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Residents and Practitioners Repair Homes in Allentown through Partnership with Habitat Lehigh Valley
July 17, 2023

Check presentation with St. Luke’s Sacred Heart President Frank Ford (front left), Habitat Lehigh Valley Executive Director Jessica Elliot (next to Ford), and St. Luke’s Vice President of Community Health Rajika Reed (next to Elliot), among volunteers.

St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) understands that housing is a vital component of an individual’s health. The Network also recognizes that in Center City Allentown, safe, affordable housing is lacking.


Because of the Network’s commitment to improving the health of its community, St. Luke’s Community Health department continues to partner with Habitat for Humanity Lehigh Valley to help better the lives and living conditions of Center City Allentown residents, which will support their health and wellbeing.


A group of St. Luke’s Sacred Heart residents and practitioners regularly volunteer for Habitat Lehigh Valley’s home restoration and repair projects in the downtown area – otherwise known as the “Heart of the City.” Call it a case of “residents helping residents.” In addition, as part of St. Luke’s University Health Network’s 150th anniversary, the Network presented a $10,000 grant to Habitat Lehigh Valley so it can continue its critical work that directly impacts the quality of life for their clients and SLUHN’s patients.


The partnership is built upon the foundation of the Community Health Needs Assessment, which St. Luke’s conducts every three years as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.


“These assessments inform us of needs, and we develop a strategic plan based upon them,” explains Rajika E. Reed, Ph.D., SLUHN’s Vice President of Community Health. “We collaborate with many partners to address these complexities. Habitat Lehigh Valley has proven to be an efficient and effective organization, highly focused on addressing a key social determinant of health and working closely with more than 100 local families.


“By providing this type of assistance, we are ensuring the future health of an entire community and region. We are fortunate to partner with Habitat Lehigh Valley, as well as additional Allentown partners, to connect area patients and residents to the services they need and deserve.”  


Staff from St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus partner with Habitat Lehigh Valley to help its neighbors obtain exterior home repairs – including painting, landscaping, weatherization and minor restores – at little or no cost to the resident to preserve their safe space and revitalize their neighborhoods. For homes needing larger, more costly repairs, the partnership activates its network to assist.


“Our partnership with St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus President Frank Ford, Dr. Rajika Reed and the entire Community Health Department at St. Luke’s University Health Network has given our organization the opportunity to meet wonderful families who are most in need of our home repair services,” says Jessica Elliott, Executive Director of Habitat Lehigh Valley.


“As a community, we have a social responsibility to lift those around us, and the team at St. Luke's puts their words into actions through their regular volunteering, and now a generous contribution to expand our work. Our commitment and success to provide safe and healthy housing is only possible through strong partnerships like this.”


The St. Luke’s volunteer team began with Joshua Knipe, Advanced Practitioner, Trauma; Jodi Stoudt, Senior Specialist, General Surgery Residency; Erin Arnold, Surgical Resident; and Lauren Knipe, Nurse Practitioner, Palliative Care. Through their leadership and commitment, the team continues to grow and provides monthly assistance to Habitat Lehigh Valley.


“Working in the hospital, we see many patients and we take care of all of them. But now, we get the chance to be out in the community to give back to our local families who might need help and healing in other ways. It’s truly wholesome and emphasizes the mission of St. Luke’s,” says Joshua Knipe.


Lauren Knipe agrees, noting, “Habitat gives us a unique opportunity to care for each other beyond the walls of the hospital and clinic. We emphasize the importance of preventive medicine and health maintenance for physical wellbeing. Similarly, the purpose of The Home Preservation Program is to inspect and repair before catastrophic damages occur and remove families from their homes.”


A project she and her colleagues recently worked on to repair a porch illustrates the work that volunteers perform to elevate the health and wellbeing of individuals and patients residing in Center City Allentown.


“The porch appeared okay on the surface, but below revealed extremely damaged and unsafe structures. This serves as a metaphor for the opportunity to care for our community’s health in more than the obvious ways within the health system. It is a truly powerful and rewarding experience,” Lauren Knipe explains.


For more information about St. Luke’s Community Health initiatives, please email Community.Health@sluhn.org.