Fowler Community Wellness Center Dedicated

An overflow crowd of sponsors, supporters and community members streamed into the newly restored Fowler Community Wellness Center at 520 E. Fourth St. in late May to celebrate the opening of the new resource that will offer South Side residents a range of services to lead healthier and more productive lives.

It is, in the words of Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley Board member Eric Fontánez, “a warm and inviting place to gather, for families in crisis–a place to turn, and most significantly, an exciting effort that opens the doors to healing and self-sufficiency to everyone.”

The one-year effort to restore and renovate the building donated by the late local philanthropist Linny Fowler benefited from the support of several local institutions, including Lehigh University and St. Luke’s Hospital Network, in addition to corporate and community partners. The $2.1 million project was headed up by Fowler's husband, Lehigh Emeritus Professor W. Beall Fowler; Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy and St. Luke’s Health Network CEO and President Richard Anderson.

Their efforts to bring this vision to a reality were lauded by a series of speakers that included Donna Taggart, president of the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley (HCLV), and Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez. Also on hand were state and local elected officials and representatives.

“A year ago, we opened a wall,” Taggart said. “In a few minutes, we will cut a ribbon. But this is more than just a project. It’s hard to put into words that passion that brought us here. So this is a day for us to celebrate and to say, ‘muchas gracias.’ ”

In addition to Lehigh and St. Luke’s, which helped establish the foundation for fundraising efforts, driving forces behind the project included Service Electric, the Air Products Foundation, B.Braun Medical Inc., the City of Bethlehem, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, Capital BlueCross, Northampton County, the Stabler Foundation and others.

The mission of the new center is to bring together leading non-profit organizations to offer physical and mental healthcare, health and wellness education, academic enrichment and a range of job readiness and job placement services leading to economic self-sufficiency.

Lehigh’s College of Education will also continue to provide services to the community, building on the Community Voices Clinics that opened in 2012 in both Broughal Middle School and Donegan Elementary School. That effort was headed by Lehigh’s Arpana Inman, counseling psychology professor and the chair of the department of education and human services at Lehigh, and funded by St. Luke’s. It is fully staffed by graduate students who incorporate evidence-based practice, multicultural competence and social justice in their free therapy services to uninsured and underinsured South Bethlehem residents. The clinic also provides weekly group sessions for senior citizens and career counseling and vocational training at the Hispanic Center. 

Donchez offered special thanks to both Lehigh President John Simon and Anderson for their commitment to reinvesting in the South Side, and helping to make their shared vision a reality.

“As someone who grew up one block east of here, seeing this old bank building come back to life is very exciting,” Donchez said.

Adrienne J. Washington, Lehigh’s assistant vice president of Community and Regional Affairs, said the opening of the center is the latest in a series of positive developments for the South Side.

“In addition to the services being provided to support the children in our South Bethlehem community schools, the families will have access to a variety of services in one central location to build a stronger community. This is an exciting time for South Bethlehem, and Lehigh is glad to support this extraordinary project.”

Washington serves on the Hispanic Center board, along with Lehigh’s Assistant Dean and Community Services Director Carolina Hernandez, and Dale Kochard, the former assistant vice president for community relations at Lehigh who earned special recognition at the ceremony for his willingness to go “above and beyond” for the Hispanic Center.


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