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VIA plans alternate 125th anniversary celebration

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When The Village Improvement Association of Doylestown (VIA) began discussing plans for the organization’s 125th anniversary celebration this year, no one had heard of COVID-19, much less considered the impact it would have on everyone’s lives.

The organization, founded by 14 determined women in 1895 to address numerous respiratory issues arising from dust on the streets of Doylestown, planned a celebration to coincide with the opening of its major annual fundraising event, the Bucks County Designer House & Gardens.

All these plans have now changed. The month-long house tours, the opening night gala, the group’s anniversary celebration and other special events planned throughout the month of May have all been canceled.

Even with the limitations imposed by stay-at-home directives and social distancing protocols, however, members remained determined to recognize and celebrate this important milestone. After much discussion, a plan was devised and approved by local government and health officials.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, April 26, the 125th anniversary of the VIA’s founding, group members will once again take to the streets of Doylestown.

This time, however, it will be to mobilize a caravan of vehicles, led by a vintage fire truck. The caravan will travel from the VIA headquarters at the James-Lorah Memorial Home, to Doylestown Hospital, which the VIA founded and governs, to recognize health heroes on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.

Along the route, there will be stops at a number of locations that have special significance to the organization, including the site of the first eight-bed Doylestown Emergency Hospital, which the group established at Pine and Oakland streets in 1923, and a second hospital at Belmont and Spruce streets, built in 1939 when more space was needed.

Upon arrival at the present hospital on West State Street, which was completed in 1975 and enlarged multiple times, there will be a drive-by salute to local health heroes fighting the pandemic on the frontlines at Doylestown Health. All this will be done while strictly adhering to guidelines for social distancing.

Reflecting on the turn the group’s anniversary celebration plans have taken, Joyce Hanson, current VIA president, said, “It is a tribute to our members that, after 125 years, the VIA has remained true to our original mission of enhancing the health and welfare of Central Bucks County and surrounding communities and, at this very challenging time, it is a great privilege for us to honor the individuals who are working so bravely and tirelessly on our behalf every day.”

Community members are encouraged to join the VIA in showing support for all those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle by creating and displaying personal messages of support in their yards. Special yard signs created by the VIA are available as well.

Visit via-doylestown.org for information about the VIA or the signs. To make a donation in support of the work of Doylestown Health during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit doylestownhealthfoundation.org/dellapenna.

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