Mission & History

Founded in 1893 as a settlement house, the mission of the Lighthouse is to provide educational, recreational and economic improvement programs to families and individuals to improve the quality of their lives, help them move toward self-sufficiency and nurture children and youth, guiding them to become contributing members of society. For more than 100 years the Kensington, Fairhill and North Philadelphia communities have relied on the Lighthouse to provide multi-cultural services that respond to the multi-dimensional needs of our communities’ members.

In response to the unique pressures that the families of North Philadelphia faced, ranging from recent immigration to substance abuse, the Lighthouse began providing services to the children of our community through educational and literacy, arts and music, and sports and recreational programming. As the needs of the community changed, the Lighthouse expanded its services to aid the elderly and under-employed in the community. The Lighthouse began the first Meals on Wheels program in the nation to feed the growing elderly population and was a pioneer in the Women’s Rights and Suffrage movements. Our founder, Esther Kelly Bradford, upon her retirement in 1953 after sixty years of service, was credited with touching the lives of 50,000 people during her tenure. The Lighthouse has always been driven by its commitment to the families and to be in the forefront in developing creative and cutting edge services to meet families’ needs. For more than 114 years the Lighthouse has been in the community, providing services to the community, enabled by support from the community.

Today Lighthouse works with many community partners to complement and supplement our work. Of late we also have benefited from partnerships with Aramark, Lowe’s, Sherwin-Williams, Community Design Collaborative, Federation of Neighborhood Centers, Tomorrow’s Promise, Well Fargo Bank, Sovereign Bank, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and William Penn Foundation, among others.

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