The Rev. William S. McClanahan realizes his dream of providing a place of refuge and safety for orphans and takes in three of “Brother Hendrick’s boys.” The Reverend supports children with the profit from his farm, but soon realizes that he needs a more formal arrangement and continuing support to meet the needs of orphans. St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Roanoke gave the first gift of $100 to support the Home. In the early months of 1888, “South View Orphan Home” comes into being. By 1897 there are more than 25 children at the Home.
In 1904, Professor John T. Crabtree becomes the fourth superintendent of the school, a post he will hold until his death in 1922. Professor Crabtree was orphaned at the age of eight and was raised by relatives. By 1907 the home has two schools and five years later has more than 100 children. Two land purchases give the Home space in which to expand their facilities and farming operations.
The 1920s was a time for expansion. A fire at Elizabeth College, a school for Lutheran girls in Salem, destroys the main building, and the Virginia Synod decides not to rebuild. The Home buys the property, which becomes the new and final location. Although he did not live to see it, one of the cottages was named after Professor Crabtree. On November 6, 1926, five new buildings are dedicated. By 1932, there are 144 children at the Home, and three years later, all children begin attending public school.
Changing the name from Lutheran Orphans Home of the South to Lutheran Children’s Home of the South reflects a new reality. Only 13 percent of the children are orphans, and the new name is more in keeping with the spirit of nurturing and care. During these decades, the Home adds a caseworker to help children make the transition to life after the Home. And, perhaps the most telling change is that the Home institutes a “Mother’s Aid” program design to give financial support to families so that they can keep their children in the family home.
These decades bring enormous change to the Home. The last of the state Synods that had been supporting it withdraws to concentrate on their own local services, and more importantly, the services on the campus are expanded to include a comprehensive program involving families and residential treatment. The Home is moving from being an institution to being an agency that meets the needs of children until they can return to the community.
In 1982, the leadership of the Children’s Home changes its focus to provide group homes and services to families, while maintaining the Minnick Education Center alternative school. In 1984, Lutheran Family Services of Virginia is incorporated to oversee the group homes and other services, and most of the Home’s campus is sold the following year to Roanoke College with two group homes and ten acres remaining. Through the 1990s both Lutheran Family Services and the Minnick Education Center expand throughout the state to continue serving children and families.
The first 100 years: Our mission deepens