From the 1980s into the 1990s…


Laurel House became incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 1981, and the next year hired its first paid Executive Director, Betty Aptaker. Things were steadily moving along.

The Norristown property they had acquired as an emergency shelter was at the time a twin. The other half of the building was vacant, and there was concern about vandalism. This concern prompted the Founding Mothers to contact the township commissioners with a request to obtain the other half of the building.

During the commissioners’ visit, a tall, beautiful blonde woman walked into the shelter with two black eyes. This had a huge impact on the commissioners, and they understood the need for a shelter like Laurel House. The other side of the building was granted to us.

Work began to bring the shelter up to safety standards and make it a warm, comfortable environment for our clients. Employees from local companies volunteered their time to paint, and the children at the shelter saw first-hand how nice it was to have a community that supported each other. Women’s Clubs were instrumental in decorating and furnishing the rooms and eventually replacing the iron cots with real beds.

Now that the shelter was in better shape, it was time to add on more services. In 1987 the Transitional Housing program was added to help families get back on their feet once they were ready to leave the shelter. A 24-hour Hotline, Counseling Services, Support Groups, and other Family Programs were added in 1988.

Up until the mid-eighties, Laurel House had been run almost entirely by volunteers. In 1991 the Board of Directors established the “Open Door Campaign” for funding beyond government and private foundations. Enough money was raised by 1992 to acquire a second building in Norristown. The administrative and support service offices were then moved from inside the emergency shelter and a local church into this new location.