Foundation for the Reading Pagoda Fund

The fund supports the restoration of the Reading Pagoda.

By MICHELLE LYNCH | | Reading Eagle PUBLISHED: November 14, 2023 at 2:15 p.m. | UPDATED: November 14, 2023 at 2:18 p.m. Original story click here.

The future of Reading’s Pagoda will depend on support from the greater Reading community.

The public and private support is needed to raise the approximately $10 million it will cost to repair and restore the Pagoda and surrounding walls, stairs and walkways on Mount Penn, city Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz said.

Goodman-Hinnershitz and council President Donna Reed serve as council representatives to the Foundation for the Reading Pagoda, which was established in 2014 to assist in the preservation, enhancement and maximum community use of the property.

They and fellow foundation member Mike Reinert spoke at a recent virtual forum focusing on the Pagoda.

The hourlong event was hosted by Berks Alliance, an organization that works to advance community development in Berks County.

The object was to update the public on the status of the iconic building, which has been closed to the public since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

City officials say it will remain closed until upgrades to the building can be made.

Arguably the city’s best-known landmark, the Pagoda on Mount Penn recently underwent a complete condition assessment. STV Inc., a Douglassville engineering service, examined all aspects of the 115-year-old building, including its structural elements, finishes and mechanicals.

The city is committed to restoring the Asian-inspired building and stabilizing and improving the associated structures, Reed and Goodman-Hinnershitz said.

City Council introduced an ordinance Monday that will allocate remaining balance of about
$32 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for public projects. This includes a set-aside of $3 million for repairs to the Pagoda.

But that is just a start.

Repairing and stabilizing the walls, walkways and stairs surrounding the Pagoda is expected to cost the city an additional $7.55 million, said Jim Boisseau of JMT Engineering, which completed an engineering study of the built environment surrounding the landmark. Raising the approximat

ely $10 million needed for the building and grounds will take a larger community effort, Goodman-Hinnershitz said.

To get things started, she said, the Foundation for the Reading Pagoda has put $100,000 into an account set up through the Berks Community Foundation.

Goodman-Hinnershitz said $36,000 of the $100,000 was raised through a Pennies for the Pagoda campaign years ago. The campaign encouraged children across the county to donate coins in classroom penny jars.

“We want to revitalize that same kind of concept,” the councilwoman said, “because we know from the grassroots level, from our children and families through large donors, we have the potential to raise that $10 million.”

Goodman-Hinnershitz said there must be ongoing dialogue with and involvement of community partners and stakeholders.

The Pagoda foundation also is looking to partner with state and county government on the project, she said. And because the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, she noted, there could be some opportunities for grant funding.

But the community investment is going to be important, she stressed.

Community input also is important in deciding how best to use the property after the repairs are completed.

Reinert said a recent survey provided some insights.

Of the 160 people who responded, 117 indicated they live in Berks County. More than half of the respondents said they visit the Pagoda at least once a year and 85% said they have taken out-of-town guests to the site.

“So they’re not just visiting the Pagoda,” Reinert said. “They’re bringing people with them to share their enthusiasm.”

Another question, he said, asked about the top three activities at the Pagoda.

Looking at the view and taking photographs were the top answers, Reinert said, followed by walking the grounds and going inside.

Over half the respondents said they spent at least 30 to 45 minutes at the site, and another 40 people said they spent at least an hour or more.

“So, you know a lot of people do want to get there and invite people and stay there and enjoy it,” he said.

The survey also asked people to provide ideas for what they would like to see inside the Pagoda.

The responses included museum-type exhibits, a display detailing the history of the Pagoda and expanded opportunities for refreshments.

Concerts, festivals, car shows, bicycle races and cultural events on the property also were suggested, Reinert said, along with the ability to rent rooms for meetings and special events.

“And yeah, somebody suggested zip lines,” he said. “I’m not sure about that one. I’m not sure if it goes up or over to Neversink Mountain.”

That idea might not be practical, he said, but the input shows people in Berks and beyond are enthusiastic about the Pagoda and its possibilities.

“All of us have to be part of this,” Goodman-Hinnershitz said, “because the tipping point right now is if we don’t do the work that’s needed, the Pagoda will be damned.”

To contribute to the Pagoda restoration fund visit

Boyertown Area Charitable Program

The Boyertown Area Charitable Program provides grants for programs that improve the quality of life for the residents of the Boyertown Area School District. The program distributes grants from the Boyertown Area Community Fund and the Boyer Foundation Fund.

The Boyer Foundation Fund was established to support Boyertown area health, social, recreational and safety organizations. The fund was created in memory of Daniel and Blanche Boyer, who were lifelong Boyertown residents and community leaders.

The Boyertown Area Community Fund was established to support charitable programs within the geographic area served by the Boyertown Area School District.

This opportunity provides multiple grants with awards totaling approximately $65,000 each year. Applications are due by August 15. Decisions will be announced by the end of October. 

America 250 PA Berks County Fund

Distributions from the fund will underwrite the cost of the America 250 PA Berks County celebration.

Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr. Legacy Fund

To honor the life of the late Reading City Council President Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr., his colleagues on the Reading City Council have established the Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr. Legacy Fund of Berks County Community Foundation. Distributions from this fund will improve recreation space or support recreational programs in the City of Reading. To contribute to this fund online, visit To mail contributions, make checks payable to Berks County Community Foundation and write “Waltman” in the memo line. Mail them to: Berks County Community Foundation c/o Waltman 237 Court St. Reading PA 19601 Jeff passed away unexpectedly at age 58 on Monday, June 13, 2022, at Reading Hospital. Jeff served as a manager of Operations and Billing at Exide Corporation and went on to serve as Assistant Vice President and Senior Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch for many years. Jeff served as the president of the Reading City Council and will be deeply missed by his colleagues there. Jeff enjoyed playing basketball, throwing football, writing poetry, reading, taking nature walks, hiking, and spending time with his granddaughters, whom he loved dearly. He will be remembered for his strong leadership, his appreciation for life, his generous heart, and his willingness to help others. Jeff is survived by his children: Ashley Waltman (Skyler) of Wyomissing and Jeffrey Waltman Jr. of Reading; his siblings: Edward Waltman, Jody Shifflett, and Karen Waltman; and two grandchildren: Sophia and Olivia. He is also survived by his longtime friend and the mother of his children, Christina Waltman.

This fund will improve recreational spaces or support recreational programs in the City of Reading, PA., in memory of Jeffrey S. Waltman, Sr., who served as Reading City Council President at the time of his passing.

Reading Area Firefighters Museum Fund

Distributions from this fund support the nonprofit Reading Area Firefighters Museum in Reading, PA.

The Reading Area Firefighters Museum is committed to the preservation of the Liberty Fire Co. No 5 building, which was constructed in 1876 at South Fifth and Laurel streets. This commitment includes the building contents, such as firefighting memorabilia, antique furnishings, and the John Wanamaker designed-“best room.” The museum serves as a permanent facility for the public exhibition and the safe storage of items related to the history of firefighting in the Reading and Berks County areas.

Happy Birthday Reading Fund

Grants from this fund underwrite the cost of the City of Reading’s 275th anniversary celebration. Any unused gifts to the fund may be used by the City of Reading to underwrite the cost of future anniversary celebrations for the City of Reading.

St. John’s UCC Reading Fund

The St. John’s UCC Reading Fund supports organizations and causes that were important to the mission of the church. Grants support programs and initiatives that reduce hunger, offer shelter or improve housing, meet a pressing need for youth, or create or maintain open space.

Distributions are made in the following order of preference:
• Religious organizations or causes within a one-mile radius of 149 S. 9th Street, Reading, PA.
• Organizations or causes within a one-mile radius of 149 S. 9th Street, Reading, PA.
• Religious organizations or causes in the City of Reading.
• Organizations or causes in the City of Reading.
• Religious organizations or causes in Berks County.
• Organizations or causes in Berks County.

St. John’s was located at 149 S. Ninth St. in Reading. It was formed in 1871 as St. John’s Reformed Church of Reading.

In 2017, a majority of its remaining members voted to dissolve St. John’s United Church of Christ as a legal entity.

In 2019, the church filed with Berks County Court to transfer much of its assets to the Community Foundation and to give its building and some assets to Open Door Mennonite Church, Lancaster County, to establish the South 9th Street Mennonite Church in the building.

In 2020, the St. John’s UCC Reading Fund of Berks County Community Foundation was created to continue the church’s mission.

Albany Township Tomorrow Fund

The Albany Township Tomorrow Fund was created in honor of Pauline Levan Hamm and Gloria Longenberger Hamm and their lifelong efforts to support and improve the Albany Township community. The Fund provides grants to support community-minded organizations and initiatives that benefit the general population of Albany Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania. The fund awards grants each year using the following considerations:

Marlene L. Driscoll Fund

The Marlene L. Driscoll Fund was established to support programs that benefit residents of the Boyertown Area School District.

Mount Penn Preserve Partnership Fund

Hinnershitz Dam Wall (photo by Kevin Maginnis)

Berks Area Mountain Biking Association (BAMBA)

The Pagoda (photo by David Gottshall)

Antietam Lake Trails (photo by BCPC)

Distributions from the Mount Penn Preserve Partnership Fund are for capital improvements that protect, promote and enhance the natural beauty, heritage and attractions of the Mount Penn Preserve.

The Mount Penn Preserve is a partnership of the governments of Berks County, the City of Reading, and the Borough of Mount Penn, and the townships of Alsace and Lower Alsace.

Explore the Mount Penn Preserve through an interactive map of points of interest and eateries. The map will be enhanced periodically, so check back! Once the page loads, use the arrow at the bottom of the screen to navigate through the points of interest.