LSSI Celebrates 154 Years of Transforming Lives

On October 31, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) celebrates the 154th anniversary of its founding.

On that date in 1867, in the town of Berlin, Illinois (now Swedona), the doors of a new orphanage opened to receive its first ward, young Edward from Galesburg. When Edward crossed the threshold, that small step marked the beginning of a long history of service to people and communities across Illinois.

In 1871, the children moved to nearby Andover Children's Home, in Andover, the first Lutheran charitable institution in the state and one of the earliest in the country. Dorothy Norberg, 80, a lifelong resident of the town of Andover, remembered her arrival there. "I got to the home, and they were very good to me, very compassionate and caring," she recalled. "I had a roof over my head. I had food on the table, and I had clothes." Norberg was later adopted into a "loving home."

"Throughout our history, we have been known as 'Lutheran,' a steadfast presence in people's lives," said Mark Stutrud, President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI). "We are privileged to share in life in ways that bring love, support, and transformation."

Homes for children orphaned by a cholera epidemic expanded throughout Illinois to help dependent, abused and/or neglected children. Nachusa Children's Home still stands and serves clients of LSSI on its campus. Lutherans in Illinois continued to respond to needs in the community. The services branched out from children's welfare into care for older adults when, in 1906, the Illinois Conference of the Augustana Synod established the Salem Home for the Aged in Joliet.

Over the years, strength came in numbers by combining efforts of the many church-based programs that were serving Illinois communities. These mergers eventually led to the formal formation of the Illinois Lutheran Welfare Association, which was changed to the current name, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, in 1979. LSSI is now one of the largest statewide providers of social services in Illinois. LSSI provides critical programs that include: foster care and other children's services; mental health services; alcohol and drug treatment; affordable senior housing and home care; residential programs for the developmentally disabled; and programs that help people and families impacted by incarceration. LSSI serves people of all ages, races, gender identities, sexual orientations, and faiths.

The relationship between the private and public sectors has resulted in expanded human services and programming that may not have come about without the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), donors, volunteers, and community partners, as well as government support, whether direct or indirect, which have allowed LSSI to build a strong foundation and thrive.

Although much has changed throughout Illinois in the last 154 years, one thing has remained constant in LSSI's history—the commitment of people in communities to join together to care for their neighbors