LYDIA’s ministry to children and families began in 1913, when the Ladies’ Aid Society at Salem Evangelical Free Church in Chicago set about helping orphaned children in their city. They began by mending and sewing clothing for those living in orphanages. Seeing first hand that those orphanages were filled to capacity, the women began planning, in 1916, to open an orphanage of their own, not knowing when it would become a reality.

Tragedy struck the following year when one of the ladies died of Scarlet Fever. Her grieving husband asked the women in the Society to care for his children in exchange for his house, which would function as an orphanage. These seven youngsters were the first to live at LYDIA.

The orphanage grew quickly, and the Ladies’ Aid Society purchased more buildings in Chicago to house the many children whom God continued to place in their care. In 1920, they bought the property at 4300 West Irving Park Road, converting it into a large, permanent home for LYDIA’s children. This location remains our headquarters.

Times have changed in our 100 years of existence, and so has our ministry. Few of the children we now serve are true orphans; instead, most are victims of neglect and physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. As a result, we have expanded our ministry to provide a continuum of services that includes counseling, day care, foster care placement, short-term residential arrangements and many others. A number of our programs reach out to parents by helping them provide a loving home for their children.

The name “LYDIA” comes from the Book of Acts, which tells the story of a Christian woman who was a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira. Upon meeting the Apostle Paul, she urged him and his friends to stay at her house, and it became a place of comfort and rest to them.

Our desire is for LYDIA to be a place of comfort and rest to children who are broken from years of abuse. We want them to “come and stay at our house,” where we can help them experience a relationship with God and break free from the traumas of their past. Since our small beginnings in 1913, this ministry has grown to serve more than 3,000 children and their parents every year, and we are thankful that God continues to use LYDIA in powerful ways.