Sheltering Arms Hospital

More than a century ago, Sheltering Arms began as the vision of a young woman named Rebekah Peterkin who made it her mission to help working families in Richmond, VA who could not afford to pay for healthcare. On February 13, 1889, with the help of her sewing circle and a few friends, she realized her dream in the form of a free acute hospital – Sheltering Arms Hospital.

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Though Ms. Peterkin died two years later, her friends remained committed to her dream. Local physicians and nurses gave their time to see patients and an executive Board of ladies devoted their hearts and their time to keeping it running. They sought funds and supplies from those who could spare them, and made the hospital’s first blankets by sewing newspapers inside cotton covers.

By 1894, Sheltering Arms moved to Clay Street and this institution of caring was firmly established in Richmond. Over the years, thousands of people who could not afford to be sick were nursed back to health at Sheltering Arms.

Continually looking for ways to meet the healthcare needs of the community, the Sheltering Arms leadership Boards began to scrutinize the healthcare environment of the late 1970s. With other acute care hospitals emerging to serve the community, Sheltering Arms discovered an unmet need and made the decision to specialize in physical rehabilitation.

In January of 1981, Sheltering Arms became the first private free standing physical rehabilitation hospital in Virginia. Though our specialty changed, our dedication to helping patients in financial need continued. Today, Sheltering Arms remains as unique as our history. Offering a full continuum of rehabilitation and health and wellness services, with state-of-the-science technologies, evidence-based recovery programs, expert staff and modern facilities, we stay committed to helping all patients find the power to overcome the obstacles of injury and illness.

Sheltering Arms’ 130th Anniversary

Founded on February 13th 1889, Sheltering Arms was originally run entirely by volunteers. Local doctors and nurses gave their time to care for patients while funds and supplies were sought from the public. The organization thrived under its all-woman leadership, and the hospital quickly outgrew its location.

By 1894 the free hospital moved to Clay Street, near what is now VCU. Here they cemented themselves as a fixture of the community. Patients traveled from all over Virginia to receive the best care possible. The Clay Street location served the community for over 70 years until the organization expanded and built a new hospital north of its original location.

Continually searching for ways to better serve the healthcare needs of the community, in 1981 Sheltering Arms became the first free-standing physical rehabilitation hospital in Virginia. Today, the organization is nationally recognized as a leader in physical rehabilitation.

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