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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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HILLCREST FAMILY SERVICES. A non-profit agency dedicated to the full development of individuals, children and families, Hillcrest was founded in 1914 because of the concern for unwed mothers and their babies. The initial efforts on their behalf began with Dr. Nancy HILL who founded the WOMEN'S RESCUE SOCIETY of Dubuque in 1896. This group established the Industrial Training School that provided child care and training. It closed in 1909 because of lack of funding.

Dr. Hill, then an elderly woman, approached Anna Blanche COOK, resident deaconess at ST. LUKE'S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, for assistance. Cook and a group of concerned women opened the DEACONESS HOME AND BABY FOLD in 1914. The Women's Rescue Society then deeded their fourteen-room house and barn along Asbury Road, 4.6 acres of ground, and transferred a mortgage of $1,700 and $276 in cash to the Upper Iowa Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. St. Luke's accepted financial responsibility for the Baby Fold and other churches in Dubuque made financial contributions. During the first year of its operation, the Baby Fold helped thirteen children.

The success of the Baby Fold soon led to its being crowded, and it was necessary to expand the original home. A police matron, Bridget Brennan, led a fund-drive that raised $2,000. The first recorded contribution, fifty cents, came from a cleaning woman living in the FLATS. Between 1920 and 1922 a total of $10,000 was collected from two hundred Dubuque residents. A major contributor was Sarah Wallis Winall who was later named "Benefactor of Hillcrest Baby Fold." An addition was finally built after another $10,000 was borrowed.

Financial support from the Upper Iowa Methodist Conference began in 1924. At the suggestion of Miss Cook, the operation was formally renamed HILLCREST BABY FOLD to commemorate the contributions of Dr. Hill.

From 1914 until 1963 the mission of Hillcrest Baby Fold was the housing and care of infants. During those years, the institutions prepared 2,675 children for adoption. Hillcrest, licensed to care for forty-three children, was known nationally for its high standards and modern equipment. It also benefited from an excellent staff and such superintendents as Miss DeEtte Clark, Mrs. M. E. Kuebler, Mrs. Elva Harris, Mary Alice Hanger, Rev. John Kilmer, and Rev. Eugene L. McClure. In 1930 the daily cost of operation for an average of forty children was $42.00. Unexpected expenses included one instance when serum had to be purchased for forty-four children who came down with whooping cough at the same time.

In response to the growing need to care for more children, a one-story, fireproof building was constructed in 1954 for $200,000. The original building was then converted into an administrative center.

Philosophies of child-care changed, and in 1963 the institutional care of children was discontinued. The name of the institution was changed to Hillcrest Children's Services. The two story office and staff building, known as Hillcrest House, was converted to a residence for up to twenty unmarried mothers. The Baby Fold was renovated into administrative facilities.

The movement into providing care for teens began slowly with the opening of Wesley Place in Des Moines in August 1967. The center was licensed to care for eight adolescent boys. The agency merged with the Iowa Methodist Youth Agency in 1968 and was named Hillcrest Services to Children and Youth. In June 1968, the agency was co-sponsored by the Synod of Iowa, United Presbyterian Church, USA. By action of the board of trustees on March 6, 1975, the agency was renamed Hillcrest Family Services.

In 1991 Hillcrest operated seven residential treatment facilities: five in Dubuque, one in Cedar Rapids, and one in Iowa City. Services provided by a staff of 200 full- and part-time employees included residential treatment for adolescents and adults, adoption, unplanned pregnancy counseling, family and individual counseling, chemical dependency education, and family planning services.

Hillcrest announced a program in 1993 to target sexual abuse victims and break the cycle of abused becoming abuser. The program focused on adolescent boys with an average age of 14 who were the victims of sexual abuse and might become perpetrators themselves. To be accepted into the program, the adolescent could not be a high-risk offender or violent. The ratio of staff to adolescent was one-to-three and there was 24-hour supervision. (1)

A $400,000 community block grant through Dubuque County in 1994 made possible the construction of a third youth cottage on Hillcrest Road. This would allow adolescents being served in Hillcrest House a new facility. Hillcrest House had been in continuous use since the founding of the agency in 1896. Other items mentioned that year in its $1 million "Meeting the Challenge of Change" included remodeling Hillcrest House for administrative offices, renovation of the present main building for an expanded clinic, counseling offices and the Women, Infants and Children Program. (2)

The WIC (Women, Infants, Children) Program used federal funds to subsidize nutritious meals for children from infancy to five years. Mothers receive special training in preparing healthy meals. Hillcrest-Mercy Maternal Health Center, in cooperation with Mercy Health Center, was designed for low-income women who have neither health insurance nor eligibility for other indigent health care. Maternal health care provided and paid for prenatal and postnatal services.

An emergency shelter, a twelve bed facility, provided care for youth from crisis family situations between the ages of twelve and seventeen for up to thirty days. Hillcrest's supervised apartment living program was designed to provide adolescents with a supervised environment in which they received guidance in learning skills needed for independent or semi-independent living. The supervised apartment living program provided in-home or on the job services to help adults psychiatrically disabled living on their own handle everyday problems. Day treatment helped emotionally and behaviorally disturbed youth and their families. The youth remained with their families during treatment that was concerned with building daily living skills, positive relationships, and improving self-esteem. The first board of directors included Mrs. Sarah Wallis Winall, Mrs. L. L. Lightcap, Mrs. Louis Trexler, Mrs. J. C. Segur, Mrs. Elizabeth Corrance, Mrs. B. F. Gardner, Mrs. A. E. Loetscher, Mrs. H. Ficke, Mrs. John T. Adams, Mrs. George W. Kiesel, Mrs. Fannie Tonner, Mrs. B. T. Michel, Miss Anna Blanche Cook, Miss Jane Allen, Miss Augusta Eighmey, Miss Minnie Gieseman, Miss Anna B.L, Mrs. Harriet E. Gratiot, Mrs. David H. Jeffers, and Mrs. William Blades.

In September, 2007 the Hillcrest Wellness Center was opened at the former United Way Services Inc. building at 6th and Main STREETS. Considered an important asset for those seriously mentally impaired, the site would offer a place for them to relate to other with similar problems, meet with peers, and develop new skills. (3)

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced around 2016 that its Dubuque clinic would be closing due to a lack of demand for services. In the months since the announcement, officials at Hillcrest Family Services reported seeing requests for family planning services increase. The difference, though, was that Hillcrest staff did not discuss abortion. While the organization has a religious aspect to it, that only came up if the client asked. (4)

"Reflections in the Park", Dubuque's annual holiday lights festival, helped raise almost $140,000 for Hillcrest Family Services' programs in 2017. Money raised from sponsorships and tickets helped provide health and education services throughout Iowa. Almost 50,000 people attended the event. In 2017, Hillcrest Family Services served over 45,000 people from 12 states and 55 Iowa counties. (5)

In March, 2019 the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors endorsed a plan for Hillcrest to create a new 12-bed residential care facility in Dubuque. The board recommended a contribution of $870,374 for start-up costs used to renovate an existing property in the 2400 block of Hillcrest Road from a foster care facility to one accommodating residential care. (6)

Elementary students using services offered at the Anna B. Lawther Academy, part of Hillcrest. were relocated to IRVING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL in the fall of 2019. The Irving program was designed for up to twelve students with mental health and behavioral issues in a self-contained wing of the school with two classrooms. (7)

It was announced in November, 2019 that Hillcrest would discontinue the Sub-acute Services Program which served an estimated 200 clients in 2019. Reasons for the closure was a lack of support from the state level and reduced reimbursements from federal health programs. The program served as an intermediary option keeping patients from using expensive emergency room care, being hospitalized or placed in jail. Other mental health services including mobile crisis outreach, therapy and medication management would continue. (8)

Organization officials announced in December that a new crisis service would be established to replace the subacute program which was closed the previous month. The new program would offer both short-term residential and observation and holding program. It would provide a level of care less than that of hospitalization and direct patients away from incarceration in the same manner as the former program but at less cost. Plans called for the new crisis program to provide three beds and 23-hour observation and holding. Patients could stay for up to five days during which they would be linked to local mental health support and resources. (9)

In February, 2020, Hillcrest officials announced the agency would be closing its Professional Health Clinic in Dubuque and educational programs offered in Maquoketa. In Maquoketa the program end came after school district officials had chosen to end a consortium in which Hillcrest operated the Anna B. Lawther Academy. The Professional Health Clinic in Dubuque had offered reproductive health services including pregnancy testing, contraception and sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing. Hillcrest would continue to provide screening and treatment services for HIV and other STDs. The clinic had operated for an estimated fifty years, but the nature and delivery of reproductive health care had shifted as citizens had more options to receive these services leading to decreased demand. The clinic served about one thousand people annually. (10)

The 1987 through 1993 Dubuque City Directory listed 2005 Asbury.



1. Gwiasda, Susan B. "New Hillcrest Program Targets Abuse Cycle," Telegraph Herald, December 14, 1993, p. 2A

2. Gwiasda, Susan B, "Hillcrest to Use Grant to Build," Telegraph Herald, March 8, 1994, p. 2A

3. Hogstrom, Erik, "Hillcrest Wellness Center Opens New Doors," Telegraph Herald, February 11, 2008, p. 1

4. "Hillcrest Tries to Fill Gaps Since Planned Parenthood Closure," Online: http://kdth.radiodubuque.com/news/dubuque-tri-state-news/ February 8, 2017

5. Thomas, Jordan. " 'Reflections in the Park' Has Record-Breaking Year," KWWL.com January 12, 2018, Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/37256195/2018/1/12/reflections-in-the-park-has-record-breaking-year

6. Montgomery, Jeff, "Hillcrest Plans New Care Facility," Telegraph Herald, March 18, 2019, p. 3A

7. "Hillcrest Program for Struggling Youngsters to Transfer to Irving Elementary School," Telegraph Herald, May 6, 2019, p. 3

8. Montgomery, Jeff,"Mental Health Centers to Close," Telegraph Herald, November 23, 2019, p. 1A

9. Goldstein, Bennet, "Hillcrest Proposes Alternative to Subacute Care Center," Telegraph Herald, December 10, 2019, p. 1A

10. Hinga, Allie, "Hillcrest to Cut Family Planning Program," Telegraph Herald, February 9, 2020, p. 1A