Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS) is the largest private, nonprofit human service organization in Minnesota. It offers a comprehensive array of support services tailored to the unique needs of individuals, families and communities.

  • Services for children, youth and families: are designed to help ensure that children and families have safe, stable homes and the opportunity to thrive in community.
  • Services for older adults: are designed to support the well-being of older adults and ensure they have choices in services and the opportunity to participate in community life.
  • Services for people with disabilities: are designed to ensure that people with disabilities have access to services, have meaningful relationships with others, and have the opportunity to contribute to community life.

LSS Mission statement:

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota expresses the love of Christ for all people through service that inspires hope, changes lives, and builds community.

LSS Vision Statement:

All people have the opportunity to live and work in community with dignity, safety, and hope.

The present organization of LSS resulted from a series of mergers of predecessor organizations, which in part paralleled the mergers of Lutheran church bodies.

Historical background

The 1860s were a time of beginning and great activity in founding Lutheran institutions of all varieties including congregations, colleges, hospitals, orphanages and inner mission societies in Minnesota.  All of this activity was the result of the great northern European emigration to America.

The era of German and Scandinavian migration peaked from the 1850s to 1900 in the Midwest.  With fertile land for farming, Minnesota became a popular resettlement site.  Spiritual, social and health needs grew rapidly as more newcomers arrived in greater numbers.

Movements in Germany and the Scandinavian countries contributed to the great interest in educational and “works of mercy” endeavors in Minnesota.  Small groups of clergy and laity began to develop institutional responses.  Generally, there was no official church body involvement in these institutional expressions.  The institutions, initially, tended to serve a specific nationalistic group.

Swedish Lutheran Church - Norelius 1st School 1862

Swedish settlements in the Cannon River Valley and the Mississippi River Watershed became the seedbed for Lutheran congregations, giving rise to the Augustana Lutheran synod. It was here that the Swedish born Pastor Eric Norelius founded the congregation of Vasa in 1855; ten years later, with the charitable act of caring for orphans, the legacy that has become Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota was established.

The inner mission efforts in Germany particularly, influenced efforts in Minnesota and other parts of the country.   Dr. William A. Passavant, Zelienople, Pennsylvania, was strongly affected by the works in Germany of Johann Hinrich Wichren and Rev. Theodore Fliedner.  Wichren had developed inner mission programs and Fliedner was establishing works of mercy.  Following a trip to Germany, Dr. Passavant brought these concepts back to the United States.  Much of what happened in Minnesota is the direct result of that visit. In 1905, the Lutheran Inner Mission Society in Minneapolis was born.

Over 150 years, Minnesota has developed a rich tradition of extending care to the neighbor.  The summary below captures the industrious spirit of Minnesotans working together to improve lives for others.

Predecessor Organizations

Lutheran Welfare Society

The Lutheran Inner Mission Society (est. 1905) and The Colony of Mercy (est. 1919) merged to become the Inner Mission Society in 1922. By 1927, it changed its name to The Lutheran Welfare Society. In 1949, it also incorporated the Lutheran Girls Home (est. 1912). Predicated on the foundation of interested Lutherans banding together to provide services to those in need, it engaged primarily in care for women and children and mission-based training and work.

Board of Christian Service

Vasa Children’s Home was established in Vasa near Red Wing in 1865 when Rev. Eric Norelius took in four orphaned children and arranged care for them

Inga and Eric Norelius 1855

in the basement of Vasa Lutheran Church.   In 1876 the Minnesota Augustana Conference assumed ownership and control of Vasa, the first orphanage in Minnesota.  A new building was erected in 1877 to accommodate more children in need, only to be destroyed by tornado two years later.  Vasa was rebuilt only to be destroyed again 22 years later, this time by fire.  Again, the building was rebuilt and served children in need until the current home was erected in 1927 in Red Wing. In later years, as children needing parents were placed for adoption and in foster care homes, Vasa shifted to serve children with developmental disabilities.

Bethany Children’s Home was established in Duluth in 1916.  In 1920, Bethany Home was destroyed by fire and a new building was constructed in 1923.  In later years, Bethany served children needing out-of-home placement.

In 1923, the Minnesota Conference established the Board of Christian Service, Social Services Department; all charitable institutions were put under the jurisdiction of the newly-created board.

Lake Park-Wild Rice Children’s Home

Lake Park (est. 1895) and Wild Rice (est. 1898) were two children’s homes founded near the turn of the twentieth century. When Wild Rice Children’s Home was destroyed by fire in 1931, it joined operation with Lake Park. New facilities were built in Fergus Falls in 1950, when it ceased to be a home for orphaned children and provided residential treatment for out-of-home placements for boys.

Lutheran Children’s Friend Society

In 1900, the Lutheran Children’s Friend Society of Minnesota was organized in St. Matthews parish in Winona, Minnesota, supported by congregations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  For several years, the Society remained in Winona, until it moved its headquarters to St. Paul in 1903. A building was finally purchased in 1923 to house a children’s receiving home and for staff offices.

The Twin City Mission work or the Chaplaincy work in institutions was started by the Society.   In 1925, the Twin City Mission Society was separated from the Lutheran Children’s Friend Society and eventually became Lutheran Chaplaincy Services.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota traces its history to 1865 when Vasa Lutheran Church near Red Wing opened its doors to care for four orphaned

Vasa Children's Home: Phase 2

children.

Pastor Eric Norelius brought the children to Vasa and arranged care for them in a refurbished church basement. This later became Vasa Children’s Home, Minnesota’s first and oldest orphanage.

Pastor Norelius saw children in need and came up with a community response that inspired hope and changed their lives and the life of the community.

Today, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota holds these values at the core of its vision and mission. These values guide the efforts of LSS and empower us to overcome any challenge and, in doing so, achieve results that endure.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota began operations on January 1, 1963; it was established as a merger of the Lutheran Welfare Society, the Board of Christian Service, and Lake Park-Wild Rice Children’s Home at Fergus Falls.  On January 1, 1969, Lutheran Children’s Friend Society and Lutheran Chaplaincy Services merged with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.  This merger brought all Lutheran organized child welfare, family counseling, chaplaincy and residential treatment programs into one corporate, coordinated service effort in Minnesota.  The organization is now affiliated with the six Minnesota synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Through the years, Minnesotans have continued to advocate for our most vulnerable citizens — children, people with disabilities, and the elderly — to ensure they have the opportunity to live and work in community with safety, dignity and hope.

Historic Milestones

1865 Vasa Children’s Home, Red Wing
1895 Lake Park Children’s Home, Lake Park
1898 Wild Rice Children’s Home, Twin Valley
1900 Lutheran Children’s Friends Society
1905 Lutheran Inner Mission Society
1906 Luther House opens in Minneapolis to house young, rural women coming to the Twin Cities for employment.
1913 First Lutheran Kindergarten and Day Care, Minneapolis
1916 Bethany Children’s Home, Duluth
1923 Board of Christian Service
1927 Lutheran Inner Mission Society becomes Lutheran Welfare Society.
1931 Lake Park and Wild Rice orphanages merge.
1945 Lutheran Welfare Society opens first District Office in Fergus Falls.
1948-53 LSS resettles 3,000 refugees from Europe.
1950-57 Lake Park-Wild Rice begins serving troubled boys in a residential treatment setting.
1954 Vasa Children’s Home begins serving children and youth with developmental disabilities in residential care.
1958 LSS opens new Minneapolis Office at 24th and Park Avenue.
1963 Board of Christian Service and Lutheran Welfare Society merge to become Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.
1969 Lutheran Children’s Friend Society merges into Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, bringing all Lutheran child welfare services under LSS.
1973 Older Americans Act is passed.  Senior Nutrition services begin.
1974 Lutheran Home for Unwed Mothers opens in Minneapolis.
1975 Fall of Saigon.  LSS of Minnesota begins serving thousands of Southeast Asian refugees.
1976 First LSS residential home opens in Bloomington to serve adults with developmental disabilities.
1980 Street outreach launches to serve homeless youth in the Twin Cities.
1984 Housing information service opens in Minneapolis to serve newly-emerging homeless families.
1987 LSS launches financial counseling to help Minnesotans struggling with credit card debt
1991 The Safe House program opening in 1991 and is a direct outgrowth of LSS street outreach and counseling services to youth, which began in the early 1980s.  The Safe House serves over 100 homeless youth each year.
1996 Phillips Park Initiative, of which LSS is a founding member, gets approval from the City of Minneapolis to redevelop a four-block area near 2400 Park Avenue in Minneapolis.
1997 LSS initiates a three-year recovery effort to help residents affected by the Red River Valley Flood Disaster.  Camp Noah is created to help children recover.
2000 First LSS transitional housing service opens for homeless youth in Saint Paul.
2001 Second transitional housing service opens for homeless youth in Duluth.
2003 Camp Knutson renovation is completed, creating a world-class camp for kids with special needs.
First transitional housing for homeless teen mothers opens in Saint Paul. 

Severe state budget cuts results in program closures for kids and losses in funding for persons with disabilities, frail elderly, homeless youth and crisis nurseries.

2008 LSS successfully completes a $27 million capital campaign to open the Center for Changing Lives in Minneapolis. 

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs selects LSS as a partner in a nation-leading initiative to provide human services statewide to military members and their families.

 

2010 LSS is selected by Empowerment Services Incorporated, a longtime service provider for individuals with developmental disabilities in Rice County, to assume operations of its 10 homes and in-home services in the county.
2012 Two of Minnesota’s leading adoption services, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and Children’s Home Society, come together to combine complementary adoption services, high standards of quality and strength as a national adoption provider under a new management agreement. 

Source: Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

For more information visit: www.lssmn.org


 

11 Responses to Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

  1. Donna Bakke says:

    Your article says the Lutheran Home for Girls opened in 1974. I lived there in 1967 9-1-67 through 11-19-1967 through Lutheran Social Services. It appears it has been wiped from existance.

  2. Debbie says:

    Right – this article is not quite right. I lived at the unwed mothers’ home in 1973 which was BEFORE 1974 (this article says it opened in 1974).

    • jhansan says:

      Thank you for the comment. The information I posted was given to me by the Lutheran Service of Minnesota. While I am happy to change the date, I recommend you write the LSS of MN and tell them. Thanks, Jack Hansan

  3. dorothy olson says:

    lived in a Lutheran orphanage in St.Paul in the 1940s. On Hamlin Ave. Do you know the name of it?

    • jhansan says:

      Sorry, I cannot help you locate the name of the Lutheran orphanage. I suggest you write an ask the St. Paul Lutheran Social Services office for information. Regards, Jack Hansan

  4. p michael hughes says:

    There was unwed mothers home in 1920s and 30s on lowry street northeast in mpls. Lutheran missionaries from Sweden worked there. They occasionally published a newsletter in Swedish. Any suggestions or history?

  5. b sowers says:

    Is the Luther House that opened in 1906 the same as the ministry building at 316 10th Ave?

  6. Rosemary Link says:

    Two uncles, Harold and Paul Link, were placed at what was called the Swedish Orphanage at Vasa. They were sent there on December 9, 1909. One went back to his mother and the other stayed till age 18. Are there records available? I am interested in when Harold went back to his mother and under what circumstances, as her other 5 children, including Paul, were never returned to her.

    • jhansan says:

      Thank you for the comment. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to answer your question. My suggestion is to contact the Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and ask their for their assistance. Warm regards, Jack Hansan

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