In 1917, seven Lutheran entities created the Lutheran Inner Mission Board (now Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, LSSNCA). Supported through church donations, the Board coordinated with religious and community organizations to impact the local community by volunteering at hospitals to visiting jails, delivering toiletries and companionship. LSSNCA has evolved to meet the changing needs of our community and to reflect the ebbs of the interconnected world while remaining steadfast in its dedication to accompany those in need to foster resiliency and advancing equity, inclusion and social justice.
In 1923 the organization, then called the Lutheran Inner Mission Society (LIMS), made headlines when hiring Bertha Heiges to coordinate volunteer services in hospitals, institutions and other community needs in Washington D.C. LSSNCA has continued this trailblazing path with all women chief executive officers since 2006, rounding out with our current CEO, Kristyn Peck.
With 100 years in the rearview, LSSNCA bore witness to World Wars, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights movement, September 11, and Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Witnessing from the sidelines is not LSSNCA’s ethos. Rather, it is here - at the core of every era - that LSSNCA found its place, always heeding the call when others may see the challenge as too great.
Our community has always been integral. From the 1950s when local Maryland and Virginia farmers employed resettling refugees, and congregations provided housing to today with growing support for our Good Neighbor Partners and Champions Program, and TEA Club for recently resettled women. LSSNCA has been blessed with supportive and welcoming neighbors. We expanded our roots in Maryland and Virginia out of the need to provide more care for unaccompanied refugee minors and unaccompanied children without family or loved ones, and we continue to grow and support those fleeing persecution, civil unrest, and in times of need.
Innovation is also at the heart of LSSNCA’s compassion. In 1948, LIMS hired its first full-time social worker, and provided lodging and financial support for the unemployed, and hosted a camp for underserved children. We now have nearly a dozen clinicians and social workers. Years later, the agency counseled unwed mothers and began a childcare fund, eventually becoming the first Lutheran adoption agency in the area, and we still provide Break the Seal services. With the inception of our Youth Development and Wellness program in 1999, LSSNCA was the first in the area to offer a camp, Youth Haven, and ongoing programming to support youth impacted by HIV/AIDS.
Just like in the 1940s, when the agency was approached to act as the region’s resettlement headquarters for refugees fleeing war torn Europe – with efforts led by a woman refugee staff member - we’re proud to have resettled the largest number of Afghan Allies on the East Coast since July 2021. Prior to the fall of Kabul, 94% of LSSNCA’s resettled clients were SIV holders, and we have again committed to welcoming the largest number of Afghans in the current fiscal year. The agency was also one of the predominant resettlement agencies for Bosnians fleeing Serbia, and we continue to open our doors for Ukrainians. And just as in the beginning, many of our staff are former refugees, asylum-seekers, and SIV holders, so they’ve been on similar paths as those we accompany today.
They say you need to know where you came from to know where you’re going. Here at LSSNCA we’re taking cues from our early days and are looking forward to creating group foster homes once again for unaccompanied children, and filling in gaps in mental healthcare services like we did in the 1960s by expanding our mental health wraparound services – even beyond our newest program, CARE for Newcomers which offers trauma-informed counseling to individuals and families.
Today, we continue the tradition of service by resettling refugees, providing vital clinical health interventions for immigrants, offering foster homes to unaccompanied refugee children, and empowering youth through healthy relationships education and leadership workshops.
We serve our neighbors in need regardless of race, faith, or gender. We are an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit that partners with all faiths and neighbors.
Learn more about our history with our centennial reflection book.