Sharing LCS History With Boots Winterstein
(Note: This is the second in an ongoing series of articles celebrating LCS Northwest’s Centennial.)
Boots Winterstein likens Lutheran Community Services Northwest to a river that is always flowing, moving and refining its direction. Programs enter the river like streams when they are needed, then exit when they have run their course.
She knows how it works. As the daughter of The Reverend Ruben Spannaus, the first director hired to lead Associated Lutheran Welfare (today LCS Northwest) in 1945, her personal history is intertwined with ours.
Boots remembers the agency’s early years offering adoption services, running a home for unmarried mothers, and resettling refugees from war-torn Eastern Europe. She recalls attending staff picnics at Ackerson House, a home for unmarried mothers located on the waterfront of Mercer Island. She remembers meeting Fred and Kalju, two refugees from Estonia who were welcomed by the Lutheran community in Seattle. She met James Cross, the first director hired to serve Spokane and the Inland Northwest.
Her connection to this organization is deep. Embracing the Lutheran commitment to service, Boots has been a volunteer and served on our board of directors. She presided over the board as its president in 1995-96. She joined the agency’s staff in 1996, then assumed the leadership of North Puget Sound (NPS) from 2000-2006.
“I was director of North Puget Sound in a time of transition,” Boots explained. “We had re-established our presence in Seattle, opened an additional family support center in Snohomish County to serve the growing Latino community, and we were making plans to introduce services in south King County to meet the needs of an expanding refugee and immigrant population. While we were busy meeting community needs, the merger of the Washington-Idaho and Oregon agencies to become LCS Northwest was finalized.”
Everything paused on September 11, 2001.
The 9/11 attack had a great impact on the agency, Boots recalled. NPS had a culturally diverse staff and emotions were running high at this time. It forced us to look at our internal culture, how we communicated with each other, and how we addressed the needs of staff and participants, she said. There was also a financial fallout from 9/11, she added.
But like a river, the organization adjusted its course and flowed onward. Community partnerships were strengthened and NPS expanded its refugee services into SeaTac. A capital campaign to build the Village at Angle Lake, which launched prior to 9/11, was completed. Today this development houses refugee services and a community resource center managed by NPS, as well as the agency’s shared services. Community partnerships brought a health clinic, a child care center and low-income senior housing into the Village.
“This organization has always been flexible and responsive to what a community needs at a given time,” Boots noted. “We wouldn’t be celebrating our 100th anniversary otherwise. It’s what keeps us relevant.”
It’s good to pause and reflect on where we have been, but Boots believes that if we are to mark a bicentennial, the organization must keep moving like the river.
“Be attune to what’s going on in society and the community,” she advised. “We must keep our eyes and hearts open and look forward.”
Read more from the Centennial Series.