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.
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 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.
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
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
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.
|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