History of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota



these are the people lutheran social service of minnesota helps every day in each act of service LSS fulfills its mission of expressing the love of Christ for all people through acts of service this mission has been with LSS since the beginning the roots of LSS go back to the time when Abraham Lincoln was president the Civil War was almost over Minnesota had been a state for only seven years at that time in 1865 the LSS tradition of providing social service began Eric Nora is a Lutheran pastor from the vase at church near Red Wing learned of four Swedish immigrant children whose mother had died in childbirth and whose father had died not long after the children had no family and no means of support Eric no Elias saw the need to express the love of Christ at that moment he brought the children to his church near Red Wing where the congregation cared for them first in the church basement and then in this small house that church and others in the area kept their commitment to caring for children the orphanage kept expanding despite being destroyed once by Cyclone and once by fire here's how it looked in 1889 in 1896 and 1899 Norwegian settlement churches in the northwestern part of Minnesota opened Lake Park and wild-rice orphanages they cared for over 120 children in a large farm setting children worked in the gardens and tended to the farm chores there was healthy work to do plenty of food to eat plus religious instruction and a caring environment with the turn of the century there is a mass movement of people to the cities Lutheran inner Mission in Minneapolis was established to take on the task of binding up broken homes and eating distressed families here is a messenger of good cheer off to help city families and children in trouble a kindergarten in daycare were established out of concern that children were being neglected as their mothers worked long hours as clerks or in housekeeping jobs in 1907 Lutheran leaders were concerned about young innocent rural women coming to the big city to work lutheran hospice the Lutheran home was opened with 40 rooms in Minneapolis three dollars and sixty-five cents a week covered room and board plus employment services over 700 women were assisted in a year's time most found positions as domestic workers in 1912 faithful people from Lutheran churches opened the Lutheran home for girls to serve unwed mothers and women who'd been abandoned by their husbands women of all ethnicities and nationalities were welcomed congregations brought in carts of fresh vegetables and milk unlike now there were no government programs to look to for support ever since then LSS has helped young women with child rearing pregnancy counseling and adoption one year before the start of World War one congregations in Duluth began a large orphanage called Bethany Children's Home in 1916 Bethany cared for over 50 children in a sturdy old 16-room mansion on six acres with a barn and gardens churches kept the orphanages root cellar stocked congregations at that time were encouraged to help find foster homes or adoptive families for these children so they could move out of institutional living and be a part of a family environment early publicity work like this was well done to touch the hearts of families who could provide loving care to these little ones we continue this effort to this day as we are always looking for families who are interested in adoption housing and daycare needs were apparent in the past as well as today in 1922 the colony of Mercy was established on the shores of Lake Johanna in st. Paul with 92 acres and 5 shoreline Lots housing was provided for mothers and there was temporary care of their children as well as other children who were neglected or orphaned churches supported fresh air camps like this one at Lake Pepin so that poor inner-city children might have some relief from hot city summers in 1953 camp Knutson was donated to the church and ultimately to LSS this camp continues to serve people with disabilities as well as those who have cultural or economic disadvantages in 1923 the Lutheran inner mission hired its first black minister a baptist pastor from the south who came north to work with Lutheran's in the city serving children remained a central focus for lutheran social ministry with more than 12 boards governing these programs in 1923 the board of Christian service was organized to merge such efforts as Vasa Bethany and child placement this line of service has evolved into what we now call LSS Children and Family Services meanwhile the colony of Mercy and the Lutheran inner mission along with Lake Park wild rice children's homes and the girls home merged to become Lutheran welfare a major part of what would become LSS 19:27 records show that over the previous five years Luther house and Trabert Hall sheltered 2,400 young women from nine hundred and eighty three towns and rural districts over three hundred families in crisis were being visited and assisted in the inner city annually the social service agencies of the Lutheran Church were clearly making an impact during the Great Depression of the 1930s all the Lutheran agencies in Minnesota joined forces in lutheran emergency relief to help children and impoverished families the agency pleaded with the churches for help and funds with so many in need the agencies were stretched to the breaking point then in the mid 30s the Social Security Act under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the work Progress Administration the WPA to put people to work counties established welfare departments under the emergency relief act providing funds for women and children this legislation signaled a major shift in funding for Lutheran agencies the county governments would become major funders of social service programs here's what the entire Lutheran welfare staff looked like in 1931 today LSS works with Minnesota counties and our Lutheran congregations continue to stand behind us as partners in this legacy of compassion and care following World War two LSS was instrumental in helping European refugees resettle in Minnesota thousands were resettled in the US here's how the staff had grown later we helped find homes and jobs for Vietnamese and Southeast Asians following the fall of Vietnam in 1975 our refugee program continues to serve refugees as they resettle in Minnesota the name lutheran social service of Minnesota emerged in 1963 when a number of Lutheran welfare agencies joined forces the chief executive was dr. Luther charity shown here he writes in the first ever LSS annual report the agency feels the pain of people in trouble it knows what anxiety is and how it can constrict life and immobilize people it knows what hospitality is and sees the corrosive destructive interaction in human relationships particularly in the family constellation everyday it knows what helplessness is in a tiny groping infant in a suicide or in a beaten-down alcoholic it knows what it is like to be imprisoned by the state in consequence of a criminal act and it knows what it means to be imprisoned by circumstances woven by oneself and one's family it knows how a burden of deep unresolved guilt can eat away at a person and make him sick in body and mind you can hear in this first LSS annual report that compassion for others and competence in delivering services were bedrock values then as they are today starting in President Kennedy's administration the 1960s the wisdom of caring for people with disabilities in large institutional hospital like complexes was being questioned by the 1970s we saw the paradigm shift away from institutionalized living to smaller more home-like settings where residents could live more in the mainstream with supportive services during the 80s and 90s the agency grew substantially as several programs were introduced or expanded guardianship credit counseling Foster Grandparents senior companions housing services refugee services senior nutrition to mention just a few the LSS list of services keeps changing for example within days the complete outreach operation was launched to care for people affected by the massive flooding of the Red River and the Minnesota River in 1997 or to help people when tornado strike but while the list of services keeps changing the spirit behind our mission and vision stays exactly the same our oldest records show the unchanging goal helping people changing lives serving side-by-side with others who share our values it's the vision that LSS strives for that all people have the opportunity to live and work in community with dignity safety and hope Eric Norris our founder saw a need and acted in that action taking in for homeless children he provided an enduring model of serving others in the name of Christ in Eric norris's soul there was a flame that called him into a life of service that same flame burns today at LSS lighting the way in our unending movement of Hope now into its third century of service to others that flame becomes a torch that we hold proudly because so many lives have been transformed over the generations of service provided by LSS and its partners it's a noble tradition and it's noble work it is an honor to serve by your side as our movement of Hope continues to touch individuals and to change lives in this the 21st century

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