A Single Gesture that Grew into a Shared Purpose

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota traces its history to 1865 when Vasa Lutheran Church near Red Wing, a tiny congregation of barely subsistence farmers, opened its church to care for four children in need.

These new immigrants from Sweden were the four surviving children of Mikola Erikson and his wife. Suddenly, they found themselves without home or family.

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.


LSS' Tradition of Service Continues

Through the years, Minnesotans have continued to advocate for our neighbors – children, people with disabilities and older adults – to ensure they have the opportunity to live and work in community with full and abundant lives.



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 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 youth experiencing homelessness in the Twin Cities.

1984 - Housing information service opens in Minneapolis to serve newly emerging families experiencing homelessness.

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 youth experiencing homelessness 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 youth experiencing homelessness in Saint Paul.

2001 - Second transitional housing service opens for youth experiencing homelessness in Duluth.

2003 - Camp Knutson renovation is completed, creating a world-class camp for kids with special needs.

First transitional housing for teen mothers experiencing homelessness opens in Saint Paul.

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

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

2013 - Five provider partners join forces with LSS to create an Accountable Care Organization to support people with disabilities in living a “My Life, My Choices” life in lower-intensity settings in the community, lowering the cost to taxpayers.

2014 - LSS' affiliation with the Children’s Home Society goes deeper with consolidated financial results and adoption operations.

2016 - LSS launched Neighbor to Neighbor Companions, a new private-pay service that helps older adults continue to live safely in their homes.

2017 - The Center for Changing Lives Duluth opened its doors, adding four units to our Renaissance Transitional Housing service and 10 apartments for youth experiencing homelessness.