The Ruth M. Smith Center’s Board of Directors has named its residential and day care building the Bloomster Building in honor of the Rev. Donald E. and Shirley Bloomster. Rev. Bloomster retired from the Smith Center board in December 2018 after serving since January 1982 when he was pastor of First United Methodist Church in Warren.
Don reports that he served several 4-year terms himself and finished out terms for others who were not able to complete their terms. Over the 37 years that he was on the board, he served 12 years as president, including the past eight years. During the time he was on the board, the Ruth M. Smith Center moved from serving as a residential treatment center for young people to becoming a personal care home for the elderly and those with disabilities and a day care center for young children.
In the last years that Don served on the board, he saw the residents at the center change from mostly elderly persons needing some assistance with daily activities to younger people with intellectual disabilities and/or mental health disorders who had no other place to live. Don notes that it was often a challenge to keep things running smoothly. He was always thankful for all the contributions from individuals, churches, and United Methodist Women’s groups that helped keep the center afloat. Shirley supported Don in all the churches and in all his other endeavors while raising their family.
Don grew up in the Bradford area and visited in Sheffield, but was unaware of the Smith Center. He and Shirley first learned about the needs of the Smith Center when he was the pastor at Fairview UMC near Erie in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The Center had an ingathering each year and the Fairview church contributed food and attended the ingathering each year.
When Don was appointed at Warren First, he was asked to join the Smith Center board. Always interested in helping those in need, he accepted the invitation. Although they later moved to serve churches in Union City and Brockway, Don continued to serve on the board. He and Shirley were frequent visitors at the center in recent years so he could take care of board business. He visited regularly to talk to the director and go over any necessary paperwork. He made sure things were running smoothly and helped to fix any problem. Shirley would visit with the residents and staff while he was taking care of business. Both were well known among the staff and residents, who enjoyed visiting with them.
An active member of United Methodist Women, Shirley served a term as Conference UMW President. The Ruth M. Smith Center is a National Mission Institution of the national United Methodist Women organization.