Northland Uncovered: Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

Non-Profit Has Been Changing Lives for a Century

In Duluth, Lutheran Social Service has been helping and saving the lives of children in crisis for 100 years.

Originally, it started as an orphanage.

“There was a huge flu epidemic that was going on in the country,” said current Program Director Cathy Bergh, who’s been with LSS since the 1980s. “And it was World War I, and a lot of parents just couldn’t take care of their kids back then, and so that’s basically what there was, was an orphanage.”

The orphanage began in West Duluth with about 35 kids.
And over time many of those children were able to find permanent homes or foster homes; so the Social Service expanded and evolved.

“It ebbs and flows as to what kind of services you need, or the community needs, and that’s what Lutheran Social Service tries to do,” Bergh said.
Over time, the need for an orphanage diminished, but the need for their services never went away.

The Bethany Crisis Shelter opened in the 1980s.

A smaller facility, it provides temporary housing for children with nowhere else to go.

“We have 12 beds there for kids zero to 17 that need a safe, supportive environment for a short period of time,” Bergh said.

In her time spent with LSS, Cathy says she has seen real progress for the children her organization has helped.
“Getting to know some of the kids, knowing what their situation was like, and seeing them come in the door and then leaving 12 months later,” she explains. “They’ve finished their high school degree, they have a job, and they find their own apartment. It’s those kinds of things – just really seeing what we do make a difference.”

As Cathy Bergh puts it, funding comes and goes, issues come and go, but still Lutheran Social Service continues its mission to change the lives of children to this day.

“That’s what we’re about,” she said. “Changing lives and hopefully making things better.”

And LSS is about to make a big addition, with the construction of a new building they’re calling the “Center for Changing Lives.”

They’re celebrating the groundbreaking for that building’s construction at 2:00pm on Thursday, May 5.

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