Silver Springs – Martin Luther School (transitioning to be known as Gemma Services) offers a holistic approach to improving the lives of children, youth, and families who are grappling with emotional and behavioral difficulties. On November 1, Silver Springs merged with theVillage, an organization with a similar history and many of the same programs. The merger brings together two organizations that continue to be inspired by faith-based beginnings and long legacies of unwavering commitment to serving children, youth, and families with great needs. Watch for our combined, new website, www.gemmaservices.org coming soon!
As a combined organization, we provide psychiatric residential treatment, community-based mental health services, child welfare programs, and special education for vulnerable children, youth, and families experiencing emotional and behavioral challenges and the after-effects of trauma. Our hope is that all children and youth will know they matter, are resilient, and reach their highest potential.
Now merged, we have locations in Plymouth Meeting, Rosemont, the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia, and Southwest Philadelphia.
Gemma Services (transitioning from our former names of Silver Springs-Martin Luther School and theVillage) changes lives by transforming hope into action for children, youth, and families facing emotional and behavioral challenges.
In 1859, Silver Springs – Martin Luther School was established in the Germantown section of Philadelphia by Elizabeth Fry Ashmead Schaeffer with a single dollar and a singular conviction to serve and care for orphaned children. Today, Elizabeth Schaeffer’s single dollar has grown into this thriving social ministry organization that is dedicated to serving children and families, helping them to heal, grow, and see hope in their future. In Fall 2019, Silver Springs merged with theVillage, a nonprofit with a similar background, and will now “do business as” Gemma Services (note: the organization’s corporate name is Silver Springs-Martin Luther School, EIN 23-2310084).
The Church’s Treasures, written in 1923 by The Reverend T. W. Kretschmann, shares the inspirational story of the founding of what is now Silver Springs – Martin Luther School. In 1851, The Reverend William Passavant, an active leader in the Lutheran Church, asked Elizabeth (Mrs. C. W.) Schaeffer, the wife of a prominent Lutheran pastor, “Why cannot the Lutherans have an orphanage as well …?” Dr. Passavant gave Elizabeth Schaeffer one dollar and asked her to start an orphanage in Philadelphia. She placed that dollar in a knitted purse, rallied women of Lutheran churches in Philadelphia, and together they founded the Germantown Orphans’ Home in 1859 (which later became the Lutheran Home at Germantown). One dollar in a knitted purse was the beginning of what would become over 150 years of affection for the needy ones of the earth.
The Germantown Orphans’ Home enjoyed a rich and varied history of service to those in need, including parentless children, Civil War orphans, adults in need, and over time, children with special needs and their families. Elizabeth’s program continued to operate on the grounds of the Lutheran Home at Germantown for over 100 years.
The Residential Treatment Program was developed in the late 1950s for children with emotional and behavioral challenges and was located in Germantown until the program moved to the Silver Springs Farm in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania in 1972. Today, our Residential Treatment Program serves a maximum of 72 children ranging from six to 14 years old on our picturesque Plymouth Meeting campus.
Martin Luther School was opened for elementary level special education students as a Pennsylvania Department of Education “Approved Private School” in 1969. In 1989, the Harrison Centre opened to provide educational services to children living on the Silver Springs campus. In 2000, the Hess Centre was built to accommodate the increasing number of children requiring the specialized educational services provided by Martin Luther School. Today Martin Luther School provides specialized education for kindergarten through eighth grade students whose emotional and behavioral difficulties prevent them from thriving in a mainstream school setting.
In 1976, Foster Family Care was established to ensure that if a child’s immediate family was unavailable, upon leaving residential treatment, a child would have an appropriate home to go to. Today, the program serves children who are referred from the Residential Treatment Program and from other community providers. The Foster Family Care program works with children from infancy through age 18 (or older), including toddlers, and sometimes college students.
In 2009, Silver Springs began providing Behavioral Health Rehabilitation Services, which includes specialized therapeutic support to children in their own homes and schools. This program helps children who are grappling with emotional and behavioral needs, and their caregiver(s), to succeed at home, in school, and in other community settings. The administrative offices for this program are housed in the Weiss Cottage on what used to be the Lutheran Home at Germantown campus.
In 2014, Silver Springs opened an Outpatient Mental Health Program in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia and on our Plymouth Meeting campus. The Outpatient Program expands our continuum of behavioral healthcare by providing individual and family therapy and medication management for children ranging from 2 to 18 years old. Our professionals partner with parents/guardians to help children learn new skills to achieve stability and to thrive at home, in school, and in their community.
Silver Springs – Martin Luther School was founded as a Lutheran Social Ministry Organization affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod.
Silver Springs joins with over 300 Lutheran health and human service organizations that provide care for more than 6 million unduplicated clients each year. This means that one in fifty people in the United States and the Caribbean benefit from assistance from a Lutheran-affiliated Social Ministry Organization every year.
Silver Springs is one of the oldest Lutheran Social Ministry Organizations in America and enjoys a long, rich history with Lutheran congregations from the Philadelphia region. Members of Lutheran congregations played a critical role in our founding and continue to nurture and sustain us today as natural partners in our work to serve our neighbors. We value our partnership with Lutheran congregations who contribute to the success of Silver Springs in a multitude of creative and generous ways.
Today Silver Springs – Martin Luther School (transitioning to be known as Gemma Services) offers a holistic approach to improving the developmental, emotional, educational, spiritual, and social well-being of children and families. A strong interdisciplinary philosophy guides and unites dedicated professionals, children, and families in providing residential treatment, special education, treatment foster family care, and community based services.