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Awards in Philanthropy 2022: Dr. Charlotte L. Casterline

The Association of Fundraising Professionals Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter awarded Dr. Charlotte L. Casterline with the Outstanding Philanthropist Award. Dr. Casterline was nominated by Greater Wyoming Valley Area YMCA and was honored at November 2022's Annual Philanthropy Day Luncheon.

In addition to being an allergy specialist, a loving wife and a mother, Dr. Charlotte L. Casterline is a dedicated community member with more than 50 years of history in the Wyoming Valley. Dr. Casterline is a longtime supporter of the local YMCA and its child care programs. In 2004, she and Dr. Peter Casterline established The Corine C. Sheng & Major Peter L. Casterline Scholarship Fund in honor of their children. This scholarship provides financial aid in perpetuity, allowing children to experience the invaluable benefit of early childhood education at the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA, now a branch of the Greater Wyoming Valley Area (GWVA) YMCA.

In 2020, Dr. Casterline donated her historic allergy and asthma specialty office building in Forty Fort to the GWVA YMCA. In September 2021, the site was transformed into the Charlotte L. Casterline, M.D. YMCA Early Learning Center, joining The Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA, The Greater Pittston YMCA, and YMCA Camp Kresge to become the fourth branch of the Greater Wyoming Valley Area YMCA. Soon afterward, in early 2022, the Mericle Family Center for Early Childhood Education opened as the fifth branch and second dedicated child care site for the GWVA YMCA.

The Casterline Center now operates near capacity, serving 26 children (nine preschool, five toddler and 12 school age) in the Forty Fort and Kingston communities. With the addition of this new site, the GWVA YMCA now offers expanded day care service for local children and working families. The Casterline Center provides a community setting in a family-friendly environment. Upon completion of Phase II renovations, the GWVA YMCA plans to offer a music education and arts program on the third floor.

Dr. Casterline continues to remain active in the YMCA’s child care programs, demonstrating outstanding civic and charitable responsibility. In addition to donating the building, she committed direct financial support in the form of a recurring monetary gift to sponsor the interior of an entire classroom after she learned the cost of furnishing classrooms would total about $25,000 each. Dr. Casterline also secured other donors to pledge their financial support for the new facility. Following Dr. Casterline’s example, a single donor pledged to furnish a second classroom, and other donations were received as a result of her philanthropic leadership.

Dr. Casterline has also made in-kind donations, including a grand piano to initiate phase II for music and art education. Her example inspired others to provide donations, such as books and toys.

When asked what sparked her passion to begin this project, Dr. Casterline spoke fondly of her own mother, Lena Gulmi Lewis, and her inspiring work as the founder of the Cleveland Association for Nursery Education in 1955. At that time, homemaking as a sole occupation was the socioeconomic norm for a mother. Children were not introduced to organized learning until about age 6. Lena Lewis was a pioneer in early childhood education for children between ages 3 and 5. Dr. Casterline’s sponsored classroom has been dedicated in honor of her legacy.

Many years later, Dr. Casterline again saw the need for working parents to have access to quality, affordable child care. She had graduated from St. Louis University School of Medicine and volunteered to serve in the United States Army Medical Corps, at what was then the Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, D.C. At that time, women in the military were not deemed fit for duty if they became pregnant, so they were discharged. When Dr. Casterline became pregnant, she challenged this edict and continued serving as an Army doctor. No day care centers were established, and she needed to make private arrangements to care for her infant. After serving for six years, Dr. Casterline and her husband relocated to the Wyoming Valley.

Today, with many households facing new challenges in the wake of the pandemic, Dr. Casterline remains committed to enabling working parents to find child care. She invests her time and energy into enriching the lives of children at the Dr. Charlotte L. Casterline, M.D. YMCA Early Learning Center. She regularly visits the classrooms, sharing her extensive knowledge of medicine and music (among many other topics) with the children. She is constantly on the lookout for show-and-tell items. Her medical bag contents allow hands-on learning experiences for the children. She also loves to participate in events, reading aloud at story time, singing, and attending class holiday celebrations.

In today’s world, some people acknowledge a problem but take no action, while other, extraordinary people roll up their sleeves, step in, and make a change for the better. Dr. Charlotte Casterline is one of those extraordinary individuals. She remains dedicated to making a positive change in this world by putting words into action and has already built an amazing legacy of learning.

Dr. Casterline’s support has been pivotal to the GWVA YMCA’s recent success in child care and played a key role in the regional expansion of these critical services in Luzerne County. The children and families who benefit from these services will be forever grateful for her exceptional generosity.

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