Gertrude Mertens was exposed to health care needs when she volunteered at hospitals in New York and New Jersey before moving with her husband, Robert, permanently to Vermont in 1953. She established the Woodstock Learning Trust where she volunteered her time and provided resources needed for the care and education of handicapped children in the area. She felt strongly about people in Woodstock who had to move out of town because they needed twenty-four hour nursing care. Her response was to commission the design and construction of Mertens House to serve those needs in a modern, well-equipped nursing home. She was immensely proud of the result of her vision and was so appreciative of the expert care provided by the staff.