Both Brennan and I have the great privilege of working not only for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, but also for the Milton Hershey School–both started by Mr. Milton Hershey for one great purpose: to educate and provide stability for children in poverty/orphans. After being on duty this weekend as a houseparent, I decided that it was time to educate my blog readers on why the school exists, who Mr. Hershey was, and why you should buy Hershey’s Chocolate products. I’ll try to keep it brief. 🙂
Milton Hershey has become one of my role models and heroes, even though he passed away 37 years before I was born. More than any other figure in history, I wish that I could sit down with this man and just listen to him speak. He only had a fourth grade education (if I remember correctly), and yet he built one of the greatest cities in the world (in my opinion) that all works together for the well-being of children in need. His vision and his compassion were remarkable, and he was well before his time with his ideas and his values.
“Hershey had the genius to develop the chocolate industry in the right place at the right time. His personal convictions about the obligations of wealth and the quality of life in the town he founded have made the company, community, and school a living legacy.”
Milton chose Derry Township, Pennsylvania as the location for his factory because of the rich farm land and the abundance of dairy farms. He soon realized that in order to attract workers, they would need a place to live. So, he created Hershey, PA as we know it today. He built homes, parks, services such as banks, a laundry, a transportation system, etc. so that his workers would have a great life living in Hershey.
Milton and his wife, Catherine, were unable to have children of their own. Both Milton and Catherine believed that wealth was meant to be shared and to be used for the benefit of others; when they realized that they had far too much money on their hands for their liking, his wife suggested that they start a school and make that their family. And so they did. In 1909, they started the Hershey Industrial School and took in orphaned boys to educate them and teach them skills (such as farming) to ensure that they would succeed in life.
Milton continued to grow the chocolate company to ensure that the school would be funded. He also began organizing his other ventures into the Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company (not what it was called while he was alive) to secure additional funding sources, and he separated the chocolate company (Hershey Foods) from the entertainment division to protect the school. Most amazingly, he and his wife loved these children so much that they gave their entire fortune TWICE ($4.5 billion dollars, I believe) to ensure that the school that they founded for orphan boys in 1909 would exist in perpetuity. Today, the school largely operates off of the interest from this endowment, and the endowment is invested by The Hershey Trust.
One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Hershey is this:
“If we had helped a hundred children it would have all been worthwhile.”
During Mr. Hershey’s lifetime, he saw the enrollment increase to 1,000! Today, the school is home to 1,850 students with a plan to increase enrollment to 2,000 in the next five years. There are 159 student homes (each housing 10-12 students). This school is an incredible place and it has changed the lives of thousands of children in the past 103 years!
“Well, I have no heirs – that is, no children, so I decided to make the orphan boys of the U.S. my heirs.” –Mr. Hershey
The students live at the school in student homes, under the care of a married couple (houseparents). Brennan and I serve as “Relief Houseparents”–which means that we serve every other weekend to give the houseparents a much-needed break after being on-duty for 12 days. It is an incredible opportunity to impact the lives of students in a very tangible way.
When you buy Hershey’s Chocolate products, when you visit Hersheypark or stay at The Hotel Hershey (or The Hershey Lodge, or golf at our golf courses, or visit The Hershey Gardens, etc.), you are helping to ensure that his legacy will continue forever.
I realize that Hershey has received some bad (and usually misguided) press lately, and that’s partly why I wanted to share this with my readers. The school has to make choices that are beneficial for the entire student body, and that sometimes means saying “no” to applicants for specific reasons.
MHS has had its struggles over the years as it has tried to navigate the changes in culture and yet still maintain the school according to the Deed of Trust that Milton and Catherine wrote in 1909. The Deed of Trust dictates how the school is run to this day. I believe that the school is even stronger now because of the struggles that it went through in the early 1990’s, and it still is striving to provide the best possible environment for the students in its care according to the wishes of Mr. & Mrs. Hershey.
The mission of the school is still to help children lead productive and fulfilling lives and to carry out Mr. Hershey’s legacy for generations to come. That’s the mission of all of the Hershey entities–including Hershey Entertainment & Resorts. It is wonderful to work for a company that still carries on such an incredible mission! If you are ever in Hershey, please take the time to visit The Hershey Story museum–you will learn SO much about Mr. Hershey and what a remarkable man he was.
If you are at all interested in becoming a houseparent or a relief houseparent for the school, there are ALWAYS openings! You can check out the job postings here. Or, if you know any children who are ideal candidates for the school, you can see information here.
We have both become very passionate about this school and its purpose. When we are there, we are taking care of HIS children, and that is an honor. I am so thankful for Milton and Catherine Hershey!