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

2011: Supporting People with Developmental Disabilities

Over time, we recognized that people with developmental disabilities and their families were looking for additional supports that allowed them to be fully engaged in their communities. Supporting this population was a perfect fit for our mission and a natural extension of our educational services for students with special needs. Through the acquisition of a private provider, we were able to enter the field in 2011 with experienced staff and existing clients. We have expanded into every region of Virginia over several years.

Today: Ensuring All Are Included

2018: Starting to Assist Immigrant Children

Responding to a request from national partner Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), we started a small program in 2018 to assist unaccompanied migrant children reunite with family. Our Safe Release services help ensure the safety of these children by providing fingerprinting for background checks for their sponsors, along with information and referrals. While federal immigration policy kept the number of people served low at first, we were poised to grow as additional needs arose.

enCircle logo

2020: Rebranding and Ensuring All are Included

After years of diligent, thoughtful consideration of how to best achieve our mission and increase our impact, the Board of Directors decided that rebranding the organization was the best way forward. The Board voted unanimously in the spring of 2020 to endorse a new “doing business as” name, enCircle, to emphasize the inclusive nature of our services and supports. To go with the new name, the logo of abstract figures with arms outstretched, using the colors of the Virginia Synod and ELCA, was adopted.

A group of Stonebrooke residents wave at the camera from their front porch

Today: Further Widening the Circle

EnCircle’s expansion continues. At the beginning of 2021, we celebrated growth into neighboring West Virginia by acquiring Stonebrook, a private group home provider for adults with developmental disabilities in Martinsburg. And our once-small Safe Release program grew to meet the increased need to serve unaccompanied migrant children. The new Immigration and Refugee Services division now offers several services that assist children, adults, and families. We are grateful for our partnerships with LIRS and Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Region as we support those seeking a better life in our communities.

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, Vice President of External Relations, for more information.

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