65th Anniversary: A humble beginning

Alice Kalb, founder of Newton Presbyterian Manor
As Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America celebrates its 65th anniversary, we will take a look back at our history in each issue of Community Matters.

Sixty-seven years ago this June, a woman from El Dorado, Kan., asked the United Presbyterian Synod if it would consider opening a home for the aged. Alice Kalb’s simple question sparked a two-year study and the eventual opening of the very first Presbyterian Manor in Newton on April 19, 1949.

After Alice’s question was brought forward, the synod voted to appoint a small exploratory committee to look at the idea and see if it had merit. Dr. George Nelson was appointed chairman of the committee at its first meeting in Topeka a month later. The committee quickly determined that there was indeed a need for a home for the aged, and sought approval from the synod to raise funds for the effort. The request was approved at the synod meeting in Hutchinson in October 1947. The newly named Temporary Committee on the Home for the Aged was authorized to take an offering throughout the synod, possibly on Mother’s Day. The practice of raising funds for Presbyterian Manors on Mother’s Day continues today.

Over the next year, several locations were considered for the location of the first Presbyterian home for the aged. Newton was selected in December 1948 when the Chamber of Commerce agreed to pay one-half of the asking price of $10,000 for the property at 1100 E. Seventh. The purchase was approved and the next day, the articles of incorporation were hand-carried and delivered to the Kansas Secretary of State for approval.

Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America: Celebrating 65 years to the art of lifeRenovations commenced and the property was ready for business by April 1, 1949. The first resident, Mrs. Frances Belle Townsend of Smith Center, moved in on April 19. When it came time to name this new establishment, the committee did not choose to name it the Presbyterian Home for the Aged. Instead, based on the separate suggestions of two women—Mrs. Mary Page of Topeka and Grace Derby of Manhattan, it was named Newton Presbyterian Manor. Grace later lived at Presbyterian Manor in Newton until her death in 1966. Alice Kalb moved into Newton Presbyterian Manor on April 21, 1949, and lived there until her death in 1951.

Alice’s dream has turned into a network of 18 senior living communities across Kansas and Missouri with more than 2,000 residents, but the mission of the organization remains true to its core, to provide quality senior services guided by Christian values.