Esther Gerberding Hunt.

Unto the least of these : a history of the Children's Receiving Home in Maywood, Illinois, an achievement of the Lutheran Woman's League of Chicago and Vicinity online

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Online LibraryEsther Gerberding HuntUnto the least of these : a history of the Children's Receiving Home in Maywood, Illinois, an achievement of the Lutheran Woman's League of Chicago and Vicinity → online text (page 1 of 4)
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This limited edition consists

of one thousand copies

of which this is

No. ^/^^






A History of

The Children s Receiving Home

in lAaywood, Illinois

An Achievement of

The Lutheran Woman's Leagtie

of Chicago and Vicinity

Lutheran Woman's League of Chicago and Vicinity



The members of the

Lutheran Woman's League of Chicago

and Vicinity,

whose faith, devotion,

and untiring e'fforts

have made possible

The Children's Receiving Home,

May wood, Illinois,


This is by no means a history of The Lutheran
Woman's League founded in 1893. That re-
mains to be written by a jar more gifted pen.
This is the story in brief of its united service for
the past twenty years, the founding and main-
taining of The Children's Receiving Home,
May wood, Illinois.


The World War was over. The cannons* thunder
and the war activities had ceased. In our fair land
there was peace. The stars, representing 1107 sons in
the service, had been removed from the names of the
mothers in the Year Book of the Lutheran Woman's
League. Once again there was time and quiet to
consider the question which had been dormant for so
long: "Why cannot we," the women again insisted,
"have a mutual interest, something definite to work
for, something that will really unite us ?"

Some daring souls suggested an Old People's
Home, some a Day Nursery, but it remained for a
Committee, appointed after hearing a stirring address
on the work of the Juvenile Court and the dependent
children to be provided for, to conceive the brilliant
idea of a Children's Receiving Home.

Into the Juvenile Court — of sorrow and heartache

— go hundreds of parents and children every day.


2 Unto the Least of These

Children are taken from parents, and homes are
broken up when parents cannot properly care for
their children. The Court has 2,155 children under its
care in foster homes; 2,500 in orphanages and other
institutions; 100 under temporary care. But when a
Lutheran child was to be cared for the big question
was where could a temporary home and shelter be
found .^ Fortunately there was one bright spot in
this dark picture.

Sister Caroline Williams, representing the Norwe-
gian Lutheran Church, was a Court worker, and a
member of the Lutheran Woman's League. Only
too often when the Judge assigned Lutheran children
to her care she had no where to place them. With-
out Sister Caroline's experience and assistance, her
calm and beautiful personality, and, most of all, her
firm faith, there could have been no Children's Re-
ceiving Home. It was a great honor in later years
to have her heralded over the radio as one of Chi-
cago's outstanding women.

When some of these facts, and many more, had
been brought to the attention of The League, a
Committee was appointed to formulate some plan
for united effort.


Unto the Least of These 3

One beautiful autumn day, they met in one of the
cheerful homes on the Seminary campus in May-
wood, a rather remarkable group of women, all un-
aware that they were making history. The names
are familiar; all outstanding women full of faith
and good works.

Mrs. L. Harrisville, Chairman
Sister Caroline Williams
Mrs. M. L. Kropf
Mrs. George Sonne
Mrs. A. Ofstedahl
Mrs. William Eckert
Mrs. Elmer F. Krauss
Mrs. W. C. Nelson
Mrs. E. H. Pfafflin

The gracious and charming hostess, Mrs. E. F.
Krauss, has since been called to her Heavenly Home,
hut for almost a score of years her untiring labors
for the Home, her inspiring reports on the floor
at the quarterly meetings, her friendship and good
will, were a source of inspiration and encouragement
to carry on the good work.

This Committee met three times and was ready to
report at the very important meeting on January 18,

4 Unto the Least of These

1919. This was held in Unity Church, the retiring
President, Mrs. William Eckert, presiding. All other
business took second place that day. The speaker,
the late Dr. G. H. Gerberding, was entirely ignored
for lack of time but was given a few moments in
which to voice his warm appreciation of the women's
efforts. The election of new officers was secondary.
All interest and all thought centered about the re-
port of the above mentioned Committee. In brief,
the Committee had recommended that a Home be
estabhshed for children from the Juvenile Court, and
other dependent children, that the Lutheran Wom-
an's League have full control of the Home, and that
a fund be started at once for such purposes.

The recommendations were passed enthusiastically,
and it was a most dramatic moment when Mrs. M. L.
Kropf was appointed to take charge of a drive, then
and there, to raise funds, with the result that pledges
and cash were received amounting to $1,170.00.

The climax was reached when so many women
arose to their feet at the same time, all eager to
pledge, that clerks were required to assist in getting
their correct names and addresses, so wholehearted
and generous was the response.

Unto the Least of These 5

On motion, Mrs. M. L. Kropf was appointed Chair-
man of a Board to be appointed later, and with the
exception of one year has served as Chairman of the
Board of Managers for the past two decades.

Her outstanding personality, her never ceasing
interest in the Home, her generous gifts, and, above
all, her ability to inspire and enthuse, have, no doubt,
been the biggest factor in making the Home what
it is today.

Armed with the fund raised at the January meet-
ing, 1919, and with unlimited faith, a Committee con-
sisting of Sister Caroline Williams, and Mrs. A. F.
Olgen (now called to Life Eternal), set forth to find
a suitable location for this great project. Mrs. Kropf
came to their assistance by providing the means of
transportation. Her machine was used to traverse
the great city of Chicago from its beautiful lake shore
to its outlying suburbs.

It was well, indeed, that these couragous women
had not the slightest idea of the difficulties to be
overcome. In their innocence they fondly imagined
that by the next quarterly meeting, to be held in
April, a location would have been secured. They

6 Unto the Least of These

soon discovered that, if a suitable building for a
Home were found, the Committee would have to
secure the signatures of all property owners to lo-
cate there. No one wished a Children's Receiving
Home as a neighbor, as indeed who would? The
house hunting went on unsuccessfully for three
months. It commenced to look as if there would be
no report to give at the April meeting of the Luth-
eran Woman's League. But the women were un-
daunted. By this time the husbands had become in-
terested. The late Dr. Hunt said to the late Rev. Dr.
Long, who deserves a special chapter alone, "What
about giving the women permission to use your
vacant parish house as a temporary Receiving
Home?" The result was that Mrs. Kropf and Sister
Caroline Williams were asked to appear before the
Board of Trustees of The Wicker Park Church.

It was most surprising to the Chairman of The
Board of Managers to confront so many of her own
relatives on this Church Board with so strange a
request. The men, however, were not willing to give
a definite answer. The women left feeling that
their errand had been a complete failure. In one

Unto the Least of These 7

way it was a victory for the unfailing help, sym-
pathy and interest of Dr. S. P. Long had been en-

After the meeting in January the Lord provided
the help of another outstanding man, Mr. E. J. Mos-
ser, of keen legal mind. The League had never
been chartered, and without a charter the Board
would have been unable to either lease or buy prop-
erty. The legal machinery was at once put in mo-
tion, and many were the hours spent in Mr. Mosser's
office in conference with the State Agent for the
Department of Public Welfare and the Committee.

This Committee was composed of Esther M. Hunt,
President of the Lutheran Woman's League, Martha
Baker Lottich, Secretary, who has since served tire-
lessly as a member and Secretary of the Board of
Managers, also Historian of The League, and for
years the talented Editor of The Children's Home
Herald, and Louise Valbracht, Treasurer, who has
since been called Home. It is interesting to note
that she was the mother-in-law of the present very
efficient and tireless president, Mrs. E. F. Valbracht.

During these transactions it became necessary to

8 Unto the Least of These

revise the old Constitution of The Lutheran Woman's
League. An effort was made to change the letter
but not the spirit. After many delays, and some
doubts and fears, due to the ceaseless efforts of Mr.
Mosser, who through the twenty years has given
much valuable, legal assistance, the charter was issued
on May 20, 1919, signed by Louis L. Emmerson, Sec-
retary of State.

It gives the Lutheran Woman's League of Chi-
cago and Vicinity permission "to establish, maintain
and operate, without profit, a home or homes for
dependent children," and names as its object "to
promote and advance the interest and activities of
The Lutheran Church."

Meantime, the search for the Home continued.
Dr. Long had joined the force. Mrs. Krauss and
Mrs. Eckert had called the attention of the Com-
mittee to a beautiful property in Maywood, Illinois,
and secured figures on the same. Just at this time,
another Committee was scouring the city in search
of a building suitable for a hospice for the Inner
Mission Society. One eventful day representatives of
the two committees joined forces and visited the

Unto the Least of These 9

above mentioned property in May wood. When Dr.
Long saw it he said "The search is ended; here is
the ideal location for the children." Some one ven-
tured to ask "Are we looking for a hospice or a Chil-
dren's Home.'^" The children won.

Meanwhile, the April meeting of The Lutheran
Woman's League was fast approaching. It had
seemed for a while that the Committee would have
no report. However, on the very day of the meet-
ing, early in the morning, at seven forty-five, Mrs.
M. L. Kropf, Sister Caroline Williams and Mrs. A.
F. Olgen, arrived in May wood. After a breakfast
on the campus, accompanied by Dr. Long, they made
a thorough investigation of the property.

It consisted of a whole city block, located at 902
S. 8th Avenue, Maywood, Illinois. It was bounded
on the north by 9th Street, south by Madison Street ;
8th Avenue on the east, and 9th Avenue on the west.

Many valuable and rare trees and shrubs were on
the grounds, and the house itself was substantial,
well built, home-like and sunny.

There was a large sun room suitable for sleeping
quarters for the children, large porches, a basement.

10 Uiito the Least of These

which could be used as a play room, and a good heat-
ing plant. There was also an old barn on the prop-
'^rty about which, for some time, many dreams of
a gymnasium centered or a boy's dormitory, until
it was discovered that the wood was in no shape for

This property was oiTered for the astonishing price
of ten thousand dollars. The Committee was en-
thusiastic and hastened in Mrs. Kropfs car again
to the already assembled meeting of the Lutheran
Woman's League. Their report was adopted with
much joy and thankfulness, and, from that time on,
all the efforts of the League and its acting committees
centered about the purchase of the property.

It was just at this juncture that Dr. S. P. Long
offered to lead the campaign for funds. His offer
was accepted with much gratitude. Five hundred
dollars was paid as security. By July three thousand
two hundred dollars had been paid, and Dr. Long's
congregation in Wicker Park went security for the
remaining six thousand eight hundred.

When asked if he thought the surplus could be.
raised Dr. Long replied : "I do not think so, I know

Unto the Least of These 11

it can be done." The mails were flooded with litera-
ture and the campaign was on.
Dear Miss Helen:

I f{now God will make your coming year the hap-
pier for your generous gift of fifty dollars received to-
day. ThanJ{ you. I also than\ your good parents,
and God I ]{now will give you the happiest year of
your life.

Most sincerely,

S. P. Long

The above is but an example of the personal touch
which Dr. Long put into the campaign so that it
was not merely a raising of money. It became dis-
tinctive and personal. Its success was assured from
the start.

At this time also a Daughter's Auxiliary, organized
but a year before these events, rallied to the support
of the Home. They promised to furnish the dining
room complete, furniture, dishes, silver, and assumed
the payment of the janitor for seven months.

The Luther League of Chicago furnished the
Home with coal for winter, and, until 1931. Mean-
while, all summer long, the ladies of the Wicker
Park Ladies' Aid and Guild had been busy preparing

12 Unto the Least of These

linens for the Home, under the leadership of that
good friend of the Home, Miss Marie Hanson. This
same Guild pledged themselves to furnish the living
room of the Home in honor of Dr. Long.

Meanwhile, the Lutheran Woman's League of
Chicago and Vicinity v^as preparing to celebrate its
tvs^enty-fifth anniversary on the beautiful grounds of
its newly acquired property. It was a great day for
Chicago Lutherans in general, for on that date, Satur-
day, September 27, 1919, the Children's Receiving
Home was formally opened. It had been decided
by the Board of Managers to use the occasion also
as a Bundle Day for the Home.

A unique and attractive folder had been mailed
by the thousand; it was headed: "At last the big day
is coming. Be sure to come to the party and bring
your bundle." This folder was designed by the
daughter of Mrs. Florence Walrath of The Cradle.

The program was scheduled for three p.m., but
as early as two o'clock people could be seen wending
their way to 902 S. 8th Avenue with a bundle or two
tucked under their arms.

An interested friend, who could not attend, wrote

Unto the Least of These 13

the first letter to the children. "My bundle to you
will contain a strip of bacon, and I will deliver it to
you in time for your first breakfast."

The day was a perfect September day. More than
seven hundred interested friends gathered on the
beautiful grounds.

The daughter of the first president of the League,
Mrs. Isabelle Matson Hoffman, was one of the speak-
ers. The Daughter's Auxiliary furnished wonderful
music. So great was the interest and enthusiasm
that when the Rev. Dr. Long took charge, with his
forceful personality, he received $3,600.00 in pledges.

A hot supper had been prepared under the leader-
ship of Mrs. J. Lindberg (a charter member of The
League) and was served to all free of charge. This
was an innovation, but the well filled pantry shelves
proved its success. There were boxes of soap, cases
of evaporated milk, more cases of canned vegetables,
sacks of flour, bags of sugar, cereals of all kinds in
quantities, cocoa, rice, whole hams, slabs of bacon,
over a hundred quarts of home made preserves, in
fact, enough of everything to feed the first little ones
and feed them well.

14 Unto the Least of These

On October 20 the first child was admitted to the
Home. Sister Caroline Williams reported others
waiting. One of the first children admitted showed
marks on her little body of having been frozen in a
cold house. What a blessing that coal had been
provided. A Matron had also been secured, and the
work of which the women had dreamed so long was
in progress.

Thursday, November 27, at 4 :30 o'clock was a real
Thanksgiving Day, for at the time the Home was
formally dedicated. At this time there were nine
children in the Home.

The children's first Christmas party was held Wed-
nesday afternoon, December 24, at two thirty. It
was a very simple affair compared to the wonderful
Christmas celebrations now held in the beautiful new
building. But there were bountiful refreshments,
many gifts, Christmas carols, a tree, and the old, but
ever new, story of the Christmas Babe, very simply

Needless to say, the wires were kept busy during
those strenuous days and many, many were the tele-
phone messages flashed back and forth by those in

Ufito the Least of These 15

office. Said the Chairman of The Board of Managers
to the President of The League over the wire one
evening after the dedication: ''I am beginning to
feel that this thing is really going to go!" She had
just reported the gift of an electric iron, wash ma-
chine, and mangle to the Home.

It would be out of the question in these few brief
pages to report all the gifts made to the Home. They
have all been recorded elsewhere, and all, from the
first string of Christmas tree lights to the last will
and testament of departed friends, have been duly
appreciated though it seemed sometimes that thanks
were but poorly expressed.

There is the Ladies' Guild that through the years
has given over ten thousand dollars; there is the
other man, Mr. Fred Luhnow, who advanced his
own money to enable Dr. Long to meet his notes in
payment on the property; there is the Ladies' Aid
of one church that for twenty years has paid five
dollars a month for eggs for the children; there are
other organizations and individuals who furnished
the first beds and dressers; there is the Girls' Club,
which has dressed two of the children for years; the

16 Unto the Least of These

friend who gave music lessons; the one who cut
the children's hair; the friends who celebrated their
golden wedding so beautifully by giving the Home
one thousand dollars, and the kind friends who still
provide each child a sum with which to do Christmas
shopping. There is a Cleaning establishment in Oak
Park which takes care of the cleaning of the chil-
dren's clothes. And there is the good Doctor in
Maywood who gives his services and asks but a book
for a fee.

This could continue unceasingly. All are stepping
stones on which the present structure has been reared.

"Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant over fears,
Are all with thee — Are all with thee."


It is most interesting to note, in passing, how the
homeless child was cared for years ago. Before the
Civil War the states all clung to the old English
"pauper-law." The homeless child was nobody's
child. Orphan asylums were grim and gloomy.
Boys as young as seven years old were "bound out"
for their board and keep. Girls as young as ten were
sent out as household drudges.

It was way back in 1870 that New York, Ohio, and
our own Illinois, set up state welfare bureaus to take
over the guardianship of the homeless children with-
in their boundaries.

From that time on new principles were advocated.

Scientists insisted that the child of misfortune is not

fundamentally different from any other child; that

his needs are the same and the deepest of these needs

is to be wanted and given individual opportunity.

These facts, and many others, had to be learned


18 Unto the Least of These

by the women closely connected with and working
for The Children's Receiving Home. All, with the
exception of Sister Caroline, had had no experience,
but the work was a liberal education.

Just one year from the date of the purchase of the
Home the debt was entirely canceled, owing to the
ceaseless efforts of Dr. Long.

The Home had been opened and dedicated, the
first children received and the first guests formally
entertained beside a roaring fire in the old fashioned
fireplace. These happened to be delegates from
France to a Brotherhood Convention.

With their newly acquired property and their new-
ly acquired family the women were more and more
anxious to press on. The boundary lines of the dif-
ferent groups were broken as never before. From
the beginning of time women have been able to rally
about that specific object, so dear to their hearts: "the

True, there was one very stormy session of The
League, when the old dues of fifty cents per annum
were forever voted down and voluntary pledges sub-
stituted. Also about this time Mrs. O. }. Waters,

Unto the Least of These 19

one of the founders of the League, was appointed
to secure Life and Associate memberships. The year
1921 ninety new Associate members were enUsted
through the efforts of Mr. J. P. Hovland at a U.L.C.
Brotherhood Convention. Other memberships, in
Memoriam and Sustaining, were added as the years
went by and have proved a source of much income
for the Home. Aside from the money point of view,
they have interested countless friends in the work
of the Home.

The second year of the Home in action was not as
full of dramatic events as the first, but there was a
steady normal progress. Twenty-five children were
admitted during the year, and almost at once, showed
the effect of good food and good care.

One little fellow when received did not walk cor-
rectly owing to malnutrition. In a few weeks this
defect was remedied, and he was a normal, healthy

At the beginning of the second year the Chair-
man of the Board of Managers reported : "No debts,
house in excellent condition, treasury in shape to
meet all present bills."

20 Unto the Least of These

But the women were not content to rest on their
laurels. Almost at once it became apparent that
more room was necessary. Many children were re-
fused because of lack of room. Also, an outbreak of
whooping cough made it apparent that an isolation
ward was needed.

The women commenced to talk "building." Plans
for a drive were formulated, but for a year or two,
at least, these enthusiastic workers had to be content
with the remodeling of the old barn into a laundry.
This was a much needed improvement. Other re-
pairs soon followed. Outside steps and porches were
repaired, new grates in the furnace installed, ceiling
and walls calcimined, a new cupboard installed, and
the whole building rewired.

Most important of all, the children entering the
Home learned high standards of living. They were
shown the difference between right and wrong, and
after being in the Home a very short time a marked
change for the better was apparent.

Meantime, the Lutheran Woman's League had
elected a new President, Mrs. Peter Peterson, capable
and efficient, thus binding the different groups still

Unto the Least of These 21

more closely together. The two years that followed
were rather eventful. The first two children were
confirmed in St. John's Church, Maywood, Illinois.
This church has proved itself a real church home for
the children from the very beginning. The children
have attended Sunday School, confirmation classes,
and church services. They have been shown every
kindness and consideration.

It was just about this time that a Kindergarten
was suggested for the children, but it remained for
the Daughter's Auxiliary, ever helpful, to make this
a reality some years later.

The first little one at the Home to pass away was
Philip Nathaniel on June 8 of that year. He had
never been a well baby, having a weak heart, but
to have been given a good home and made com-
fortable shows again the work of the Home. The
Pastor of St. John's Church had christened the baby
and conducted the burial service. At this time The
Children's Receiving Home was admitted into mem-
bership into The Children's Benefit League of Chi-
cago, which entitled the Home to the privileges of
Tag Day.

22 Unto the Least of These

The Children's Benefit League was founded about
thirty years ago, consisting of a group of public
spirited women who realized the great need for
concerted work in behalf of child-caring institutions
of Chicago. These women put forth their efforts
toward collecting funds for these little ones. To
this end a Tag Day was planned. This is a day
whereon thousands of women give of their leisure
time, selling tags on the streets of Chicago and its
suburbs, thus helping to provide food, shelter, and
recreation for a vast number of underprivileged chil-
dren. There is a vast amount of business and dis-
tribution of territory before these women can go
out on the streets of the big city to tag. Very strict
rules and regulations have been formulated.

Therefore, it was a day of great rejoicing when
the members of the League were allowed to share

1 3 4

Online LibraryEsther Gerberding HuntUnto the least of these : a history of the Children's Receiving Home in Maywood, Illinois, an achievement of the Lutheran Woman's League of Chicago and Vicinity → online text (page 1 of 4)