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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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HILLCREST FAMILY SERVICES. A Dubuque based non-profit agency dedicated to the full development of individuals, children and families, Hillcrest was originally founded in 1896 because of the concern for unwed mothers and their babies. The initial efforts on their behalf began with Dr. [[HILL, Nancy|Nancy HILL} and several influential Dubuque women who founded the WOMEN'S RESCUE SOCIETY of Dubuque. This group established the Women’s Rescue Home.

On February 26, 1896, when the Women’s Rescue Society was incorporated, the Certificate of Incorporation stated, “The purpose and object of this Society is to establish and maintain a nonsectarian Home for girls and women in need of moral assistance and protection and where such inmates, as the Society deems proper to receive, can be provided for and maintained at the pleasure of the Trustees under such rules and restrictions as the Society may deem beneficial for their moral welfare and where they may be afforded industrial education and training according to their condition and need.”

The Rescue Home closed in 1914 as a transition to serving children under 2 years of age occurred. An April 12, 1914 article in the Telegraph Herald stated that “About a year ago it was found necessary to change the character of this work and, in the opinion of the best qualified charity workers, it was deemed best to establish a Baby Fold for the protection and care of neglected babies.” Anna Blanche COOK, resident deaconess at ST. LUKE'S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, and a group of concerned women opened the Hillcrest Deaconess Home and Baby Fold in 1914. Anna LAWTHER and Deaconess Anna Blanche Cook appealed to the Rev. Hugh Dowling ATCHISON of St. Luke’s United Methodist Episcopal Church in Dubuque for help in running the new institution. Deaconess Cook also worked at St. Luke’s. Since Deaconess Anna Blanche Cook was involved in the operation of the home it was required that she report to the Deaconess Board of the Upper Iowa Conference. This relationship with St. Luke’s began the affiliation with Upper Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The first meeting of the Hillcrest Deaconess Home and Baby Fold was held on April 20, 1914 This meeting occurred at 2:30 PM in the classroom of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. Present were “Mrs. Lightcap, Gratiot, Blades, Jeffers, Lequr, Treler, Tower, Michel, & Misses Cook (Anna Blanche Cook), Eighmey & Lawther (Anna B. Lawther). Mrs. Lightcap was made temporary chairman & Miss Lawther temporary secretary.” They decided that the organization was “found for the purpose of carrying on the work of the Hillcrest Deaconess House & Baby fold & taking over the property of the Rescue Home assuming the debts, collecting subscriptions for the same and receiving any interest & money due the former Rescue House…” The entire board consisted of Mrs. Lightcap, Trexler, Lequr, Corrance, Gardner, Ficke, John Taylor Adams, Kiesel, Tower, Michel, Jeffers, Loetscher, Gratiot, Blades, Miss Cook, Allen, Eighmey, Giesman, Lawther. The first superintendent of the home was D. Etta Clark, a deaconess of the Methodist Episcopal Church. A 4-12-1914 article in the TH stated that she previously worked at the Baby Fold in Normal Illinois.

Anna B. Lawther had joined the board of the Women’s Rescue Society in 1902 and served until 1914. She would be an active board member of the Baby Fold from 1914 until 1952. She served as honorary board member and historian until her death in October, 1957.

The Women's Rescue Society 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 Hillcrest Deaconess Home and Baby Fold with the restrictions that if the Baby Fold could no longer operate that the property, money and securities shall be used for Protestant philanthropic work in Dubuque at the discretion of the Upper Iowa Annual Conference. It further stated that the said work shall be under the control of the Upper Iowa Annual Conference. Annual financial support from the Upper Iowa Methodist Conference began in 1924.

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. Miss Brennan was a Catholic. 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. In 1924, the organization was formally renamed HILLCREST BABY FOLD.

In 1928 the Baby Fold became a charter member of the Dubuque Community Chest now known as United Way Dubuque Area Tri-states. Other agencies included: Boys Club, Boy Scouts, Mt. Pleasant Home, Salivation Army, Sunshine Circle, Visiting Nurses Association, YWCA, YMCA.

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. The continued growth of adoption services and residential care for children resulted in planning that started in 1949 for an addition to the original building. That led to the construction in 1953 and 1954 of one story addition to the original building at a cost of $200,000.

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. This was a return to the mission of The Women’s Rescue Home. The one story 1954 building was renovated into administrative facilities. This facility was remodeled again in 2003. The re-dedication of the newly named, Barbara Butler Center, occurred on November 21, 2003, fifty years to the date of the original laying of the cornerstone for the building.

Leadership of the Organization over 125 years included:

Miss De Etta Clark-----Superintendent/Deaconess-----4/20/1914 through 12/18/1922

Miss Anna Blanche Cook-----Superintendent/Deaconess/Director----4/20/1914 through 2/11/1923

Mrs. Ina Horsfal-----Superintendent/Deaconess-----4/14/2021 through 5/31/2023

Miss Jennie Jackson-----Superintendent/Deaconess-----6/14/23 through 1924

Mrs. M.G. Kuebler-----Superintendent-----4/7/25 through 8/1/1941

Mrs. Ida Frerich-----Superintendent-----10/1/1941 through 9/1/1942

Miss Brown-----Superintendent-----8/1/1942 through 9/1/1943

Mrs. Sidle-----Superintendent-----9/1/1943 through 1944

Mrs. Larson-----Superintendent-----7/15/1944 through 1/1/1945

Miss Eisler-----Superintendent-----2/1/1945 through 9/1/1945

Mrs. Elva Harris-----Superintendent-----10/1/1945 through 7/1/1949

Mrs. Winifred Luke-----Superintendent-----7/1/1949 through 2/1/1953

Rev. John Kilmer-----Executive Secretary/Executive Director-----9/1/1949 through 1/1/1962

Mary Alice Hanger-----Director-----9/1/1950 through 9/1/1958

Rev. Eugene McClure-----Superintendent/Executive Director-----9/1/1960 through 7/1/1966

Donald R. Osborne-----Executive Director-----7/1/1966 through 4/1/1988

Craig Mosher-----Interim Executive Director-----4/1/1988 through 7/1/1988

Donald B. Lewis-----Executive Director-----7/1/1988 through 9/1/1997

Bradley Klug-----Interim Executive Director-----9/1/1997 through 2/15/1998

Gary L. Gansemer-----Executive Director/President/CEO-----2/16/1998 through 4/5/2017

Julie Heiderscheit-----President/CEO-----4/2/2017 through 9/6/2019

Gary L. Gansemer-----Interim President/CEO-----9/9/2019 through 11/5/2019

Francie Tuescher-----Interim President/CEO-----11/5/2019 through 7/12/2020

Michael Fidgeon-----President/CEO-----7/13/2020 through

The Leadership of the Board of Trustees for 125 years included:

Unclear President 3/10/1896

Dr. Nancy Hill-----President-----1/16/1901

Mrs. Lightcap-----President-----4/20/1914

Mrs. H.E. Gratiot-----President-----9/9/1915

Mrs. J.C. Hancock-----President-----9/14/1922

Miss Augusta Eighmey-----President-----10/8/1925

Mrs. Waldo Adams-----President-----9/27/1930

Miss Anna B. Lawther-----President-----10/11/1934

Mrs. Oscar Herrmann-----President-----9/10/1936

Mrs. Franc Altman (Helen)-----President-----10/1/1937

Mrs. John McDonald-----President-----10/1/1940

Mrs. Philo Lange-----President-----9/10/1942

Mrs. Herman Landschulz-----President-----9/14/1944

Mrs. F. W. Trader-----President-----9/12/1946

Mrs. Halsey R. Hangar (Mary Alice)-----President-----9/1/1949

Miss Anna B. Lawther-----Interim President-----9/1/1950

Mrs. L.C. Sundeen-----President-----3/8/1951

Mrs. E. Marshall Thomas (Marjorie)-----President-----3/12/1953

Mrs. Robert Loetscher (Nini, Eugenia)-----President-----9/8/1955

Mrs. Lewis Paisley (Evelyn)----President-----9/1/1957

Mrs. Lloyd Peterson (Margaret)-----President-----9/10/1959

Mrs. E. Marshall Thomas (Marjorie)----President-----9/14/1961

Mrs. Wesley W. Heitzman (Harriet)-----President-----9/13/1962

Mrs. William Province (Helen)-----President-----9/10/1964

Mrs. Allan Sigman (Elizabeth)-----President-----9/8/1966

Rev. Donald Caspers-----President-----3/26/1968

Rev. David Schuldt-----President-----3/12/1970

Rev. Melvin Miller-----President-----3/9/1972

Arnold Van Etten-----President-----3/14/1974

Mrs. Wayne Davis (Mary)-----President-----3/6/1975

Dr. George West, M.D.-----President-----3/11/1976

William Harvey-----President-----3/10/1977

Robert Preitauer-----President-----3/9/1978

Mrs. Douglas Brotherton (Diane)-----President-----3/9/1979

Rev. Stan Woeste-----President-----3/13/1980

Mrs. John Mather-----President-----3/12/1981

Mary Davis-----President-----3/11/1982

Don Sanders-----President-----3/10/1983

Chuck Evans-----President-----3/8/1984

Doug Brotherton-----President-----3/14/1985

Carolyn Collins-----President-----3/13/1986

Bob Chesterman-----President-----3/12/1987

Jim Stark-----President-----3/9/1989

Katie Krieg-----President-----3/8/1990

Steve Scott-----President-----3/14/1991

Tom Stecher-----President-----3/12/1992

Sharon Finnin-----President-----3/10/1994

Dave Engle-----President-----3/14/1996

Steve Scott-----President-----3/13/1997

Steve Yoder-----President-----3/12/1998

Julie Johnson-----President-----3/17/2000

Steve Bonnet-----President-----3/13/2003

Barb Kehl-----Chairman-----3/10/2005

Rob McDonald-----Chairman-----3/7/2007

Mike Donohue-----Chairman-----3/1/2009

Mel Miller-----Chairman-----3/1/2011

Dean Beresford-----Chairman-----3/1/2013

James Kennedy-----Chairman-----3/1/2015

Tim Runde-----Chairman-----3/1/2017

Alison Fuller-----Chairman-----3/1/2019

The agency merged with the Iowa Methodist Youth Agency in 1968 and was named Hillcrest Services to Children and Youth.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.

From 1896 to 2021 Hillcrest Family Services operated fifty-seven different programs. Four of these programs were operated between 1896 to 1968. The other fifty-three programs were added from 1968 to 2021. Adoption is the one continuous service of Hillcrest Family Services for all 125 years. The significant growth of the program offerings was initiated by Don Osborne during his twenty-two year tenures as Executive Director. He laid the foundation for the significant program growth directed by subsequent executive leaders and the Board of Trustees.

During the past 125 years Hillcrest Family Services has had 35 different facilities in the city of Dubuque. In addition, there have been 23 locations in Iowa, one in Illinois, and one in Wisconsin.

Significant program growth in Dubuque included the following;

• 1971 Tri-county Family Planning Clinic opens in Dubuque. It was later known as Professional Health Clinic. The Clinic closed in early 2020.

• 1972 Opened Delhi Group Home for boys and Fenelon Group Home for girls in Dubuque. Both homes had previously been operated by Dubuque County Social Services.

• 1977 Opened first shelter care facility for adolescents on Jefferson Street in Dubuque.

• 1979 Opened first new boys’ residential treatment center, Margaret A. Peterson Lodge, on the Asbury Road campus. It was named in honor of long time board member.

• 1982 Opened the Child Care nutrition program, which became a Federal WIC program.

• 1988 Special Education program for residents started in Dubuque in former Executive Director home. The program would expand to include non-Hillcrest residents and it would expand to several other Iowa and Illinois communities. In 2011 the school was renamed Anna B. Lawther Academy in honor of long time Hillcrest board member, state education advocate, and women’s rights leader. A new school/gym was built in 2012 for the Dubuque program. The program in Dubuque would close in June 2019

• 1989 Opened two five bed adult group homes in Dubuque on Marywood and Vizallea Drives.

• 1990 The Hillcrest -Mercy Maternal Health Program was initiated and the program was moved to the Professional Arts Plaza next to Mercy Hospital. This is partnership to improve the Maternal Health Program that was originally started in 1988.

• 1993 Two newly constructed adolescent treatment centers opened in Dubuque on Hillcrest Road. They were the New Hope sexual offender treatment program and the Molitore PMIC unit (Psychiatric Medical Institution for Children) dual diagnosis treatment program for boys and girls.

• 1995 Constructed third new residential treatment center on Hillcrest Road, which was called Pathways Program.

• 1996 A youth mentoring program was transferred to Hillcrest by Dubuque Department of Human Services. The program was affiliated with Big Brother Big Sisters in 1997. Due to economic considerations the program was disaffiliated with BB/BS and named Mentor Dubuque in 2013.

• 2002 Leased space from Dubuque County at Julien Care Facility for emergency youth shelter.

• 2002 Completed the remodeling 1995 Asbury Road, with the help of a HUD grant. It housed the Transitional Housing program for homeless families.

• 2005 Opened PATH Program for homeless persons with mental illness.

• 2006 Assumed operations of the former Gannon Center for Community Mental Health in Dubuque County and renamed it “Hillcrest Mental Health Center”.

• 2012 Hillcrest purchased the Julien Care facility and assumed operations for adult residential services there and renamed it the Seippel Road Facility.

• 2013 Started Integrated Health Homes program to coordinate access to mental health care.

• 2021 - AccessMeCare (care coordination) program opened.

As with all non-profits, fund raising is a crucial survival element for Hillcrest. Two ongoing fund raisers are crucial to the success of Hillcrest.

In November of 1985 the first Mario’s Italian Dinner to raise money for Christmas presents for Hillcrest residents was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dubuque. Other than during the pandemic year of 2020 this event has been held every year since.

"Reflections in the Park", Dubuque's annual holiday lights festival at Murphy Park was started in 1995. For 26 years this event has raised substantial funds to enable the operation of vital programs. The event has become a holiday tradition for the entire Tri-State area. In 2021 the event was viewed by 66,000 people, the largest number in Reflections history. This event would not be possible without the year round dedication of many volunteers.

From modest beginnings in 1896 the organizational impact has grown significantly. In 1901 ten women and five children were served. In FY 2020 Hillcrest Family Services served 30,648 people. (1)


In September, 2021 agency officials reported staff vacancy rates of more than 30%. In August, 2020 Hills and Dales employed 458 people which had dropped to 364 on September 6, 2021. Turnover rates had reached 38% with open vacancy rates of 27%. Hillcrest officials explained it was experiencing staffing issues at a time when far more people needed brain care health due to the effects of isolation and dread of the PANDEMIC. Meeting before the Board of Supervisors, Hillcrest asked for $728,500 from Mental Health/Disability Services of the East-Central Region. This would be used for retention bonuses for current staff, launching a marketing campaign to attract applicants, and increased wages. A request of $325,000 as a match of the same amount budgeted by the organization's board of directors would be to "enhance wages and differentials and to lower health care premiums." (2)

In mid-August, 2021 Hillcrest opened its A New Day Walk-In Center and Telehealth Resource Network to create a mental health access hub for Dubuque County. In twenty-three weeks of operation, the facility's services were used by 546 patients. Officials learned from the experience the difficulty in referring clients who needed higher-level care than was provided at the center. Officials also learned that many clients wanted or needed both brain health and substance abuse treatment. As the center moved into its next phase, officials planned to include more substance abuse treatment offerings including support groups for people with both brain health and substance abuse needs. Vacant space on the second floor would be used for more treatment space along with nearby buildings on the Hillcrest campus. (3)



1. Entry contributed by Gary L. Gansemer, Interim President/CEO-----9/9/2019 through 11/5/2019

2. Fisher, Benjamin, "Social Service Agencies Seek Workforce Funding," Telegraph Herald, September 8, 2021, p. 1A

3. Fisher, Benjamin, "Hillcrest's Mental Health Hub Grows," Telegraph Herald, January 25, 2022, p. 2A