R.K.Laros Trustee and Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton wins Emmy at Mid Atlantic Regional Award Ceremony September 28, 2019

On Saturday night September 28, 2019 in the category of Public/Current/Community Affairs- Special Programs Associate Producer Laura Bennett Shelton joined Executive Producer Teri Haddad, Lisa Robinson Editor and Lead Videographer Steven Whitcombe to receive their Emmy Award for “Close to Home: Human Trafficking”.

Congratulations Laura from the R.K.Laros Foundation!

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L-R Steve Whitcombe, Laura Bennett Shelton, Teri Haddad and Lisa Robinson

Longtime R.K.Laros Foundation Trustee, Gordon Mowrer, honored posthumously by District Attorney Morganelli

Grant to establish award in honor of late Bethlehem mayor issued October 2019


Gordy Mowrer Mayor of Bethlehem 1974-1978  Acting Mayor 1987

Gordy Mowrer Mayor of Bethlehem 1974-1978 Acting Mayor 1987

By Kayla Dwyer

The late Bethlehem Mayor Gordon B. Mowrer was known to ride along with police on occasion during his tenure in the 1970s — if not in an actual police vehicle, then in his own black Pontiac station wagon equipped with a police radio, one spotlight and a siren.

Folklore says he would sometimes participate in arrests, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli recalled Monday as Mowrer’s family chuckled.

“He was not afraid to use that siren,” son George Mowrer said. “Usually it was on a bicyclist who went through a red light.”

Mowrer, who died in 2016, was a staunch advocate of community policing. Morganelli, who volunteered for Mowrer’s campaign as a 14-year-old, said he wanted to honor that before leaving office in three months.

On Monday, his office presented a $2,000 gift to Bethlehem’s Fraternal Order of Police, which will start a fund to honor one Bethlehem police officer each year for their contribution to community policing with the Gordon Mowrer Community Policing Award.

That officer will select a charity to be a recipient of the award money.

“Community policing is a term that’s often cited but not always understood, even by law enforcement ourselves,” FOP President Bill Audelo said at Monday’s news conference.

Under Mowrer, Bethlehem became the first Pennsylvania city to adopt a system of “team policing,” in which the department divided into three teams that handled different geographic sections of the city, Morganelli said.

The idea, he said, is that officers would better be able to get to know their constituents, and build better trust and reduce crime.

It’s an idea that has gone by different names over time, Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio said, including neighborhood policing, team policing and community policing.

But the concept lives on in Bethlehem today, he said, through walking beats, substations, the mounted and bike programs, and through a continued effort to assign the same officers to the same districts.

It’s knowing people, business owners, even criminal offenders on a first-name basis, DiLuzio said.

That consistency is what is necessary to effect change in crime, Audelo said.

“The heart of community policing is recognizing not just the criminal acts affecting a community but the underlying causes and symptoms that create an environment for the offender,” he said.

The FOP will manage the award and its annual funding.

Morning Call reporter Kayla Dwyer can be reached at 610-820-6554 or atkdwyer@mcall.com.

Gordy Mowrer was a Trustee of the R.K.Laros Foundation from 1986-2012

R.K.Laros Foundation Hosts Reception for Oral History Project in Partnership with the Industrial Archives and Library at National Museum of Industrial History

L-R Margorie Mainhart, Mrs. David Jones, David Jones, Norman King Jr., Judy King Molder with Marge Tarola (seated)

L-R Margorie Mainhart, Mrs. David Jones, David Jones, Norman King Jr., Judy King Molder with Marge Tarola (seated)


On May 22, 2019 several trustees for the R.K.Laros Foundation gathered at the National Museum of Industrial History with Marge Tarola, a past employee of the R.K.Laros Silk Mill on Broad Street in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. Recently interviewed as part of the Laros Oral History project in partnership with the Industrial Archives and Library, Marge began her career with Laros in 1946 at the corporation’s “Learner School” where she learned to sew. In 1954 Marge became a zig zag operator.The descendants of Laros employees Norman King and Roland Jones also joined the gathering to meet Marge. Their fathers both played important roles in her time with Laros.

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Marge is second from left and has donated this photograph to the Laros collection at the Industrial Archives and Library.Laros Industries was founded in the summer of 1919.

Marge is second from left and has donated this photograph to the Laros collection at the Industrial Archives and Library.Laros Industries was founded in the summer of 1919.

Marge donated the 8” x 12” photograph of the sewing floor from the Laros Silk Mill on Broad Street during the reception. Marge is in the photograph second from left. After the photograph was taken, all employees received a copy and she has treasured her copy for almost 70 years. The photograph will be part of the Laros Collection at the Industrial Archives and Library.

Foundation Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton and Marge Tarola

Foundation Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton and Marge Tarola

Trustee Elizabeth Shimer Bowers and Marge Tarola

Trustee Elizabeth Shimer Bowers and Marge Tarola

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Norman King, Robert Bilheimer Laros Trustee and IAL Director and Marge Tarola

Laros Foundation Executive Director Sharon Zondag with Laros box donated to NMIH, Marge Tarola and her daughter Marjorie Mainhart

Laros Foundation Executive Director Sharon Zondag with Laros box donated to NMIH, Marge Tarola and her daughter Marjorie Mainhart

The Laros Foundation Receives Donation of 1926 Laros Volume "SILK"

Christina Saunders of Christina’s Fabulous Finds has donated a pristine volume of the book “Silk”. The book published in 1926 by the R.K.Laros Silk Company of Bethlehem Pennsylvania tells the story of the Origin of Silk and the path taken by silk as it traveled from the silkworm to the silken thread used by the manufacturers in the United States at that time. “From a variable animal product it is transformed into one of determinable and dependable uniformity.”

A special thank you to Christina and her interest in preserving this beautiful volume for the Laros Family and Foundation!

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R.K.Laros Foundation Trustees Presents Grant to Truth for Women

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R.K. Laros Gives Grant Support

PHOTO L-R: TFW Board Vice-Chairman Mark Sessanta, RKLF Trustee Laurie Gostley Hackett, RKLF Vice Chair Laura Bennett  Shelton, TFW Case Manager Chris Zweifel, RKLF Secretary George Mower. Photo Credit: RKLF Executive Director Sharon Jones Zondag

Truth for Women writes “On March 13, 2019, the R.K. Laros Foundation, Inc., a non-profit charitable trust, presented Truth for Women with a $4,000 check to install soundproof doors to the office and the counseling room of the Truth Home. These doors are more than pieces of lumber; they are privacy providers. The women we serve have had their privacy invaded and violated in the most horrible ways. By funding these doors, the R.K. Laros Foundation is restoring the privacy they deserve. On behalf of the women who will benefit, we thank the R.K. Laros Foundation for working together with us to make a lasting impact!”


Bethlehem Public Library Moves Forward with the Bob Cohen Room

Construction is Starting!

Pardon our dust, excuse the noise, and join us in celebrating the next phase of the Main Library renovations at BAPL! As of today, construction is underway on the Bob Cohen Room! This room is on its way to becoming a concert venue and multi-use space that will host lectures and meetings and plays and art galleries and all sorts of uses not yet imagined. This room will honor the memory of Library Board member, donor, and dear friend Bob Cohen.

Contributors to the project have included the Cohen Family, The Laros Foundation, Bethlehem Morning Star Rotary, Bethlehem Rotary Club Foundation, The Reidler Foundation, Northampton County Department of Community & Economic Development, and The Friends of the Library, as well as many anonymous and individual donors. We couldn’t do it without your support! (And if you’d like to contribute, you still can–donate securely online today!)

See the concept illustrations below provided by Cornerstone Consulting. Construction is expected to take approximately six months. See you in the summer, Cohen Room!

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This multi-use space honoring Bob Cohen will host lectures and meetings and plays and art galleries and all sorts of uses not yet imagined.


The R.K. Laros Foundation is pleased to support this project to continue to be a part of the Bethlehem Public Library’s efforts to create, support and sustain community.

The R.K. Laros Foundation is pleased to support this project to continue to be a part of the Bethlehem Public Library’s efforts to create, support and sustain community.

Grants Support 8 Organizations Monday, February 11, 2019 by The Press in Local News

The Bethlehem based, R.K.Laros Foundation, established in 1952 by Laros Silk Mill Founder and Owner R.K.Laros and his wife Helen, announces the annual award of grants to 8 local non-profit organizations.

Grants were awarded to the following nonprofit organizations: ArtsQuest, $25,000 to support their current capital campaign and specifically the restoration of the Turn and Grind Shop honoring ArtsQuest founder and visionary Jeff Parks; Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, $15,000 for outside repair of the Forte Building on Southside Bethlehem; Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley, $20,000 to install an ADA compliant handicapped ramp at the Senior Center and honoring longtime Hispanic Center leader and SLUHN Physician Dr. Bonnie Coyle; Northampton Community College, $30,000 for the current capital campaign renovations to the Fowler Campus and the creation of a Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Northeast Ministries, $35,000 for the installation of a comprehensive security system; St. Luke’s University Health Network, $20,000 for the addition of an anatomage table; Touchstone Theatre, $2,500 for the replacement of an HVAC system; Lehigh University, $35,000 to support the current preservation and renovations of University Center and the establishment of an annual Entrepreneurship Award honoring Foundation founder R.K.Laros. Foundation Trustees presented the grants throughout January 2019.

The R.K. Laros Foundation provides grant support with a focus on enduring capital projects with community impact in the Bethlehem Area. Grant proposals will be accepted September 10 - September 24th in 2019. Grant applications are available on the foundation website www.larosfoundation.org.

R.K. LAROS SILK COMPANY Keeping the story from slipping away

Monday, February 11, 2019 by The Press in Local News

The R.K.Laros Foundation and the Industrial Archives and Library hosted a reception for the participants of the Laros Oral History Project made possible by a collaboration with the IAL. The Laros Foundation Chair, Vice Chair and Trustees attended the November 7th 2018 event.


The R.K.Laros Silk Mills Operated from 1919 to 1957 in Bethlehem and Kingston, Pennsylvania

The R.K.Laros Silk Mills Operated from 1919 to 1957 in Bethlehem and Kingston, Pennsylvania

The R. K. Laros Foundation and the Industrial Archives and Library hosted a joint reception at the Industrial Archives and Library to thank the nearly 30 individuals who have participated in the organizations’ joint Laros Oral History Project and to provide an interim report on the results of the Project to date.

Launched in March 2017, The Laros Oral History Project is documenting the history and impact of the R. K. Laros Silk Company on the Lehigh Valley community from the perspective of the everyday lives of employees and their families.

Born in Easton, Pa., and rising from very humble origins, Russell K. Laros founded the R. K. Laros Silk Company in Bethlehem in 1919, building it into a highly successful and leading American silk manufacturer. Initially focusing on the production of raw silk and then ladies’ undergarments, Laros – always the innovator – shifted production to parachutes and a pioneering synthetic blood plasma product during the Korean War years, called Plavolex.

Laros passed away in 1955 and the company was sold in 1957, ultimately operating under the Sure-Fit name.

“Unfortunately, over time, the Laros story is slowly beginning to slip away,” said Sharon Jones Zondag, executive director of The R. K. Laros Foundation and co-manager of the Laros Oral History Project. “The goal of this project is to get as much of the Laros legacy on the record before it is completely lost to time.”

Speaking on behalf of the project team, Robert Bilheimer, co-manager and producer/director for the project, thanked the project participants and provided an interim report on the project’s progress to date and its initial findings.

“Since March 2017, we have completed a total of 18 audio and videotaped interviews of 27 separate interviewees, or narrators as they are called,” he reported. “That has included former Laros Silk Company employees, family members of former employees, Laros family members and R. K. Laros Foundation Trustees. We are in the process of scheduling additional interviews into 2019.

“While the project is far from being completed,” Bilheimer said, “a consistent and clear picture is emerging of R. K. Laros as a caring, compassionate and innovative individual, who was deeply committed to his employees and his community and who built a very progressive company that fostered an unusually close-knit company culture among its employees.

“The company was also an anchor to its East Bethlehem community and was perhaps second only to Bethlehem Steel in shaping and influencing the most individual lives and families in the Greater Bethlehem area during the first half of the 20th Century,” he added.

Bilheimer is also Industrial Archives and Library general manager and a R. K. Laros Foundation trustee.

Rounding out the Project Team in addition to Zondag and Bilheimer is lead Interviewer and fellow R. K. Laros Foundation trustee Diane Donaher.

The Laros Oral History Project is a collaboration between The R. K. Laros Foundation and the Industrial Archives & Library. The foundation owns the interview recordings and materials and helps publicly promote the project and identify and recruit potential interviewees. The Industrial Archives & Library produces and directs the interviews and permanently houses the resulting recordings and transcriptions and coordinates their availability for public research.

“Through this Project, we are hoping to gain a much more thorough and richer understanding of the R. K. Laros Silk Company and fill in some of the gaps of knowledge that are widening as the Laros story begins to fade from the community’s collective memory,” Zondag said. “But we are still looking to the community for help. The project is gathering momentum, but we are certain there are wonderful untold stories out there that we will want to capture that will help round out the Laros story before this project comes to a close.

“So, as we look to wrap up the project sometime in 2019,” she said, “we invite anyone with any knowledge they might have about the Laros Silk Company, R. K. Laros or the Laros family to come forward and contact me to share their story. Whether you might be a former employee, a family member of a former employee or just an individual who has some information of interest, your participation will be much appreciated.”

Zondag can be reached by telephone at (610) 390-6016, or via email at larosfoundation@gmail.com.

Article courtesy the R.K. Laros Foundation


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The R.K.Laros Foundation Announces Year End Grants for 2018

The R.K.Laros Foundation Awards a $25,000 grant to support ArtsQuest’s current Capital Campaign on 1.17.19. The foundation grant will be part of the restoration and preservation of the historic Bethlehem Steel Turn and Grind Shop to expand venue space in providing access to art, culture and educational programs for the diverse residents of the Lehigh Valley and others who seek access to our community.

The R.K.Laros Foundation Awards a $25,000 grant to support ArtsQuest’s current Capital Campaign on 1.17.19. The foundation grant will be part of the restoration and preservation of the historic Bethlehem Steel Turn and Grind Shop to expand venue space in providing access to art, culture and educational programs for the diverse residents of the Lehigh Valley and others who seek access to our community.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

THE R.K. LAROS FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES GRANTS FOR 2017

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-January 22,2019

The Bethlehem based, R.K.Laros Foundation, established in 1952 by Laros Silk Mill Founder and Owner R.K.Laros and his wife Helen, announces the annual award of grants to 8 local non-profit organizations.

Grants were awarded to the following nonprofit organizations:  ArtsQuest, $25,000 to support their current capital campaign and specifically the restoration of the Turn and Grind Shop honoring ArtsQuest founder and visionary Jeff Parks; Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, $15,000 for outside repair of the Forte Building on Southside Bethlehem; Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley, $20,000 to install an ADA compliant handicapped ramp at the Senior Center and honoring longtime Hispanic Center leader and SLUHN Physician Dr. Bonnie Coyle; Northampton Community College, $30,000 for the current capital campaign renovations to the Fowler Campus to establish and develop a resource center where prospective and current students and visitors can learn about the college’s diverse educational offerings, career assessment tools and financial aid resources; Northeast Ministries, $35,000 for the installation of a comprehensive security system; St. Luke’s University Health Network, $20,000 for the addition of an anatomage table; Touchstone Theatre, $2,500 for the replacement of an HVAC system; Lehigh University, $35,000 to support the current preservation and renovations of University Center and the establishment of an annual Entrepreneurship Award honoring R.K.Laros. Foundation Trustees will present the grants throughout January 2018.

The R.K. Laros Foundation provides grant support with a focus on enduring capital projects with community impact in the Bethlehem Area. Grant proposals will be accepted September 10 - September 24th in 2019. Grant applications are available on the foundation website http://www.larosfoundation.org

For more information about grant opportunities or the R.K. Laros Foundation contact Executive Director Sharon Jones Zondag at larosfoundation.org

Touchstone Theatre Grant Presentation by Trustees Elizabeth Shimer Bowrers, Ron Donchez and Laurie Hackett to Artistic Director Lisa Jordan and Bill George Touchstone Co Founder on 1.17.19 to replace an aging HVAC.

Touchstone Theatre Grant Presentation by Trustees Elizabeth Shimer Bowrers, Ron Donchez and Laurie Hackett to Artistic Director Lisa Jordan and Bill George Touchstone Co Founder on 1.17.19 to replace an aging HVAC.

Trustees Elizabeth Shimer Bowers, Diane Donaher and Ron Donchez present a grant on 1.17.19 to Past Director Northeast Ministries Ann Gibson and Executive Director Paula Johnson to install a comprehensive security system at the site.

Trustees Elizabeth Shimer Bowers, Diane Donaher and Ron Donchez present a grant on 1.17.19 to Past Director Northeast Ministries Ann Gibson and Executive Director Paula Johnson to install a comprehensive security system at the site.



Trustee George Mowrer and Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton on 1.24.19 present the grant to CACLV Executive Director Alan Jennings to support outside repairs to the Forte Building.

Trustee George Mowrer and Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton on 1.24.19 present the grant to CACLV Executive Director Alan Jennings to support outside repairs to the Forte Building.

Trustee George Mowrer and Executive Director Sharon Zondag present the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley Grant at the Senior Center on January 18th, 2019 a grant to install an ADA compliant handicapped access ramp at the center.

Trustee George Mowrer and Executive Director Sharon Zondag present the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley Grant at the Senior Center on January 18th, 2019 a grant to install an ADA compliant handicapped access ramp at the center.

Foundation Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton and Trustees Diane Donaher and Robert Bilheimer on 1.18.19 present the grant to Northampton Community College President Mark Erickson and Vice President Workforce Development Lauren Loeffler to support the establishment of a Resource Center at the Fowler Campus..

Foundation Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton and Trustees Diane Donaher and Robert Bilheimer on 1.18.19 present the grant to Northampton Community College President Mark Erickson and Vice President Workforce Development Lauren Loeffler to support the establishment of a Resource Center at the Fowler Campus..

R.K.Laros’ great granddaughter Elizabeth Shimer Bowers with Trustees Laurie Gostley Hackett and Dr. Michael Abgott presents the 2018 grant to Carla Arbushites Asst VP Development and Megan Augustine Network Simulation Director SLUHN on January 17th, 2019 in support of the purchase of a virtual anatomy table..

R.K.Laros’ great granddaughter Elizabeth Shimer Bowers with Trustees Laurie Gostley Hackett and Dr. Michael Abgott presents the 2018 grant to Carla Arbushites Asst VP Development and Megan Augustine Network Simulation Director SLUHN on January 17th, 2019 in support of the purchase of a virtual anatomy table..

2018 Foundation Grant Awarded by Laros Family 4th Generation

In 2018 the Laros Foundation partnered with Lehigh and 5 Laros 4th generation descendants enrolled at the University to teach and model the values and mechanics of philanthropy. Read more here

L-R Laros descendants Janelle Laros ‘21, Board Chair R.Keller Laros III, Alexandra Lada ‘20, Truman Shelton ‘21, Board Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton

L-R Laros descendants Janelle Laros ‘21, Board Chair R.Keller Laros III, Alexandra Lada ‘20, Truman Shelton ‘21, Board Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton

On November 8th 2018 the 4th Generation Laros descendants present the 2018 Lehigh University Grant supporting the Campaign “Go: The Campaign for Lehigh”. The grant will contribute to the restoration and renovation of the historic University Center, a hub of campus life, and to establish in perpetuity the Annual R.K.Laros Entrepreneurship Award.

On November 8th 2018 the 4th Generation Laros descendants present the 2018 Lehigh University Grant supporting the Campaign “Go: The Campaign for Lehigh”. The grant will contribute to the restoration and renovation of the historic University Center, a hub of campus life, and to establish in perpetuity the Annual R.K.Laros Entrepreneurship Award.

Good Shepherd Women's Giving Circle Hosted at Sunset Acres

The Laros Foundation, Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton and Capital Blue Cross hosted the Good Shepherd Women's Giving Circle at Sunset Acres on December 5th, 2018 for their annual holiday meeting and gathering. The Women’s Circle was formed in 2009 to allow individual members to combine efforts to better and more effectively support the mission of Good Shepherd to improve the lives of those with disabilities.

Members of the  Good Shepherd Women’s Giving Circle  invited guests to join them for this unique opportunity to enjoy a holiday gathering at the estate built by R.K.Laros from 1928-1932.

Members of the Good Shepherd Women’s Giving Circle invited guests to join them for this unique opportunity to enjoy a holiday gathering at the estate built by R.K.Laros from 1928-1932.

L-R Carol Carpenter Senior Major Gifts Officer Good Shepherd, Anne Baum Vice President Capital Blue Cross and Laura Bennett Shelton Vice Chair R.K.Laros Foundation

L-R Carol Carpenter Senior Major Gifts Officer Good Shepherd, Anne Baum Vice President Capital Blue Cross and Laura Bennett Shelton Vice Chair R.K.Laros Foundation

LEHIGH VALLEY LIVE History of an iconic Lehigh Valley silk mill is now coming into focus

By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com | Posted December 05, 2018 at 06:50 AM


Bethlehem Steel's rise and fall is closely interwoven into the family histories of all those who worked there.

But there's another Bethlehem company that anchored the east Bethlehem community in the early 20th century that  doesn't get as much attention.  

Now, efforts are underway to preserve the stories of the R.K. Laros Silk Company and its employees before they're lost to time.

Known as the Laros Oral History Project, the collaboration between the Industrial Archives & Library and the R.K. Laros Foundation, is proving fruitful, said Robert Bilheimer, co-manager and producer/director for the project. Bilheimer is also general manager of the archives and a foundation trustee.

"The company was also an anchor to its East  Bethlehem community and was perhaps second only to Bethlehem Steel in shaping and influencing the most individual lives and families in the Greater Bethlehem area during the first half of the 20th Century," Bilheimer said.

Since March of 2017, the project has completed 18 audio and  27 separate video interviews with participants, including former Laros Silk Company employees, their family members, Laros family members and R.K. Laros Foundation trustees. 

"Although the project is far from being completed, a consistent and clear picture is emerging of R. K. Laros as a caring, compassionate and innovative individual, who was deeply committed to his employees and his community and who built a very progressive company that fostered an unusually close-knit company culture among its employees," Bilheimer said.

Project organizers have shared an assortment of the images and articles they have collected with lehighvalleylive.com.

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R.K.Laros Foundation Announces the Appointment of a New Trustee

The R.K.Laros Foundation is pleased to announce that Elizabeth Shimer Bowers, great granddaughter of R.K.and Helen Laros, has been elected as a trustee to the foundation board. Author and freelance writer, Elizabeth brings a wealth of experience to her role as a trustee for the foundation. Chairman Russell Keller Laros III and the trustees welcome Elizabeth to the board!

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Elizabeth Shimer Bowers

R.K.Laros Foundation Awards 2017 Grants to 12 Local Nonprofits

The Trustees for the R.K.Laros Foundation Awarded grants totaling $184,000 to 12 local nonprofits.

The Laros Foundation is pleased to support the efforts of Bethlehem Sheltering,Inc. in providing overnight shelter in one location effective 2017. 

The Laros Foundation is pleased to support the efforts of Bethlehem Sheltering,Inc. in providing overnight shelter in one location effective 2017. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

THE R.K. LAROS FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES GRANTS FOR 2017

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-December 22, 2017

 

The Bethlehem based, R.K.Laros Foundation, established in 1952 by Laros Silk Mill Founder and Owner R.K.Laros and his wife Helen, announces the annual award of grants to 12 local non-profit organizations.

Grants were awarded to the following nonprofit organizations: The Bethlehem Public Library, $10,000 in support of the creation of a Community Room, Bethlehem Sheltering, Inc., $20,000 for capital modifications required for their single site overnight shelter, Charter Arts School $15,000 for an Ensemble Practice Room, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, Inc., $20,000 to purchase two pediatric cribs designed to facilitate infant recovery, Meals on Wheels, $20,000 in support of their  current campaign to expand the Northampton County facility, The Moravian Archives $20,000 for a Book and Manuscript Scanner to digitize their collection for expanded access by the public, Rosemont Lutheran Church $25,000 for steeple and sanctuary window repairs, School Sisters of St. Francis $10,000 for the construction of an equipment garage to support their community garden project providing fresh fruit and vegetables to Lehigh Valley food banks; Stephen’s Place $1,027 for the replacement of the front door; The Five Star Project $20,000 for materials for collaborative renovations at the Bethlehem Boy’s and Girl’s Club, VIA of the Lehigh Valley $10,000 for a roof repair and the Wildlands Conservancy, $10,000 for the restoration of the Monocacy Creek at Illicks Mill.

Foundation Trustees will present the grants throughout January 2018.

The R.K. Laros Foundation provides grant support with a focus on enduring capital projects with community impact in the Bethlehem Area. Grant proposals will be accepted September 11 - October 16th in 2018. Grant applications are available on the foundation website http://www.larosfoundation.org

For more information about grant opportunities or the R.K. Laros Foundation contact Executive Director Sharon Jones Zondag at larosfoundation.org

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The Five Star Heart Project received a $20,000 Laros grant to support renovations for the 50 year old Bethlehem Boy and Girls Club. Five Star Heart is partnering with local businesses and college students in efforts to build a stonger community by mentoring the young leaders of tomorrow. http://www.mcall.com/sports/varsity/mc-spt-aroundthevalley-20180114-story.html

 

The R.K.Laros Foundation and The Industrial Archives and Library issue a Joint Press Release January 5, 2018

               FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 5, 2018

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The R. K. Laros Foundation and the Industrial Archives & Library

Announce Partnership on Oral History Project

to

Chronicle the Life and Legacy of Russell K. Laros and the R. K. Laros Silk Company

 

Seeking Individuals to Help Tell the Laros Story

 

 

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The R. K. Laros Foundation and the Industrial Archives & Library announced today their ongoing collaboration on The Laros Oral History Project to document the history and impact of the R. K. Laros Silk Company on Lehigh Valley community from the perspective of the everyday lives of employees and their families and to make information recorded available to the public.

 

“So many people have been favorably touched by the Laros legacy in the Bethlehem area,” said Sharon Jones Zondag, Executive Director of the R. K. Laros Foundation.  “Russell K. Laros, founder of the company, was a true innovator, shrewd businessman and a forward thinking, community icon and philanthropist who cared deeply for his employees and his community,” she said.  “But despite all this, his life and legacy are somewhat hazy in the public conscience today.  Through this project, we are hoping to begin changing that before the Laros story is completely lost to time.”

 

Born in Easton, Pa. and rising from very humble origins, Mr. Laros founded the R. K. Laros Silk Company in Bethlehem in 1919, building it into a highly successful and leading American silk manufacturer.  Initially focusing on the production of raw silk and then ladies’ undergarments, Laros – always the innovator – shifted production to parachutes and a pioneering synthetic blood plasma product during World War II and the Korean War years.

 

Always living his life with the idea of “a higher personal mission,” R. K. Laros didn’t just confine his considerable talents and efforts to solely business pursuits.  Believing fervently that community service was his duty, Mr. Laros gave his time and treasure to countless community causes including service on the Boards of St. Luke’s Hospital, the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Rosemont Lutheran Church and the Bethlehem Community Chest, just to name a few.  He was also a founding Board member and Chairman of the Bethlehem YMCA and served as the President of the Bethlehem Rotary Club.

 

“The Industrial Archives & Library is delighted to partner with The R. K. Laros Foundation in a joint effort to preserve the Laros story as an important part of the industrial lore of this community,” said Stephen G. Donches, President and CEO of the Industrial Archives & Library, the production partner and repository institution for the project.  “It’s a project that fits perfectly into our mission and ongoing program to create a living oral history of key American businesses and industries,” he said.  Established in 2015, the Industrial Archives & Library’s mission is to collect, organize, conserve and preserve industrial records and to make them available for education and research to historians, scholars, and the public.

“Mr. Laros occupied a unique place in the industrial and social fabric of the Lehigh Valley.  Joining the likes of Charles Schwab, Eugene Grace and General Harry Trexler,” added Donches, “R. K. Laros helped to build a small town into an industrial center known far and wide.  He just never sought the spotlight or the accolades.”

 

In 1952, looking to establish a far more permanent legacy of service to the Bethlehem community, R. K. Laros and his wife, Helen, founded the Laros Industries Foundation, now known as The R. K. Laros Foundation.  Over the course of the past 65 years, the R. K. Laros Foundation has awarded nearly 650 grants totaling about $7.4 million to over 150 worthy causes in support the common good in the Bethlehem area.  R. K. Laros’ incredible legacy of service lives on through the Foundation, but with his death in 1955 and the sale of the company in 1957, it remains the last, but significant, vestige of the once highly prominent Laros enterprise.

 

“Through this Project, we are hoping to gain a much more thorough and richer understanding of the R. K. Laros Silk Company and fill in some of the gaps of knowledge that are widening as the Laros story begins to fade from the community’s collective memory,” said Jones Zondag.  “But we need help!  It’s already been 60 years since the R. K. Laros Silk Company was sold, and although we have conducted a series of interviews to date, we realize that there are fewer and fewer people out there who might have any firsthand knowledge of the Laros story. 

 

“So, as we look to continue the project in 2018,” she said, “we invite anyone with any knowledge they might have about the Laros Silk Company, R. K. Laros or the Laros family to come forward and contact me to share their story.  Whether you might be a former employee, a family member of a former employee or just an individual who has some information of interest, your participation will be much appreciated.”

 

 

About The R. K. Laros Foundation

Founded in 1952 by Mr. Russell K. Laros and his wife, Mrs. Helen K. Laros, The R.K. Laros Foundation, Inc, is a non-profit charitable trust established to support community non-profit organizations in the Bethlehem, Pa. area serving the arts, education, the environment, health, historical preservation and public and human services.  Its goal is to provide grants to non-profit charitable organizations, where those grants will either seed or support programs that might not otherwise occur and focus on initiatives that will have a lasting and continuing benefit to the community and the people it serves.  “Helping People Help People.” www.larosfoundation.org

 

About the Industrial Archives & Library

Established in 2015, the Industrial Archives & Library (IAL), is a 501(c)(3), private operating foundation located in Bethlehem, Pa., organized as an independent institution to collect, organize, conserve and preserve industrial records and to make them available for education and research to historians, scholars, and the public.  Current holdings include records relating to banking, slate quarrying, coal mining, steel and shipbuilding.  The IAL also houses an oral history program and offers repository services for corporate and industrial records.

“Preserving Historical Records for the Ages”

Do you know anyone who may have worked at the R. K. Laros Silk Company? Perhaps it's a friend, relative or neighbor. Please contact us for more information:

 

Sharon Jones Zondag                                          Robert W. Bilheimer

Executive Director                                               General Manager

The R. K. Laros Foundation                                Industrial Archives & Library

(610) 390-6016                                                    (610) 868-1115

larosfoundation@gmail.com                              (610) 216-6639 - Mobile

www.larosfoundation.org                                   bilheimer@industrialarchives.org

Moravian College Dedicates the Gordon Mowrer Community Health Room honoring longtime R.K.Laros Trustee Emeritus, Gordy Mowrer

The Trustees for the R.K.Laros Foundation gathered December 8th, 2018 at the Sally Breidegam Miksiewicz Center for Health Sciences on the Moravian College Campus as the college dedicated the new Gordon Mowrer Community Health Room.  A gift of support for the college's Health Sciences Building was made by the foundation in honor of longtime Laros trustee, Gordon Mowrer who served the foundation from 1986-2012.

R.K.Laros Foundation Chairman with Moravian College President Bryon Grigsby at the Gordon Mowrer Community Health Room.

R.K.Laros Foundation Chairman with Moravian College President Bryon Grigsby at the Gordon Mowrer Community Health Room.

R.K.Laros Trustees December 2017 Celebrating 65 Years 1952-2017

The R.K.Laros Trustees held their annual meeting to review grant proposals from community non profits on December 8th, 2017.

12 Bethlehem NonProfits representing Health and Human Services, the Environment, Education, Historical Preservation, and Literacy will receive 2017 grant support from the Foundation. At the meeting the Foundation marked their 65th year in Bethlehem.

L-R Seated Trustee Ann Laros-Weaver, Chair R. Keller Laros III, Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton, L-R Standing Trustees Laurie G. Hackett, Dr. Michael Abgott, Robert Bilheimer, Diane Donaher, Board Visitor and R.K.Laros Great Grandson R.K.Laros IV, Treasurer Robert Huth, Jr., Co Treasurer Ron Donchez, Secretary George Mowrer

L-R Seated Trustee Ann Laros-Weaver, Chair R. Keller Laros III, Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton, L-R Standing Trustees Laurie G. Hackett, Dr. Michael Abgott, Robert Bilheimer, Diane Donaher, Board Visitor and R.K.Laros Great Grandson R.K.Laros IV, Treasurer Robert Huth, Jr., Co Treasurer Ron Donchez, Secretary George Mowrer

R.K.Laros Trustees Visit New Bethany Ministries

On December 7, 2017 Trustees and Executive Director of the R.K.Laros Foundation visited the site of the New Bethany Ministries new "Choice Food Pantry" in Bethlehem.

L-R Trustee George Mowrer, New Bethany Board Vice President Kerry Wrobel, New Bethany Executive Director Diane Elliott, R.K.Laros Board Chair R.Keller Laros III, Trustee Robert Bilheimer, R.K.Laros Board Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton, Trustee Ann Laros-Weaver, R.K.Laros Executive Director Sharon Jones Zondag

L-R Trustee George Mowrer, New Bethany Board Vice President Kerry Wrobel, New Bethany Executive Director Diane Elliott, R.K.Laros Board Chair R.Keller Laros III, Trustee Robert Bilheimer, R.K.Laros Board Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton, Trustee Ann Laros-Weaver, R.K.Laros Executive Director Sharon Jones Zondag

R.K.Laros Family and Community Gathers to Remember and Pay Tribute to Dr. R.K.Laros, Jr.

On June 23rd, 2017 the family of Dr. R.K.Laros, Jr. gathered with members of the Bethlehem community at Rosemont Lutheran Church to celebrate the life of the esteemed longtime trustee and chairman of the R.K.Laros Foundation. After the memorial service the community gathered in The Laros Room at the church to remember the great support and care that Dr. Laros brought to the community through his work with the foundation. The extended Laros Family, including members from all five branches of R.K.and Helen Laros' children gathered at Sunset Acres that afternoon to remember their days at their grandparents home and the continuing Laros connections to one another and to Bethlehem.

Three generation of Laros descendants gather at Sunset Acres, built by R.K. and Helen Laros 1928-1932 and currently owned by R.K. Laros Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton. 

Three generation of Laros descendants gather at Sunset Acres, built by R.K. and Helen Laros 1928-1932 and currently owned by R.K. Laros Vice Chair Laura Bennett Shelton.