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

The Innovation Fund

The Innovation Fund provides grants to projects focused on improving environmental health and climate resiliency in Berks County. Projects that include collaboration across sectors and/or opportunities for partnership building will be prioritized. For more information on environmental health and climate resilience, refer to the recent study for Berks County, conducted by the Institute for Conservation Leadership.   

Projects can include but are not limited to:  

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Emily Smedley, Environment and Energy Program Officer, with project ideas before starting the application. After you have submitted your application, Emily may reach out to applicants to discuss the project in greater detail.  


BISA Attendance Improvement Fund

This fund supports initiatives at Berks County’s public schools that improve attendance.

Royals Youth Hockey Fund

This fund provides financial support for youth to participate in ice hockey lessons, camps, clinics, or leagues.

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. 

Woman’s Exchange of Reading Fund

The Woman’s Exchange of Reading Fund provides grants to assist Berks County artisans in the pursuit of perfecting their art, trade, or craft. Assistance could be, but is not limited to: advanced training in their art, trade, or craft; special equipment or tools needed for their art, trade, or craft; or education on the distribution or sale of their art, trade, or craft.  

An artisan is defined as: 
1) a worker who practices a trade or handicraft;
2) a person that produces something in limited quantities often using traditional methods.

Decisions are generally made within 14 days of receiving the reference form from the individual you list on the application. 

West Reading Disaster Recovery Fund

This fund provided aid to members of the community who were affected by the March 24, 2023 explosion in West Reading. More than 1,900 people donated to the fund while it was open.

The West Reading Disaster Relief Fund accepted donations through May 31, 2023, at which time it sunset, with all remaining funding held for immediate and future needs related to the following priorities:

  1. Support to the families of individuals killed in the explosion for immediate financial losses.
  2. Support to individuals displaced from their homes as a result of the explosion.
  3. Support to organizations helping individuals displaced from employment as a result of the explosion.
  4. Support to the Borough of West Reading for planning and/or implementation of historical commemoration of the explosion (including, but not limited to the creation of a memorial to those lost).

America 250 PA Berks County Fund

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

The Metropolitan Edison/Pennsylvania Electric Company Sustainable Energy Fund

The Sustainable Energy Funds were created as a result of electric utility deregulation and subsequent settlement agreements by Pennsylvania Electric Utilities. The funds are designed to promote the development of sustainable and renewable energy programs and clean-air technologies on both a regional and statewide basis.

Two of those funds, the Metropolitan Edison Company Sustainable Energy Fund of Berks County Community Foundation (Met-Ed Sustainable Energy Fund) and the Pennsylvania Electric Company Sustainable Energy Fund of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies (Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund), began distributing money in the form of grants, loans, and equity investments for a variety of projects within the territories originally served by the two electric companies. The two funds share an advisory committee and are commonly referred to in the singular as the Met-Ed/Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund.

Since inception in 2000, the Met-Ed/Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund has approved 279 grants totaling $7,209,518; 51 loans totaling $25,161,087; and three equity investments totaling $1,600,000. Total funding since inception is more than $33.9 million.

Grant applications for the Sustainable Energy Fund are not being accepted until further notice. If you need funding for a project, use the link below to learn more about the fund’s Program Related Investment opportunity.

Reading Pride Celebration Gives Back Fund

This fund supports projects and programs that affirm and enhance the lives of LGBTQ youth in Berks County.

Created with a portion of the proceeds from the annual Reading Pride Celebration Festival, this fund will allow educators and community organizations to develop or expand programing that directly impacts the lives of LGBTQ+ students in Berks.