Building on 160 years of ministry

In August 1860, with the United States on the brink of the Civil War and only months before Abraham Lincoln would be elected president, Pastor Johannes Doerfler and his wife took two orphans into their home. Pastor Doerfler was soon inspired to found a ministry of caring for orphaned children.

In 1862, the original Lutheran Orphans’ Home, located on 12 acres of land near Seaman and Wheeling streets in Toledo, Ohio, was dedicated. By the turn of the century, the Home was also caring for elderly people. So, in 1906, the ministry officially expanded with the opening of the Altenheim, or “Old Folks’ Home,” nearby.

What began as a ministry of compassion to youth and elderly has continued to expand to meet the changing needs of children, families, and senior adults in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. As models of care have changed, so have our services. The Lutheran Orphans’ Home was closed in 1964 in favor of a program of neighborhood group homes that today serve youth with a variety of challenges. Our services to seniors now reach far beyond the original Toledo campus, with support and care being provided in a variety of settings.

In 2010, Lutheran Homes Society marked 150 years of service and the growth of a ministry that now annually serves nearly 3,600 people of all ages.

In late 2016, we changed our name from Lutheran Homes Society to Genacross Lutheran Services. Wholly unique, this name speaks eloquently to the cross-generational populations we serve, while continuing to honor the Christian principles that will always be our guiding light.


One of the ways we commemorated our 160th Anniversary in 2020 was by creating 160 posts to our Facebook page throughout the year. These posts featured historical facts, photos, interviews and trivia.

To access a timeline that highlights our history based on those posts, click here.