ever endowment fund at St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital in Coaldale.

The goal of the Art of Caring Endowment Fund was to raise $10,000 for the St. Luke's Miners Geriatric Center, located on the fifth floor of the hospital.

The endowment fund is well on the way to meeting and exceeding its goal.

On Wednesday evening, the hospital announced that the Art of Caring Fund has raised $7,000 since its inception last year.

"It's remarkable for anyone to raise $7,000 in a year, let alone a group of volunteers," said Micah Gursky, director of development for St. Luke's Miners, during a press conference in the Geriatric Center's chapel.

The Tamaqua LEO Club, sponsored by the Tamaqua Lions Club in which a group of middle and high school students work on community-based service projects. Tamaqua's LEOs are the second-oldest such club in existence and work with many civic and social organizations to make a difference, not only in their own lives but for their community.

"We've done work such as painting the ticket station at Depot Square Park (in Tamaqua) and were looking for other projects when Micah approached the LEOs last year about starting an endowment fund," said Victoria Stahl, coordinator for the Art of Caring.

The Art of Caring makes the more than 100 pieces of framed artwork throughout the hospital available for sponsorship by community organizations and individuals.

The artwork is located throughout the hallways, waiting rooms, patient rooms and other public areas of the hospital. Each piece of artwork may be sponsored for $100, and the sponsoring organization or individual will have a small engraved plaque acknowledging their donation permanently affixed to that piece of artwork.

The interest income from the Art of Caring Fund is used as permanent souce of funding for the Geriatric Center, a skilled nursing facility, to assist those residents in obtaining special items, such as extra chairs, items for the community room and funds for activities, outings and entertainment.

"We have 48 residents in our Geriatric Center, and this is their home," said Gursky. "The LEO Club has made things nicer for them."

Sue Dolan, LEO Club advisor, said 70 pieces of artwork have been sponsored at the hospital since the endowment fund started.

"We also love it when people donate artwork, too," said Gursky.

To that end, Frances Stahl, immediate past president of the Tamaqua Lions, and her husband Timothy, donated another piece of artwork to the hospital Wednesday, to be displayed in the radiology department. It is the second piece donated by Frances, who also has one in the hospital lobby. Victoria, their granddaughter, has a framed pencil drawing displayed on the second floor.

"This is a major step forward for the hospital," said William Crossin, president of St. Luke's Miners. "One of our missions is to try and reach out to the community. This community's future, the children, are getting acquainted with our hospital and are doing something very positive. I am especially proud of all the hard work you have done."

"We are not stopping at $10,000. We are not stopping until we have a plaque on every piece of artwork in this hospital," said Dolan.

Anyone interested in donating to the Art of Caring, as well as students interested in joining the LEO Club, can contact Dolan at (570) 668-1134.