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The Fremont Orphanage, circa 1893 - one of the institutions that eventually became LFS

A Brief History of
Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

Since 1892, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska has served children and families. What began as orphanages in Fremont and Omaha has become a statewide outpouring of Godīs love through dozens of programs, 250 staff members and 1000 volunteers.

As the needs of individuals, families and communities have changed over the years, so have our programs.

Organizational Milestones

  • 1892: Roots in two orphanages: Lutheran Children's Home (Fremont) and Immanuel Children's Home (Omaha).

  • 1894: First orphan festival held in Fremont.

  • 1958-1961: Original institutions became Lutheran Family Service & Immanuel Social Service.

  • 1970's: Offered marriage and family counseling, family life education & domestic violence programs.

  • LFSS - 19711971: Immanuel Social Service and Lutheran Family Service merge to become Lutheran Family and Social Service of Nebraska, now known as Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska. Thomas Irwin appointed the first Executive Director.

  • 1972: Louis Heider appointed Interim Executive Director.

  • 1973: Rev. Eugene Jobst appointed Executive Director.

  • 1975: Refugee Resettlement Program begins.

  • 1976: Willard Richardson appointed Interim Executive Director following the death of Executive Director Rev. Eugene Jobst and his wife in the Big Thompson Canyon flood in Colorado. Curtis Anderson and Rev. Robert Greene are appointed Co-Executive Directors. Offices added, including in Norfolk, Columbus, Grand Island and Ogallala.

  • 1978: Began coordinating chaplaincy services and volunteer hospital visitation program.

  • 1980's: Initiated programs for substance use treatment, outpatient mental health, and home-based services.

  • 1981: Curtis Anderson appointed Executive Director.

  • 1984: Counseling services begin in North Omaha.

  • 1985: Adopted the name Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, Inc.; LFS is structurally reorganized, moving from six area offices to four regional offices; Identified Adoption Program begins; Ruth Henrichs (Rexin) appointed Executive Director.

  • 1986: Installed first computer system.

  • 1989: The RSafe® incest treatment program begins; Maternal and Infant Health Care Project begins in North Platte.

  • 1990's: Began gambling addiction treatment and respite care.

  • 1991: Purchased Omaha Church Center as corporate headquarters and downtown counseling center and renamed it "The Dunklau Building" after Rupert & Ruth Dunklau of Fremont, NE; Maternal and Infant Health Care Project is expanded to Lexington; Began AIDS counseling.

  • 1992: Celebrated agency's centennial across the state; Lutheran Family Services Foundation, Inc. is established.

  • 1993-8: Conducted first major statewide appeal, Share the Hope, raising over $5 million.

  • 1994: Restitution Treatment Alternative incest treatment program begins.

  • 1995: Intensive Family Preservation, Family Support Services, and the Specialized Treatment Foster Care programs begin.

  • 1996: Received accreditation from the Council on Accreditation; LFS restructured regions to better respond to community needs and serve entire state; The Partners In Caring Program to serve professional church workers and their families, congregations and the LFS staff, begins.

  • 1997: Expanded adoption and pregnancy counseling in locations statewide; first statewide computer network; Parents United joins LFS.

  • 1999: Launched; Neighborhood development program (SUN-Strong Urban Neighborhoods) begins.

  • 2000: Received the $1 million Omaha Award for Strong Urban Neighborhoods (SUN); Sex offender treatment in Omaha is expanded to serve children and youth ages 5–18.

  • 2001: Became Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service's Nebraska affiliate; Opened Children Services Center in downtown Omaha; Heartland Refugee Resettlement Services, Inc. merges into LFS of Nebraska, Inc.

  • 2002: Named Lutheran Disaster Response's Nebraska affiliate; Expanded immigration and legal support services to Omaha and Grand Island; Purchase of North Platte office.

  • 2003: Transfer completed to direct The BRIDGE Ex-offender Re-entry program in Lincoln; Began federal grant to provide post-adoption services in Kansas and Nebraska; Invested over $750,000 in technological upgrades to better serve clients and & stakeholders.

  • 2004: Launched TeleHealth network to provide interactive behavioral health services across Nebraska; Began offering international adoption services; Redesigned

  • 2005: Transitioned Building Families Boutique program from Lutheran Services in Iowa to LFS of Nebraska and expanded it to include early childhood mental health services; Finalized first international adoptions for children from China & Russia.

  • 2006: Implemented Essential Learning online training; Groundbreaking for Josiah Place HUD project (housing for the severely & persistently mentally ill) in North Platte; Chartered LFS Board Governance Committee; Completed reorganization of The BRIDGE Prison Aftercare Program.

  • 2007: Celebrated 115th anniversary of LFS; United Way of the Midlands named LFS lead agency in establishment of the International Center of the Heartland at The Center in Omaha and Community Services staff also relocated to The Center; Completed Josiah Place; Expanded Building Families Boutique to Fremont and initiated $2 million Light The Way Boutique endowment campaign. Named Nonprofit of the Year at Nebraska Nonprofit Summit - organized by the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands (NAM), the Human Services Federation of Lancaster County and EndowNebraska.

  • 2008: Started "Well Mothers. Welcome Babies." program with focus on Lexington, NE area; Began In-Home Services program.

  • 2009: Started Right Turn® program in partnership with Nebraska Children's Home Society; Started At Ease program.

  • 2010: Started crisis response program in Douglas, Dodge & Washington Counties; Adoption Links Worldwide became an affiliate of LFS. Hired Director of Behavioral Health to oversee realigned Behavioral Health core competency. Opened North Omaha Center for Healthy Families® and combined two Fremont offices (Behavioral Health & Children Services) into the Rupert Dunklau Center for Healthy Families®. Adoption Links Worldwide became an affiliate of LFS.

  • 2011: LFS became a Trauma-Informed Care organization. Expanded At Ease program to Grand Island. Added Family Liaison program (a collaboration with the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties); Reorganized refugee and immigration services.

  • 2012: Celebrated agency's 120th anniversary; LFS began helping victims of human trafficking; Children Services reorganized into three focus areas: Early Intervention and Prevention, Permanency and Well-Being, and Childhood Behavioral Health; Moved RSafe® offices to Project Harmony building in Omaha; Merger completed with Adoption Links Worldwide.

  • 2013: Expanded At Ease program to North Platte. Began expanding Lincoln services by assuming management of four core behavioral health services from Lancaster County. Added the Home Visitation Program, in collaboration with the Douglas County Health Department, to take parenting instruction into the home. Extended the crisis response program to include a peer support specialist who offices at the Omaha Police Department. Received Integrity Award from Better Business Bureau of Nebraska, Western Iowa and South Dakota.

  • 2014: Assumed delivery of many core services of Lancaster County's Community Mental Health Center. Started Health 360, an integrated health care partnership with People's Health Center of Lincoln, NE. Received "Greater Omaha Business Excellence Award" from the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Record number of clients (2,342) served at International Center of the Heartland, and record number of refugees (706) resetted in Omaha and Lincoln. Right Turn contract renewed by State of Nebraska for five years and includes expansion of program to serve all adoptive families in Nebraska, not just families who adopted children from the child welfare system.

  • 2015: Received accreditation from Better Business Bureau of Nebraska, Western Iowa and South Dakota. Received "Best Practices Partnership" designation from Nonprofit Association of the Midlands. Received "2015 Greater Omaha Business Excellence Award" from the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

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