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.
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.
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!
Elizabeth Shimer Bowers
The Trustees for the R.K.Laros Foundation Awarded grants totaling $184,000 to 12 local nonprofits.
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
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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 5, 2018
The R. K. Laros Foundation and the Industrial Archives & Library
Announce Partnership on Oral History Project
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
R.K. LAROS FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES THE LOSS OF DR. R.K. LAROS, JR.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania February 21, 2017
Bethlehem-based, R.K. Laros Foundation, established in 1952 by Laros Industries Silk Mill Founder and Owner R.K. Laros, announces the death of R.K. Laros Jr., past Trustee, Chair and Board Member Emeritus of the Foundation since 1965.
Dr. Laros passed away on Friday, February 17, 2017, at Hospice in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. He was 81 years old and had struggled with dementia for several years.
Dr. Laros, who attended Choate, Harvard and Temple Universities was world renowned as the father of high-risk obstetrics at the University of California San Francisco where he was a physician and professor, teaching at the UCSF School of Medicine. In addition to bringing thousands of lives into the world, he mentored untold numbers of medical students, residents, and fellows at UCSF during his long and illustrious career there.
Born January 25, 1936, at St. Luke’s hospital, to local industrialist R.K. Laros and his wife Helen Laros, Russell was their youngest child and only son. Dr. Laros grew up in Bethlehem and attended Moravian Prep and Rosemont Lutheran Church.
In 1965, Dr. Laros joined the Laros Board of Trustees in steering the foundation his parents had established in 1952. He was instrumental in guiding hundreds of grants to over 150 non profit organizations in Bethlehem, supporting their efforts to serve the community he loved in the Arts, Education, Environment, Health and Human Services and for local Historical preservation.
The community honored R.K. Laros Jr. with several awards in his lifetime including The City of Bethlehem’s 250th Anniversary “Spirit of Bethlehem” Award in 1991, Appreciation Award from the Bethlehem YMCA for "Continuing Efforts & Support To The Youth of This Community" and in 2014 the Lifetime Achievement Award in Philanthropy was presented by the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In association with this award, he was recognized by the Senate of the State of Pennsylvania and the U.S. House of Representatives.
R.K. Laros Jr. was the father of three children, R.K. Laros III, Ann Laros-Weaver and Rebekah Kristin Laros, and five grandchildren. His son R.K. Laros III currently leads the foundation and his daughter Ann serves as a trustee.
The family is planning a public memorial service at Rosemont Lutheran Church in Bethlehem on June 24, 2017, when the family will be gathering for the 65th Anniversary Celebration of the establishment of the foundation in 1952.
The R.K.Laros Foundation announces the following grants awarded in 2016; The Bach Choir of Bethlehem $15,000 for the acquisition of an Acoustical Choir Shell to be used at the annual Bach Choir Festival in Packer Chapel at Lehigh University, The Bethlehem Area Public Library $28,766 for the addition of a security gate in the newly opened Children's Room, Lehigh Valley Children's Centers $3,000 for renovations necessary to expand classroom space at their Southside Bethlehem center, Moravian College for the establishment of a Community Health Room honoring longtime Laros Board member, the Rev. Gordy Mowrer in their planned Health Sciences Building and the National Museum of Industrial History $20,000 for exhibit construction of textile related interpretations.
R. Keller Laros III shared the news today, 7.19.16 of the passing of Gordon Mowrer, Trustee of the R.K.Laros Foundation from 1986-2012 and Board Emeritus member of the foundation from 2012 until the present. Rev. Mowrer, a past Mayor of Bethlehem, was a true and faithful servant to his community and his family all the days of his life. He will be deeply missed but his extraordinary legacy will long endure. His obituary may be viewed at the Morning Call.
Long time R.K. Laros Trustee, Laurie Gostley Hackett, received the Community Partner Award from the Bethlehem Chamber on May 4th, 2016. Laurie was recognized for her consistent and devoted service to Bethlehem, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber, and the larger community of the Lehigh Valley. Laurie began her service on the R.K. Laros Foundation Board as a Trustee in 1995. The foundation has supported over 100 non-profit organizations and distributed over 250 grants in Bethlehem during Laurie's tenure.
The R.K. Laros Foundation received the Community Leadership Award from the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley on April 15th, 2016. The award recognizes exemplary service and outstanding commitment to the Bethlehem Community. R.K.Laros Trustee Diane Donaher accepted the award on behalf of the foundation from St. Luke's President and CEO, Richard Anderson.
Established in 1952 by R.K and Helen Laros, the foundation has supported over 150 organizations, primarily in the Bethlehem area in the past 64 years.
Trustee Bob Bilheimer presented a $30,000 grant to NMIH as part of a $50,000 commitment on December 23, 2015.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - DECEMBER 28, 2015
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF INDUSTRIAL HISTORY RECEIVES GRANT FROM R.K. LAROS FOUNDATION
$50,000 pledge from the foundation funds silk exhibit
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The National Museum of Industrial History, opening in the summer of 2016, is excited to announce the receipt of $30,000, the first installment of a $50,000 pledge from the R.K. Laros Foundation. The grant is in support of an exhibit showcasing the rich history of silk production in the Lehigh Valley.
Founded in 1952, the R.K. Laros Foundation, Inc, a non-profit charitable trust, was established by Mr. Russell K. Laros and Mrs. Helen K. Laros. The Foundation was established to support community non-profit organizations serving the arts, education, the environment, health, historical preservation and public and human services.
Robert Bilheimer, a trustee of the R.K. Laros Foundation, presented the check to the National Museum of Industrial History, commenting that,“the story of textiles is so important to the Lehigh Valley, important to the industrial history of the United States, and important to this community. We felt it was absolutely essential to make that part of this museum.” He added, “Somehow we forget that history today is really yesterday’s innovation, and the innovation message is an important story that needs to be told here.”
The silk exhibit at the National Museum of Industrial History will showcase Scalamandre and Valenta machinery from the 20th century which were used in silk production in the United States. The exhibit will also feature original footage, oral histories, advertisements, and photographs from the Laros Silk Mills. Employing thousands of Lehigh Valley residents over four decades, the Laros Silk Mills set standards for silk production around the world. “We are excited to receive support from the R.K. Laros Foundation. Their historic ties to the silk industry and their legacy of community giving make them the ideal partner in conveying the story of silk mills in the Lehigh Valley to the museum’s visitors,” says Amy Hollander, President and CEO of the National Museum of Industrial History.
The National Museum of Industrial History is currently installing and conserving artifacts and is on-schedule to open in the summer of 2016.
Attached photo: L. Charles Marcon, chairman of the National Museum of Industrial History, accepts a check from Robert Bilheimer, trustee of the R.K. Laros Foundation. Also present were NMIH board members (L-R) Ned Rauch-Mannino, Laura Bennett Shelton, Curtis H. Barnette, and Fr. Daniel Gambet.
About the National Museum of Industrial History
A Smithsonian Affiliate, the National Museum of Industrial History is dedicated to preserving America's rich industrial heritage. Restoring a 40,000-square-foot, 100-year-old former Bethlehem Steel facility on the largest private brownfield in America, the Museum will be home to exciting exhibits, engaging programs and amazing history.
On a breezy April Friday, members of the Bethlehem and Northampton County communities joined with Mayor Donchez, donors and supporters to cut the ribbon on the gathering space at Skate Plaza. The R.K. Laros Foundation has been a long standing supporter of the South Side Greenway and continuing improvements in the Eastern Greenway Neighborhood. Speaking on behalf of the R.K. Laros Foundation, Trustee George Mowrer reaffirmed that commitment. Morning Call April 25 2015
PBS 39 Interviews Moravian College Student Jeremy Hachey'15, Moravian College President Bryon Grigsby, Local Historian Martha Capwell Fox and Executive Director Sharon Zondag about the history and legacy of R.K. Laros; his family, industry and philanthropy.
The R. K. Laros Foundation has been pleased to work with Jeremy Hachey, Class of 2015 at Moravian College, to tell the R.K. Laros story. Jeremy spent 6 months in research and writing the history of R.K. Laros the man, his family, industry and philanthropy. On March 12, 2015 Jeremy presented the history at The Salvation Army in Bethlehem to an audience of 50. Two in the audience worked for Laros Industries and talked about the great affection they had for R.K. Laros. The Foundation is grateful to Jeremy for continuing his work to tell the story long after his internship was completed.