Supporting LCS Northwest for Decades
(Editor’s Note: In 2021, our agency will be celebrating it’s 100th anniversary. We are looking for stories like this one that will help tell the history of our agency.)
From the beginning of our work in Spokane, Gail Freese has been there. Sixty-three years later, she is still there for us and her community.
Gail remembers when Lutheran Family and Child Services (known today as Lutheran Community Services Northwest) opened in Spokane in 1956. Located in the American Legion building, it consisted of a waiting room and an office. Mr. Cross led our first Spokane efforts.
As a member of Messiah Lutheran Church’s women’s group, Gail learned about the need for foster parents when Cross spoke to the group. Pregnant, single women, mostly from Montana, would stay at Booth Memorial in Spokane before giving birth. Once the babies were born, they needed care before being adopted.
Gail and her husband, Douglas, were in their 20’s and had three children. Doug’s sister had been a foster parent, so they talked about it and signed up. It wasn’t long before a red-headed boy came to their house.
“The babies would come and we provided care for them,” Gail said. “It was our choice, and we felt it was worthwhile to do.”
The Freeses cared for 45 foster children over 20 years. Most were in their home for five weeks. When asked if it was difficult work, Gail smiled and said, “we did have to get up at two in the morning. It was tiring and satisfying at the same time.” The last little girl came to the Freese house in 1976.
“Times changed. By then, more and more mothers were keeping their children,” Gail said.
In the early 1970’s, Gail was a charter member of Diakonia, which means service to the poor or oppressed in Greek. There were originally five different diakonia guilds throughout Spokane, made up primarily of young Lutheran women. The guilds operated a thrift store, with all profits going to LCS Northwest. In its prime, the thrift store made good money.
“We were just dealers in old clothes,” Gail said. “A lot of the gals who worked there are gone. The ones who are left laugh about what a good time we had.”
The thrift store thrived for more than a decade. Times changed again as people started selling their clothes and housewares at garage sales. The store closed as donations dwindled.
During all of this, Gail’s life was changing. In 1977, she decided to take classes at Spokane Falls Community College “for fun.” She ended up earning a master’s degree in communications disorders from Eastern Washington University. For 10 years, she worked in the Hearing Impaired Infant program for the Deaf Services Center in Spokane. She helped hearing families with deaf children, and started teaching them sign language.
Gail stays involved with LCS Northwest and regularly attends our Spokane Fundraising Luncheon. She supports our work with a financial gift every year.
“There is no way I can do anything to help the people they serve,” Gail said. “For me, it’s like an arm of the church. This is how we take care of others.”