Lutheran aid society disbands after 111 years
The volunteer organization was started when the hospital still resembled a large farmhouse. One of its first projects, said former member Pat Hormann, 90, was to make linens for the hospital beds. The women raised money to buy bolts of muslin. They spread the material on the front lawn of the hospital to bleach it white in the sun before cutting and sewing the items.
Every year the group’s membership increased until its highest number, 460, in 1967. Initially members had to be Missouri Synod Lutherans, but over time that restriction was dropped.
In 1958 the organization changed its name to the Lutheran Hospital Auxiliary, and it took over running the hospital gift shop. The money it raised went back to the hospital through charitable donations for different projects. Every year the women would pick a major project to fund. The organization over its lifetime contributed several million dollars to Lutheran Hospital.
Hormann said she got involved once she retired as business manager at Lutheran Hospital. While she worked there she was always aware of the organization. Every year she would draw up a wish list from different departments for items, large and small, they needed. Hormann said the hospital would do what it could to fulfill the requests, then she would call Thelma Heine, one of the driving forces in the auxiliary.
“She would do things, come up with fundraising ideas like pulling a rabbit our of a hat, and nine times out of 10, Heine and the ladies were able to fulfill the list,” Hormann said.
In 1985 the group added a wine-tasting fundraiser to its money-making events. The event was started by Heine, who took a trip to California where she did some research on wine tasting and brought the idea back to Fort Wayne. Hormann recalled the group was the first in Fort Wayne to hold this type of event.
“Somehow Thelma got her hands on the membership lists from the Pine Valley and Fort Wayne County Clubs,” Hormann said.
The Festival of Wines was a huge success, and the 30th annual event was held in 2015. Carol Dominique, co-president, said that when she joined the organization Heine got her to serve on the wine-tasting committee. After the event was over, Heine put Dominique in charge of it for the next year. Dominique said Heine just had a way of getting people involved and agreeing to take things on.
In 1995 when the hospital was sold, the organization was no longer able to run the hospital gift shop, and the group was renamed the Lutheran Health Services Society. Moving away from the hospital, the group expanded its mission to support nonprofit health care organizations.
The society continued to hold its wine festival every year and a card party to raise money along with other smaller fundraising events. At the end of the each year the group would donate some of the money to various nonprofits around town and invest some in the Lutheran Foundation.
Over the years the money grew but membership declined. By 2015 the group had only 43 members. At the last meeting only 17 members were able to attend.
Dominique said that in order to disband the group, according to its bylaws, a certain percentage of the members needed to agree. In order to get that number they had to have several members vote by proxy.
Dominique attributed the decline to changing times; the group had a hard time finding new members to step into leadership roles.
In December the organization liquidated its funds with the Lutheran Foundation and donated $100,706 to Visiting Nurse, with five other nonprofit organizations receiving $2,500 each.
Visiting Nurse will continue the Festival of Wines and card party fundraiser events.