Tamara Cansler to be Honored with Sixth Annual Rebecca Lukens Award

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Lukens National Historic District to Present Sixth Rebecca Lukens Award to Devoted Coatesville Developer, Tamara C. Cansler

The Graystone Society, located in the Lukens National Historic District in Coatesville, has announced its sixth annual Rebecca Lukens Award to be presented to noted Coatesville developer, Tamara (Tammy) C. Cansler. Established by The Graystone Society to honor individuals who exhibit the qualities of Rebecca Lukens, the annual award will be presented to Tammy Cansler at a March 22, 2012 reception in the Lukens Executive Office Building. The date commemorates Rebecca Lukens’ 218th birthday.

Tammy Cansler started her career as a high school and elementary school teacher in South Carolina. Her focus was English and History. She will tell you that teaching, in all of its forms, is something that she loves doing the most. In 1972, she married Dale Cansler, a man who would remain an inspiration to her throughout her life. When they decided to move north so that he could accept a job at Lukens Steel, Tammy felt that the time was right for her to try a more diversified career role. This time, she was thinking about management.

She found such a position at Merck Pharmaceuticals in West Point, PA. She was trained as an Industrial Engineer. It was quite a change from teaching sonnets to sixth graders.

“Merck had an unusual business philosophy,” says Tammy. “If you were willing and knowledgeable enough to do the work, they were willing to provide on-the-job training.” Tammy worked at Merck from the mid 1970’s until 1985. While there, she became the first female production supervisor in Merck history.

Soon she found herself ready to make the next leap; she wanted to run her own company. She knew she had a passion for real estate, yet not as a broker or agent. Instead, she followed the path of a developer and started Cansler Investment Group. She started small at first, with apartments. She also focused on an area of the market that held particular interest to her, “Affordable Housing” in the City of Coatesville. To Tammy, creating clean and safe living environments for underprivileged adults was a challenge worth meeting head-on.

“You can take a great house and put it in a bad neighborhood, but it doesn’t bring the neighborhood up,” says Tammy. “It will only serve to bring the housing down. Once you establish an economy of scale (saving costs by increasing the amount of units—think of it as buying in bulk), the neighborhood will begin to balance out.” That’s exactly what she did with the North Second Avenue Redevelopment Project in Coatesville, when her firm created 62 beautiful housing units for senior citizens in 1997.

From there, Tammy’s company built two more very successful complexes (among others): Penn’s Crossing Townhomes and the Brandywine Health Center. Brandywine Health Center’s, President and CEO, Frances Sheehan, cannot sing the praises of Tammy Cansler enough. “It is not an understatement to say that the Brandywine Center would not exist if it were not for Tammy Cansler’s leadership in developing the concept of a health and housing center, pulling together a top notch design and construction team, securing all the properties needed to create the building site, marketing the project to elected officials and funders, and communicating effectively with foundation staff and board members whose involvement and approval was needed to move forward. She knows her business and cares about Coatesville – perfect reasons to honor her with this year’s Rebecca Lukens’ Award.”

Life, however, has not always been easy for Tammy, and she credits her pain for giving her a deeper empathy for others. Her husband Dale suffered with Parkinson’s disease for 16 long years, finally succumbing to the disease in May of 2011. “He was the hero of our family,” recalls Tammy. “I watched him go from a cane, to a walker, and finally to a wheelchair. I often asked him, ‘How do you do it?’ I remember his reply so clearly. He said, ‘I’ve had so many blessings in my life, I never ask why.’ ” Six years before Dale’s passing, Tammy also lost her only son Eric, tragically, to a long illness. But her beautiful daughters, Linda and Kristen (and a bevy of bubbling grandchildren) sustain her and keep her spirits high.

Yet, it is what she is doing for the seniors of Coatesville, where she is making the greatest strides in her professional life, and certainly in theirs. Seniors, who previously worried about the safety of going out of their front doors at night, and the cleanliness of their environments, no longer have to carry that burden. To her credit, Tammy is far more than “just a developer.” She has created a whole community for these economically- challenged adults.

“We have Philabundance deliver directly to our building, as well as Entenmann’s (bakery) and others who wish to donate foods. During the summer months, local farmers bring whatever excess produce they may have, be it tomatoes, watermelon or squash. We even have a relationship with Freedom Village Senior Living Community, which they orchestrated, which helps our seniors. Gently used clothing from their residents is sold to our residents for a very nominal fee. Freedom Village then takes that money, and donates it to our residents to use for outings or entertainment for the group,” remarks Tammy.

Tammy is also quick to talk about how the new Brandywine Health Center has literally changed the neighborhood. “Previously, when people in Coatesville were sick, they were going directly to the ER. There was no such thing as preventative care. Now, Coatesville residents who previously were underserved, have a place that offers them quality medical, dental and mental health options, right here in the center of town.”

The Graystone Society’s Executive Director, James D. Ziegler applauds this year’s choice for the 6th Rebecca Lukens’ Award. “Tammy has an indomitable spirit. She is a person who sees a need and does whatever it takes to fill that need. Like Rebecca before her, her community and the people within it are all important to her. She has literally changed the landscape here in Coatesville during the 21st century, just like her predecessor did during the 18th century.”

The Rebecca Lukens Award will be presented to Tammy Cansler at a reception in the Lukens Executive Office Building, 50 South First Avenue, in Coatesville, PA, on March 22, 2012 from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 and reservations are required. This event also is made possible through the kindness of the following sponsors:

PECO Energy; Rainer & Company; Huston Properties, Inc.; The Stewart Huston Charitable Trust; and Mr. & Mrs. Scott G. Huston.

The Graystone Society, which was created in 1984 to help preserve the city’s historic architecture, also assists with municipal improvement and economic development through preservation. The Graystone Society is named for the Graystone Mansion, part of The Lukens National Historic District, which is the future home of The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum . One focal point of the museum will be the 500 tons of World Trade Center steel “trees” originally manufactured at Lukens Steel in the late 1960’s. This museum will also focus on the people, places, products and processes that made Coatesville the outstanding center of the iron and steel industry that it is today. For event information and reservations, please contact The Graystone Society at 610-384-9282 or graystone(at)lukensnhd(dot)org.

The Lukens National Historic District is located at 50 South First Avenue, Coatesville, PA 19320.

For more information on this release, contact Melinda Williams at The Williams Group, 610-518-4888 or visit http://www.thewilliamsgroup.info. For event information and reservations, please contact The Graystone Society at 610-384-9282 or graystone(at)lukensnhd(dot)org.

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Bob Williams
The Williams Group
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