For 155 years, Children’s Service Center has impacted the lives of countless children like state Sen. Lisa Baker’s husband, Gary.
Gary Baker, who formerly served as the northeast regional director of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said he was in the foster care system and found a loving home with adoptive parents on Feb. 7, 1957, when he was eight months old. He still celebrates the day he got a family.
Baker introduced his wife at a luncheon held Monday at Genetti Hotel and Conference Center to celebrate the 155th anniversary of Children’s Service Center.
The Bakers brought the only two possessions Gary arrived with when he was a foster child: a yellow snowsuit and a toy they continue to hang each year on their Christmas tree.
“I look at these items and it’s a reminder to me and I hope to all of you that our children are truly fragile, innocent and vulnerable,” Sen. Baker said. “For 155 years, we have relied on Children’s Service Center to help the helpless, to empower the powerless and to offer hope to the hopeless.”
She received the Commitment to Children Award and Bill Jones, president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Wyoming Valley, accepted the Community Partner Award.
“There is no better cause in my mind than putting your heart and soul into helping children,” Sen. Baker said.
Baker said Children’s Service Center is all about possibilities “like the child like Gary finding a loving home.”
The United Way of Wyoming Valley was awarded for efforts to reduce the soaring level of childhood poverty.
“To be recognized by the community’s oldest and largest non-profit organization that serves many of the most at-risk children in our area, we are truly honored by the award and grateful to be partners with Children’s Service Center,” Jones said.
Children’s Service Center serves about 6,000 children each year, operates 25 programs and employs 385 full-time and part-time workers, said Mike Hopkins, president and CEO.
In December, Children’s Service Center officials broke ground for a new $6 million outpatient center that will house physician offices, a pharmacy and other services at 335 S. Franklin St. in Wilkes-Barre.
Children’s Service Center has a contract with Genoa, a Qol Health Care Company, to provide on-site pharmacy services; and an agreement with the Wright Center to provide pediatric physical health services at the center currently under construction.
“This is a real big step forward for the children we serve, to have a one-stop shop so families can come for services in one place,” Hopkins said.
Nearly 140 people attended the luncheon that began with children leading the Pledge of Allegiance.
Joe DeVizia, former executive director of Children’s Service Center, congratulated the center on its 155th anniversary.
For decades, the center has served children with autism and special needs, and those who have been victims of abuse and trauma, he said.
Additionally, DeVizia said Children’s Services Center has another “great focus and that’s building new buildings so that the therapy has a wonderful environment.”