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The Harry Plankenhorn Foundation exists because of a Covenant Harry Plankenhorn made with God.


In 1878, Harry Plankenhorn was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  Harry was a painting contractor and decorator by trade.  Harry’s brother, Augustus (Gus) and Harry’s sister, Elizabeth owned the Plankenhorn Candy Store in Williamsport Pennsylvania. 


Harry was a very down to earth individual and many who knew him thought he was unable to purchase the modern instruments of life.  Harry chose only to purchase those things that were the necessities of life and later dedicated his life to the helping those in need.  


Each morning he would walk down the steps of his home on Third Street and he would a noise and pigeons would appear from all directions into the driveway.  Harry would then throw food to them.  “Charity to all” was Harry Plankenhorn’s life theme.  


In the early 1920’s Harry became friends with Theodore L. Weigel, a blind chair caner.  Their friendship was the result of Theodore asking Harry if he knew of anyone that needed their chairs repaired and that was the start of their relationship.  The relationship Harry and Gus developed with Theodore, became the basis for their commitment to helping the blind and needy.  


On October 13, 1926 Harry Plankenhorn attended a party that was for Thomas Miller, a World War I veteran that lost his sight from a mine explosion.  Thomas Miller enjoyed the evening so much that he encouraged his friends to repeat their visits.  Out of that appeal came the idea of the Williamsport Sightless Club.


In 1927, Harry and Gus Plankenhorn organized the Williamsport Sightless Club.  The club was located at 1246 Vine Avenue, a property that Harry purchased in 1923.   


About 1930 Harry became critically ill and longed to live longer on this earth.  While he was in the Williamsport Hospital, he promised God that if he was allowed to live, he would commit his life to help disadvantaged people.


Harry did recover and he did not forget the promise he made to God.  His prior connection to the sightless of Lycoming County now became his way to keep this promise to God.


In the 1930’s, local organized services did not exist to aid the sightless of Lycoming County.  


Harry discovered that many of the sightless in Lycoming County lived alone and had limited access to food.  Harry Plankenhorn then initiated the “Sunday Meals on Wheels” program.  Each week Harry purchased the food, prepared the meal in his own kitchen, unloaded his painting equipment and delivered the great Sunday dinner in his old Dodge Truck.


In December of 1931, the Williamsport Sightless Club, with the help of Harry and Gus Plankenhorn, held the first Christmas party.  To this day, the Harry Plankenhorn Foundation still funds this Christmas party and has happened every year since.


Harry’s journey caused him to realize that many of the blind individuals had other unmet needs other than just food.  A dream formed in his mind to establish a home for their other unmet needs.  


Harry shared his dream with his brother Gus and several other community leaders.  In January of 1939 Harry officially donated the 1246 Vine Avenue property and The Williamsport Sightless Home was incorporated.  The home could accommodate 10 individuals.


In 1941 a workshop for caning and weaving was set-up in the Williamsport Sightless Home.  


In October of 1946, the Upper Susquehanna Branch of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind was opened with Headquarters at 832 Franklin Street.


In 1947 the caning and weaving workshop was turned over to the Upper Susquehanna Branch of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind.  (The Upper Susquehanna Branch of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind later became the Lycoming County Association for the Bind and is now known today as North Central Sight Services, Inc.)


In 1948 Harry Plankenhorn made a $20,000 gift, in honor of his parents, to expand the Williamsport Sightless Home’s facilities to accommodate 60 individuals.  Harry’s quote at the times was: “… and at 70, I think that a man owes something to the community that gave him all his opportunities.”


In 1955 the Williamsport Sightless Home became part of the Community Chest Council of Social Services and its successor, the Lycoming United Fund.


On November 3, 1958, The Harry Plankenhorn Foundation Inc. was chartered with a capital of $1,000.  The incorporators were, Harry Plankenhorn, Augustus G. Plankenhorn, James H. Smith, Abram M. Snyder, John J.G. Deemer, E. Earl Miller, the Rev. J. Odell Zechman, Richard G. Lowe and Lester L Greevy.


On December 13, 1959, Harry Plankenhorn passed away at the age of 81.


In 1962, the Williamsport Sightless Home was closed due to higher operating cost and tighter state regulations.  The building was sold and the proceeds of the sale was moved back to The Harry Plankenhorn Foundation.


On March 29, 1978, Gus Plankenhorn passed away at the age of 90.


In addition to aiding the blind, the brothers always gave of their time, talents and money to aid the poor, giving coal, food, clothes and medicine to those in need.


The happiest days of the lives of the Plankenhorn brothers were picnics and other similar occasions at their cottage where blind people could socialize and talk over their problems. 


While few people knew of the work of the Plankenhorn brothers, both men were citied and received the Grit Award in 1935 “For years of untiring and sympathetic effort to bring sunshine in the lives of the sightless in Williamsport and Lycoming County.”

The Harry Plankenhorn Foundation continues to this day and strives to provide a “helping hand” in supporting the vision impaired, youth, needy and assisting with the capital improvement needs of qualified 501(c) 3 organizations that serve only the residences of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.

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