Lutheran Family Services of Virginia is now enCircle!

About Us



A Rich History of Expanding our Circle 

At enCircle, we are focused on the present, and we plan carefully for the future — but we are also proud of our long history of service and our ability to adapt to the changing needs of children, families, and our communities since 1888. 


1888: Our Founding

It all began with the passion of Rev. William S. McClanahan, a Lutheran pastor from Botetourt County, Virginia, who was committed to providing a place of refuge and safety for orphans. He advocated to have his own farm in Salem recognized by the church’s governing body as an orphanage and took in siblings in need of care.


Early Years

While the arrangement began informally, he soon realized more support would be needed. The South View Orphan Home, as it was originally called, was first supported by St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Roanoke. With the recognition of the United Synod of the South and financial partnership of Lutheran churches in seven states, the name was changed to the Lutheran Orphan Home of the South. The home served 100 children by 1912.


Post-War Changes

Changes in society and in families after WWII led to changes in the type of care provided. Children were often placed at the home for short-term stays during a crisis, rather than long-term placement as orphans, and the name of the organization changed to the Lutheran Children’s Home of the South to reflect this reality. The organization expanded its efforts to meet the needs of families so that they would not have to place their children in care. From its founding until the 1970s, the home served more than 1,000 children. 


1980s: A Change in Philosophy

In the early 1980s it was clear to the leaders of the Lutheran Children’s Home of the South that they needed to create a new way of serving children and families. Like many other orphanages, the Children’s Home ceased operation and its services took a new shape. The Board of Trustees created two new entities: Lutheran Family Services, which opened group homes around the state and offered foster care services, and Minnick Education Center, which provided behavioral and academic services and supports to students and their families. 

2000s: A Merging of Missions

2000s: A Merging of Missions

Soon, additional Minnick Schools were added in other communities to serve students with challenging needs. Minnick Education Centers, the Lutheran Children’s Home of the South, and Lutheran Family Services became one organization under the Lutheran Family Services of Virginia (LFSVA) name in 2009. 

Widening Our Circle

Recent Years: Widening Our Circle

Since that time, LFSVA further expanded its mission by offering a variety of community-based services to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. More recently, we have expanded again through a partnership with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) to help unaccompanied immigrant children reunite with family or find safety in sponsor homes. 

Today: Ensuring All Are Included

Today: Ensuring All Are Included

In 2016, the Board of Directors of LFSVA began a diligent, thoughtful process of considering the best way to ensure the organization’s mission would continue to have a positive impact on as many people as possible. As a result of this process, the Board voted in the spring of 2020 to endorse a new name and logo for the organization that emphasize the inclusive nature of our services and supports. The name enCircle and the logo of abstract figures using the colors of the Virginia Synod and ELCA were adopted. As Board member Bishop Bob Humphrey said in a message to members of the Virginia Synod, “The ELCA has a long history of widening our circle to be inclusive of all God's people and the same time to encircle God's people with personal support and amazing resources. This is exactly what this name change is designed to symbolize for Lutheran Family Services of Virginia.”

Learn more about encircle

Are you interested in more details about the history about our organization? We have a wonderful treasury of resources about our founding and evolution through the decades. Please contact Margaret Nimmo Holland, Vice President of External Relations, for more information.

Contact Us