In the early 1920s, the Rev. August “Dad” Hoeger worked as a parish pastor in North Dakota. When a fellow minister’s plea for donations to help a young boy with polio exceeded its goal by $2,000, the Rev. Hoeger suggested the extra money be used to help other individuals with disabilities. To that end, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society was incorporated under the laws of the state of North Dakota on September 29, 1922, as a religious, charitable, not-for-profit corporation.
The first Good Samaritan Society center opened in a rented six-room house in Arthur, N.D., in March 1923. Though it began primarily as a center for people with physical and mental disabilities, the Society soon expanded the scope of services it offered. Shortly after the home opened, an elderly man on crutches came to Dad Hoeger and asked to be admitted. It was later discovered that he did not need crutches, but had pretended to need them so he could secure a place to stay. This incident demonstrated to the Rev. Hoeger and others a need for services for the elderly, as well as for those with disabilities.
The Society built its first center in Arthur in 1923 and opened other centers in nearby towns in the years that followed. The economic crisis of the 1930s did not slow the growth of the Good Samaritan Society. Expansion took it into 10 states, with facilities in 27 locations.
Hardships threaten organization
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Although it provided the Society with significant growth opportunities, the Great Depression created serious financial challenges as well. By 1940, financial difficulties prompted the Society’s Board of Directors to split the organization into two bodies. A second corporation, Lutheran Hospitals and Homes, held 24 of the 28 institutions; The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society was left with the homes in Arthur and Ambrose, North Dakota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Greeley, Colorado. Burdened with the debts of the entire Society, it seemed doomed to bankruptcy.
But the Rev. Hoeger and a few loyal co-workers set about rebuilding the organization. By 1952, the Society was serving seven states with 32 centers. As communities sought services for seniors and others in need, the Society’s growth continued.
In addition to offering exceptional skilled nursing care in long-term care centers, the organization has expanded its scope of services to also include telehealth and home healthcare, subsidized housing, senior housing, assisted living, post-acute care, therapy and rehabilitation services, hospice care, and specialized care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
Leading the way to the future
The Good Samaritan Society continues to evolve to meet the needs and desires of the residents, staff members and communities it serves.
In 2019, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society officially combined with Sanford Health, one of the largest health care systems in the nation. “This forward-thinking plan will become a national model to serve communities with exceptional care and value through the full spectrum of one’s life,” says Kelby Krabbenhoft, president and CEO of Sanford.
“By bringing the expertise of the professionals at the Society together with the health care experts at Sanford, not only will there be benefits for those we serve, but also the organizations are stronger together," says David J. Horazdovsky, CEO of the Good Samaritan Society.
As a combined organization, Sanford Health now employs nearly 50,000 people, offering health services spanning the continuum of life, including clinics, hospitals, health insurance and senior care services, in 26 states.
Focus remains on mission
As in the first days of the organization’s founding, there is a continued focus on mission outreach, both through Society-sponsored projects in other countries and through a continued emphasis on encouraging our locations to reach out and help meet the needs of their communities.
Each Good Samaritan Society location across the country finds unique ways to create an environment where people feel loved, valued and at peace—where it is seen, believed and known that “In Christ’s Love, Everyone Is Someone.”
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