History & Mission

History & Mission

In 1906 a Lutheran Pastor from Erie, PA, Dr. Gustave A. Benze, created an opportunity to breathe life into his dream to fulfill a community need in Erie built around a distinctly separate mission in name and structure for the holistic care of the elderly with a private residence and $250,000 of his own money.

The dream at the time was called “The Lutheran Home for the Aged of Erie, Pennsylvania,” which later became known as “The Village at Luther Square.”

Since its beginning, The Village at Luther Square welcomed generations of residents, regardless of their faith, race, gender, or wealth into its skilled nursing care. For over a hundred and fifteen years, The Lutheran Home for the Aged of Erie, Pennsylvania had remained committed to shepherding, improving, and expanding Dr. Benze’s dream of providing quality services to those under the organization’s care.


brush hair

In 2006, working closely with The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services – Office of Long-Term Living, The Lutheran Home for the Aged of Erie, Pennsylvania was provided with the opportunity to create and grow a new and exciting program focused on providing quality health care services to the elderly.

Seizing the opportunity to advance Dr. Benze’s mission, a program called, “Living Independence for the Elderly (LIFE), known nationally as the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), was created.

LIFE-NWPA, as part of the Lutheran Home for the Aged of Erie, Pennsylvania, initially only operating in Erie County, grew to operate in 12 counties throughout Northwestern Pennsylvania. Dr. Benze’s dream has expanded exponentially far beyond that which we are sure he ever thought possible. Due largely to the growth and success of the LIFE-NWPA program, The Lutheran Home for the Aged of Erie Pennsylvania has been able to create and identify an additional opportunity to provide charitable services to the elderly.

In 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, the Board of Directors authorized the creation of a charitable organization to be called The Lutheran Foundation for Long Term Living (LFLTL). The specific purpose of the new foundation is:

“Among other charitable purposes, the Foundation shall exist to receive and maintain a fund, or funds, subject to the restrictions and limitations set forth in the Articles of Incorporation and these Bylaws, to use and apply the whole or any part of income from these funds, and the principal of these funds if necessary, to provide funding opportunities based on merit to organizations that qualify as Nonprofit, Not-for-profit, or, through the use of Program Related Investments, For-profit organizations, under the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) and its regulations as they now exist or as they may be amended, that engage in, or support, home and community based services (HCBS) for men and women. The Foundation may also assist other charitable organizations, as well as individual men and women, in the activity or pursuit of education, scientific instruction, organized research, sponsored research activities and other institutional activities , or community purposes that benefit men and women.”

It is the dedicated mission of the foundation to help other non-profits throughout the world in as many ways as it can to keep the original mission of Dr. Benze alive, and to support, enhance and grow that original mission to assuring “long term living” for all. Instrumental in this transformation, modernization and growth of the dream has been the many devoted years of service and leadership from Pastor Albert U. Gesler, Jr.

Throughout Pastor Albert U. Gesler, Jr’s. religious life and tenure with The Lutheran Home for the Aged of Erie, Pennsylvania, he lived unbending in his passion to provide solace to the elderly, those facing challenging socioeconomic challenges, as well as the homeless population of Erie. Pr. Gesler’s founding of the Erie Meals on Wheels in 1971 and his leadership for The Greater Erie Area Habitat for Humanity memorialize that dedication to venerable populations.

Pastor Albert U. Gesler Jr.’s dedication to providing for those who are the least fortunate in our community was the mentorship for Mark J. Gusek, CEO of The Lutheran Home for the Aged of Erie, Pennsylvania, dba The Village at Luther Square dba LIFE Northwestern Pennsylvania, since joining the board in 2004.

Mr. Gusek was instrumental in leading “The Village”, with assistance from the board, through some of its most tumultuous times in the history of the organization, as well as forming the concept of working with The Commonwealth to bring LIFE to Erie, PA and Northwestern Pennsylvania.

In 2021 a Non-Profit / For Profit partnership with a capital investment organization named FFL Partners, LLC from San Francisco California, which happens to be, as noted earlier, the birth place of PACE, was conceived and One Senior Care, Inc was formed. This partnership allowed LIFE-NWPA to access substantial capital resources for expansion and growth within Northwestern Pennsylvania and beyond. This partnership also helped fund LFLTL by allowing our organization to help other non-profits via significant grants awarded through a documented grant awarding process.

After naming Mr. Mark J. Gusek the Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of The Lutheran Foundation for Long-Term Living on October 14, 2021, the Board of Directors granted and bestowed upon Pastor Albert U. Gesler Jr., the title of Founding Chairman of the Board of the Lutheran Foundation for Long Term Living.

On that same date, in order to memorialize the contributions of Dr. Benze, Pr. Gesler, and Edwina Gesler, Pr. Gessler’s wife of 59 years, the foundation authorized the following initial grants:

  • The Benze/Gesler Grant for Long-Term Living, to be funded in an amount to be established by the Board of Directors from time to time: to memorialize the significance of the contributions these two men made in the creation and maintenance of a dream worth keeping alive.
  • The Albert U. Gesler, Jr. Grant for the Aid and Comfort of the Elderly Homeless, in an amount to be established by the Board of Directors from time to time: To honor Pastor Gesler’s lifelong work to provide for those in need.
  • The Edwina M. Gesler Music Therapy Grant, in an amount to be established by the Board of Directors, from time to time: In memory of Pr. Gesler’s wife who loved and taught music for many years.

On December 5, 2021 LFLTL mourned the loss of Pastor Albert U. Gesler, Jr., but not before he was informed that a major funding of The Foundation will take place on December 6, 2021 to assure the continuation of a dream that would strategically and actively create a place in history locally, regionally, nationally and throughout the world for The Lutheran Foundation for Long Term Living.

Imagine Dr. Gustave A. Benze looking from above smiling and saying “Thank you for keeping the dream alive!”